'The Mentalist': 'The Great Red Dragon' writer on the big bombshells and what comes next

mentalist-the-great-red-dragon.jpgSunday's (Nov. 17) episode of "The Mentalist" dropped not one, but two huge developments on viewers.

The first is Jane's ( Simon Baker) assertion that CBI director Gale Bertram ( Michael Gaston) is Red John -- and the evidence we see in the episode certainly seems to point that way. The second is that, with Bertram and the Blake Association -- the name for the law-enforcement conspiracy plaguing California -- exposed, the FBI comes in and essentially shuts down the CBI. The bureau even moves out Jane's couch and breaks his favorite coffee cup.

It's a whole lot to process, so much that we decided to call in an expert. Jordan Harper wrote "The Great Red Dragon" -- it's his ninth script for the series -- and talks to Zap2it about what happened, and what's to come in next week's episode, titled "Red John."

Zap2it: What was the impetus for wanting to end the Red John arc early in the season like this?
Jordan Harper: It just felt like the right thing to do. Doing something like finishing the Red John storyline shouldn't be as clean as, "Well, that's done. Let's move on with where we were last week." We really felt like this should be something that should move mountains and break down walls and bring a lot of stuff down on them. It shouldn't just be easy. ... Jane gets into trouble quite a bit, and sometimes maybe in the past he's gotten in and gotten out of trouble and there haven't been any repercussions, but there are repercussions to what's going on right now.

When the FBI comes in and cleans house at the end of the episode, is that setting up the post-Red John phase of the show?
To be very clear, that scene is not a joke. It's not something we're just playing around with. Hopefully that scene has some emotional resonance with fans who have come to love CBI and some of the minor characters and things like that. We're not messing around -- we just shut down CBI.

Are they permanent changes, or at least longer-term than we may be used to seeing?
Without being too specific, a lot of things happen in this episode that are permanent, yeah. We're not just messing with the audience's head at this point. We are making changes in the show. Obviously when you have your boss [Bertram] kill a dude on screen, clearly things are happening that can't be taken back.

Even though Jane announces to the press that Bertram is Red John, I got the sense there might be more to it. Is that the case?
It's safe to say Jane is not done playing tricks. As to how this is all going to play out, you have to keep watching.

It seemed as much as anything like an attempt to get Bertam to show his hand.
I will say that is an interesting theory.

And obviously it doesn't entirely work out...
Yeah. I think Jane is using every card he has at this point. While Jane has always famously been secretive, one thing he has used in the past is the power of the media. But it's not something he does lightly.

"The Mentalist" has largely been a case-of-the-week show. How was the decision made to go so serialized for this arc?
There was a decision made ... that we weren't going to mess around. If we were going to do this, we didn't want to drag it out over a season of these seven suspects. We wanted to go ahead and run the string out.

My own personal take on it has always been that while Red John played it pretty cool when Jane got that list of seven suspects, it came as a shock to him and it really got the party started in a lot of ways. That's why things are happening very rapidly now.

Was the idea of the Blake Association something the writers had talked about for a while?
The idea that Red John has received help from more than just his acolytes is something we've talked about for a long time. The idea that there was a secret organization in law enforcement is something we've talked about for a very long time.

If someone were to go back to previous Red John episodes, would they see the seeds of that?
When we wrote the episode where Rebecca comes into CBI and then is assassinated [Season 2's "His Red Right Hand," referenced in Sunday's episode], we didn't know that it was necessarily going to be Reede Smith who helped sneak them in. But we did know Red John had help, and they weren't all Manson-esque family members.

Is there anything at all you can say about next week's "Red John" episode?
I can by saying something about my episode, which is that I think it's really helpful to see "Fire and Brimstone," "The Great Red Dragon" and "Red John" as three parts of a whole. There are a lot of questions raised in "Fire and Brimstone" and earlier episodes that are not answered in "The Great Red Dragon." That does not mean they're not going to be answered.

What did you think of "The Mentalist" this week?
Photo/Video credit: CBS