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. 
 

The Mentalists
 
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


 
What’s Happening to Sam and Dean?
 
I’ve been doing Supernatural reviews consistently since season three.  Now, you may have noticed, there’s a level of frustration with Supernatural in the critical community these days.  It’s causing a lot of controversy and a lot of harsh exchanges in comments on sites where there are usually more level heads.  This site is no exception.  
 
As someone who has in exhausting (and I do mean exhausting) detail dug into every tiny aspect of Supernatural, I will say with extreme honesty that when I see a disturbing pattern that continues to get worse based on everything I know about the history of Supernatural, I have two choices.  Speak my mind (which I’ve always done) or drink the kool aid and pretend everything is okay.  I can even throw in a few cheerleading phrases like “It’s better than last season,” or “The brothers are together again, everything is great!”  I was never cheerleader material.  
 
It’s okay to be a happy fan.  It’s okay to love this show.  I love Supernatural still, despite the glaring shortcomings I see from a critical basis.  As someone that reviews TV shows, I have to look at the whole package.  Plotting, direction, acting, character development, production value, etc.  I don’t want Sam and Dean to cry in front of the Impala (or whatever car it is they have these days) every single week.  I do want to see character progression that makes sense.  Tight writing that builds on what they’ve presented in episodes prior.  Consistency in plotting and episode flow.  Production that gives the viewer something as believable as possible given the realm in which the characters live.  Read every single review I’ve done since season three.  It’s obvious.  Season six took a turn and it’s not getting better.  
 
I’m not here to harp on season six though.  I've already done that.  The writers have chosen through every single episode preview and brotherly dialogue over the last four episodes to raise and drive this Amy issue into the ground.  They won’t let the issue die, so I’m going there.  It all just plain sucks.  There is no other way to explain it.  


 
Here’s the scorecard.  Dean lies to Sam, goes behind his back and does something Sam begged him not to do (not exactly an original idea on this show).  Dean won’t tell Sam the truth and tries to cover it up with avoidance and lots of drinking (again, been there done that).  Sam gets frustrated (echo!) and then finds out anyway through another source (okay, that’s a been there but the reveal was kind of cool).  The brothers have a big fight over it and Sam leaves (geez how many freaking times has he done that!).  
 
In this episode, Sam is angry, Dean yells at him, Sam forgives, and they have a two minute adult and rational conversation that seemingly fixes everything.  Um, yeah, okay.  This whole Amy strife was a poor creative decision, however, since the writers chose to go there, they at least should have the decency to play it out.  A quick, convenient, ending without any understanding how the characters got to that point?  
 
I’m going to throw a couple of examples your way as to what I’m mean about understanding what’s going on in a character’s head.  The first comes from season two’s “Bloodlust.”  That episode is a brilliant character study.  Dean is obviously suffering over the loss of John.  It’s all in his actions, like the aggression in which he killed the vampire.  We really don’t know what’s going on in his head though until he has that conversation with Gordon in the bar.  Suddenly it makes sense why he’s hiding his feelings from Sam.  “Gotta keep my game face on.”  It makes sense when he lashes out and punches Sam later.  It really helps explain his actions in the next episode, “Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things.”
 
In “The Mentalists” I’m still trying like mad to figure out what is going on in that head of Dean’s to get him to lash out at Sam like that, calling him his very overdone words of “dick” and “bitch.”  More importantly, I’m trying to figure out why Sam didn’t get furious over that.  In would have been more in character, but then again I don’t get where either of these guys are coming from these days.  If we had any clue, like Dean telling Melanie in confidence his frustrations over Sam right now, what’s been going on in his head that week and a half apart, then his anger at Sam would make perfect sense instead of fans fighting over whether Dean is turning into an asshole or not.  In other words, without understanding his motivations, he’s unsympathetic.  For such a beloved character, why in the world would they go there?  I dare say it, it’s character assassination.


 
I’m not saying Dean is wrong.  He isn’t.  I’m not saying he’s really a jerk.  I do know his character better than that.  I know that he at least admitted at the end that he’s having trouble trusting people.  That makes perfect sense.  There’s just a lot of holes in the path to that confession.  We aren’t seeing his true feelings and he becomes erratic because of it.  Sorry, but for me, a character’s progression involves a journey, not a quick stop at the final destination.  It’s just proper writing.  
 
