The Mentalist: Season 2 Episode 3: "Red Badge"

This solidly written, tense episode focuses upon Lisbon and opens with her in a psychiatrist's Office, a mandatory requirement after the shooting in the finale of the previous season. The sessions, however, seem to be leading to a darker revelation about Lisbon's childhood and her abusive father. From there we move to an alley where the CBI team discover the body of a convicted child-molester, from a case that Lisbon worked five years earlier. The central premise of this episode is quickly established: Did Lisbon, upon hearing of the release and return to Sacramento of the monster she put away - and showing signs that she may have been a victim of child abuse herself - pull the trigger on the released child molester?

Suspicion that Lisbon killed the child molester begins when the gun that killed him is found - with her fingerprint on it. Worse is to come: Lisbon cannot remember anything about what she did on the night of the murder, lying when questioned by Bosco. She first refuses and then fails a polygraph test, and reveals to Jane that she is not even sure herself if she did in fact do it. The recollection that her father used to suffer alcohol induced blackouts, during one of which he beat Lisbon's brother so severely that he put him in hospital, further increases both our suspicion of and empathy for the character. Relieved from duty, forced to hand in her badge and her gun, under suspicion of murder and not even sure of her own guilt, Lisbon starts to crack. Her colleagues at CBI are unsure if she might have pulled the trigger, but despite being warned off by Bosco, they dig in to get to the truth. However, when Jane's attempt to hypnotize her to bring back her memories of the night in question fail, and as Lisbon becomes increasingly deranged, sinking into alcoholism and prescription medication, the audience is left sincerely wondering: did Lisbon pull the trigger ? Has her guilt over not catching the molester before he could attack his final victim, and her own abused childhood caused her to take the law into her own hands? Is this episode heading towards a tragic revelation about a character we care about? Portraying the character descend into a complete psychological meltdown is well handled by Robin Tunney, and really serves to ratchet up the tension.

Naturally, this being The Mentalist, nothing is quite what it seems. When the truth is revealed, it comes with a satisfying twist that attentive audiences might have guessed was coming as they were watching. The reveal is well worth the build up, logically and neatly tying together the various strands of the story. As usual, it is Jane who puts all the dots together but saying any more than this would be a spoiler. Apart from one minor niggle, that a major protagonist's reveal and motivation occurs in a blink-and-you-will-miss-it moment, the central story is gripping and satisfying, and the way the various elements slide into place by the conclusion makes this an excellent episode. A significant character reveal occurs about Bosco at the end regarding his relationship to Lisbon, and this otherwise dark episode is dotted with a few lighter character moments, including a couple of reveals that Lisbon makes under the caring hypnosis of Jane. Jane is unable to resist whilst he has her under his influence, and asks her if she occasionally dances to the Spice Girls Cd he spied in her flat. She confesses that she does, and Jane smiles ever so slightly. It is a gentle and comical moment that shows Jane's genuine care for Lisbon, and contrasts perfectly with the tense tone of the episode.


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