These reviews are getting so tough anymore. As a constructive reviewer trying to be honest in a critical realm, the job is to take any new material you’ve been given and tie it all together with everything prior. It really sucks when you have to do that for an episode that by itself was decent, but when matched with the rest of the season had chasms the size of the Grand Canyon (yes, I’m still waiting for the boys to vacation there).
I do want to be positive, for there was enough in “The Mentalists” to keep longtime fans very happy, but the TPTB did create a huge mess by going with this Amy thing. They made a huge effort to throw in our face this contrived drama with just about every preview and dramatic ending for four episodes. The whole mess needed about one episode. They started it though, so it must be addressed. Sorry, but it just isn’t pretty, no matter how you spin it.
I’ve got a good part of this review and frustrated part. I’ll do the good first. I’ll take a nice, fan happy view of “The Mentalists” pretending that the brothers are fighting about something totally irrelevant, like who keeps hogging the bathroom more. Then I’ll do a section that gets real about the Amy mess and the ill character development. That way, you fans in bliss that can cover your eyes and gracefully walk away, not thinking any less of me. For those of you that want to read more about the very serious issues plaguing this show, I’ve got you covered too.
Lily Dale, New York, aka the most psychic place in America. I’ve never heard of the place before now, but considering how Penn and Teller have spent years in their act debunking psychics, it’s a no brainer at least to me that almost all of these people would be fake. I do like how Dean did mention that they’ve known a couple of real psychics in their day, aka Missouri and Pamela. Shoutout! Yes, new writers have already figured out one way to a fan’s heart are the shoutouts. So, that’s a sign that they’re bound to find someone genuine. The job is complex. Find the needle in a stack of fake needles.
Things get more complex because Sam and Dean have just spent a week and a half apart and there are still hard feelings. Dean really needs to lay off those…long showers. Sam is still angry, Dean is stressed. We know this because the real mentalist and the real psychic managed to read them like a book. It is pretty easy if you think about it. I’m still wondering though how in the world the real psychic didn’t pick up on Sam’s Satan vision, so he mustn’t have been that good. Where’s Missouri when you need her?
I’m actually somewhat outraged that Sam’s recent hallucinations and Satan vision weren’t touched. I did read an observation by Bardicvoice on Twitter that Sam at first wasn’t sure Dean was real when they first met up in the restaurant. Upon watching the scene again, it’s very possible. When Dean first started talking, Sam didn’t say a word to him and tried to ignore him for the most part until the waiter asked Dean for his order. Then Sam’s attitude seemed to change. I’m all for this being true, but a little something like him grabbing his scarred hand would have been all that was needed to let us know that was the case. So, I’m putting that in the “happy accident” column for the writers. This is a detail oriented fandom guys. Are “happy accidents” where you want to go?
Fans have been looking for a throwback to the real old fashioned ghost story for a while and this was a great one. The ghosts are two sisters, one who had real abilities that involved visions of death (hint, hint), and one who had no abilities, whose role in life was to take care of her unstable psychic sister (HINT, HINT). Yes, the parallels between the sisters and the Winchester brothers were meant to hit us like a brick, but I take that to be two new writers that were doing their homework more than anything of serious meaning. We fans do love parallels and shoutouts.
Speaking of parallels and shoutouts, I’m surprised that a lot of people didn’t catch the spoon bender’s trick revealed. It was all shown when he was back at his place with the utensils that eventually sealed his doom. He was obviously switching out cutlery with his own, stuff that he was pre-bending and weakening. He touched the spoon to get it warm, so then when Sam uses it, it bends. It’s an old parlor trick. Sure, it was a neat little shoutout to Sam’s previous psychic abilities, but there was no magic there. Pure trickery and a lot of showmanship.
Out of all the colorful characters, my favorite is the curator of the psychic museum. He admitted to having moderate abilities, but didn’t toot his own horn. He certainly was very tongue and cheek about the town’s flim-flam history. As a matter of fact, that’s how we could tell the real psychics from the fakes. The fakes were using every bell and whistle imaginable to show off their awesomeness, the real ones made nothing of it. The curator most certainly had abilities though, thus getting an important message from someone from beyond who was desperate to reach Dean.
“You know an Eleanor, or an Ellen. She seems quite concerned about you. She wants to tell you, pardon me, if you don’t tell someone how bad it really is, she’ll kick your ass from beyond. You’ll have to trust someone again eventually.” I’ll never forgive Kripke for killing her off! Dean really needs someone like Ellen in his life right now.
Amongst all this is Melanie, who proves to be a refreshing, genuine character. She could read people very well and saw something extraordinary in Dean. I’ve read a lot of reviews and comments over the last few days by people who thought Dean was a huge jerk in this episode. Considering Melanie took an instant liking to him, it’s obvious she saw all the goodness underneath. Dean is stressed, and he usually acts out in time of extreme stress, but he still wants to save people from the horrible ghost. It’s been a very long time since we’ve seen Dean bond with someone on a case. He’s been so hurting, so distant for so long he hasn’t opened up.
So what makes Melanie different? Other than she could see the real person underneath? What fascinates me is that she didn’t make Dean uncomfortable. She made him feel wanted. I think that’s why Sam and Dean are having so much disconnect. They aren’t seeing the true person underneath. Dean sees Sam as a schizophrenic nutcase, Sam sees Dean and someone that will always think he’s a freak and need taking care of. There’s something to be said that the only successful sibling act in Lily Dale was really an act using the brotherly love as a mask for an alternative lifestyle.
I like how Sam and Dean were easily accepted as the fake FBI agents in the town of fake psychics. For those that knew, they didn’t mind as long as it meant getting the ghost. Open minds indeed. Isn’t that really the intent of a story about a town of fakes though? Looking beyond what is obvious to see what’s real? Reality is pretty damned ugly, isn’t it?
The ugly turns out to be Jimmy Tomorrow, a real psychic who’s gone off the rails. As in he steals the bones of the Dean equivalent sister and binds her to kill. She likes it. I did wonder in the back of my mind if that was a statement about Dean’s psyche/future, but I dismissed it. I just don’t want to go there. Of course Jimmy had to be killed, otherwise Melanie would have died. Sam had a quick window of opportunity and he had to take it. Jimmy didn’t want to kill Sam though. If he did, he would have shot Sam rather than fired a warning shot. Sam knew this, but he had to act.
Did Sam’s little quick draw on Jimmy then change his perspective about Dean? Maybe. I don’t know, Sam’s behavior is just perplexing these days. After all that time apart, all those hard feelings, all it takes is two minutes of honesty. Dean regrets lying to Sam and that’s why he’s been drinking, having nightmares, etc. Sam forgives Dean for…hogging the shower. These boys have a lot of issues and the last scene proved they are adult enough to deal with them. After a lot of tantrums and outbursts. I think. Oh heck I don’t know. More coming on that soon.
I’m not sure why, but of all past episodes “The Mentalists” reminded me a lot of season two’s “Playthings.” That story two involved two sisters and a ghost story. They were looking at old pictures on the wall in that one too, digging into a long history. Sam and Dean were really struggling with personal issues, Dean carrying a burden and Sam upset about something. It was Sam that bonded with the protagonist on the case, earning him a hug. There was even a gay reference in that one too. Of course I’ve read that many think this was Dean’s “Provenance.” I’m sure what was in this episode can be traced to plenty of other past moments.
All in all, I give “The Mentalists” a B-. It could have been far worse. It could have been better though. That reasoning is coming now, in page 2