I Thought I'd Hate This Drama Series on Amazon Prime, But It's Actually *Really* Good
When I first heard about The Mentalist, I immediately dismissed it as a rip-off of USA's detective comedy series, Psych. Why? Well, for one, the show premiered two years after Psych debuted in 2006, and it just so happens that the main character is a highly perceptive crime consultant who worked as a "psychic"—much like Psych's Shawn Spencer. It's also worth noting that the show-writers themselves took jabs at The Mentalist by calling out obvious parallels to Simon Baker, the drama's lead actor.
So you can understand why I chose to avoid this show. But in a strange twist, and over six years after The Mentalist aired its final episode, I stumbled upon the series on Amazon Prime and was surprised to see that it had a near-perfect rating. Out of curiosity, I read through a few of the fan reviews. While they didn't change my mind about the show's unoriginal concept, I was convinced that The Mentalist might have something more to offer.
I decided to give the pilot a shot, half-expecting to turn it off within 15 minutes. But guys, I actually wound up binge-watching seven more episodes and, for the next few weeks, it was literally all I watched. If you're a huge Psych fan, I can totally understand why you'd be hesitant to give this show a chance, but I promise, it will exceed your expectations. Allow me to explain how The Mentalist differs from Psych (and why it's worth the watch).
1. What is ‘The Mentalist’ actually about?
I like to describe it as a cross between Psych and USA's Monk (the comedy-drama that follows a talented detective with obsessive–compulsive disorder), although there are some slight differences in the main plot. The Mentalist follows a former con man named Patrick Jane (Baker), who successfully posed as a psychic. However, after suffering a traumatic loss, he leaves the profession and becomes a valued consultant to the California Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
While Patrick manages to help close a number of cases, his top priority is to catch Red John, the high-profile killer who's responsible for his loss. Still, regardless of Patrick's efforts, it seems like the killer is always one step ahead of him.
2. What makes ‘The Mentalist’ different from ‘Psych’?
When the plot of one show happens to sound like a carbon copy of another show, it's hard to see any differences right off the bat. On the surface, The Mentalist is essentially Psych, minus the goofy humor and the main character claiming to be a "real psychic." However, after watching just a few episodes of The Mentalist, I realized that there's more to Patrick than meets the eye. His selfishness and juvenile tendencies do remind me a bit of Shawn's shenanigans, but his character is so much more complex. One moment, you suspect that he's a textbook sociopath and the next, it seems like he's just a troubled soul who's trying to grapple with his past trauma.
Also, while Shawn is forced to keep up his ruse to avoid dire consequences, Patrick has no interest in continuing his hoax, because all he really cares about is revenge. As seen throughout the series, he consistently reminds people that he doesn't believe in psychics, and the more Red John continues to taunt him, the more determined he is to focus on catching his enemy.
There's more of a focus on the supporting characters as well—and they are equally fascinating, especially Agent Cho (Tim Kang). Not only do we see their backstories, but we also get to see them all grow as a team.
3. Why is it worth the watch?
If you put the whole Psych comparison aside, it's much easier to see The Mentalist for the gem that it is. Each episode, which typically focuses on a different case, is well-paced and truly engaging. And while there are a few serious episodes that are legit nightmare-worthy, there's typically some comic relief to help lighten the tone.
I'll admit, Patrick can be incredibly annoying and inconsiderate at times, but it's really hard to resist his charm (have you seen that smile?!). There are also moments that are a bit predictable, but even so, the storylines are intriguing enough to keep viewers watching.
From Patrick's mischievous schemes to his ongoing romantic tension with Agent Lisbon (Robin Tunney), I can finally see why so many fans are obsessed with this show.
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