For Sam, I take you all back to season three’s “Bedtime Stories” (a personal favorite of mine actually).  Season three was really the first season which some effort was put into Sam’s character development.  It’s obvious with scenes like the one with Dean in the hospital (“Is that what you want me to do Dean, just let you go?”) that Sam’s frustration over Dean’s deal is growing.  So much so he’s almost like a time bomb waiting to go off.  He confronts the Crossroads Demon with the colt, gets his no answer, then loses his temper and blows away the CD anyway!  That was a “whoa” moment for sure, but the signs were all there that Sam would do that.  Couple his frustration with Ruby at the end of the previous episode telling him that he would have to set aside that gentle nature of his, and we have a big moment in character direction.  


 
In “The Mentalists” Sam sets aside his anger and forgives Dean for killing Amy.  Fans are wildly speculating how he got to that point.  One is the parallel of him killing Jimmy Tomorrow vs. Dean killing Amy.  How so?  The situations weren’t even remotely close.  He killed Jimmy in self defense.  Amy was posing no threat.  Also, if that did affect him, why didn’t he say so at the end?  That would have been something.  Could it be he’s more forgiving these days because of his new outlook on life?  Maybe, we DON’T KNOW.  Some clues would be awesome guys.  Sam didn’t get a message from the great beyond, Dean did.  Sam didn’t even hear Ellen’s message.  So that couldn’t have shaken him up any.  I don’t know, it just doesn’t add up.  
 
It’s like the Campbells last year.  Somewhere along the line, the writers wrote themselves into a corner and had no easy way out.  Killing them off senselessly and quickly was the only option left.  It’s lazy, it’s piss poor, and as a fan, it really insults my intelligence.  Sorry, but I was very spoiled during the first five seasons.  Sure, they did things during those seasons I didn’t always agree with, but I never felt alienated by the arc choices.  
 
Enough show.  You don’t need tricks and sudden contrived story lines to get fans to stay engrossed.  We’re pretty damned loyal and easy to please.  Two brothers and a classic car was the premise we bought into originally, and it’s the only one we need today.  Why in the world did you have to pull the “big secret” card again only to take it to this?  Sure, that’s worked before, but the circumstances were riper.  
 
Remember season four?  When Sam was lying about Ruby, the brothers were in a far different place then.  Sam had already been using his powers for months and believed what he was doing was right, but also knew Dean would have a fit when he found out.  What did Dean do when he found out?  He had a fit, and punched Sam twice.  That only drove the wedge further.  That led to the long slow descent of the brotherly relationship that was hard to watch, but brilliantly plotted.  So was Ruby’s manipulation of Sam.  
 
In this case, the whole killing Amy and lying about it made no freaking sense other than its desperation to chew some scenery until the heart of the season begins.  Which better be really soon.  If this Amy crap comes up again now after the brothers declaring in two minutes they’re square, you’re gonna get half of the fandom going “Oh please, aren’t we done with this?” and the other half beating their heads on the wall over the piss poor plotting and blatant manipulation that won’t die.   
 
The writers already have tons of rich material to work with.  There’s Sam’s hallucinations and Satan vision (which have been barely touched), not to mention a lot of unexplored ramifications over the acts of his soulless self (only getting a few scenes in last season’s finale).  There’s Dean’s fragile mental state over losing Ben and Lisa (which hasn’t even been a mere thought at all since “Let It Bleed”) and Castiel (barely scratched the surface).  There’s so much potential here for rich character exploration.  It can be woven into the monster of the week plots.  It’s been done before.  Everything since the beginning of season six in that regards seems ill focused.  Stop trying to do so much and focus on the basics.  Since when did the writers gets such short attention spans?
 
I guess we have learned something important with this entire Amy debacle.  The writers have tons of excellent setup at their disposal and aren’t taking advantage of it, instead going stupid places that ends up alienating a lot of viewers instead of entertaining.  I’ll close by sending one huge plea to the writers.  We fans aren’t looking for a ton of shock value or rocket science here.  Work with what you’ve got, unpeel those layers inside Sam and Dean that are haunting their existence.  The setup is already there.  We’re continuity hounds, so the better things tie into previous events, the happier we’ll be.  No more forced drama and out of nowhere character behavior please.  
 
Thank you.  
 
Deep breath.  (In...out...)  
 
Looking forward, it’s my understanding the next two episodes are going to be comedy episodes.  Bring them on! We freaking need it.  I’m dying to know myself what sort of screwball scenario has Sam at the altar and who the mystery lady is.  NO, I don’t think it’s Becky.  If it is, there has to be one very believable twist at work.  Wait a second, Sam is getting married.  The believability is already gone!  Just no “jump the shark” moments then.