Mentalist Review: Episode 3×18 The Red Mile

Another golden oldie! Here’s a review of The Red Mile, one of the series’ best episodes (at least, according to Cass)! Can’t wait for tonight, when we’ll have a brand new one to review! But until then, there’s this:

Review of Episode 3×18: The Red Mile
by castiello

This was a powerful episode. And for me, a very emotional one.

Like the previous ep, I enjoyed the use of the whole team. Sometimes, particularly this season, it seems like Cho/Rigs/Van Pelt are so terribly under-used that I have this secret fear that one of the actors will actually leave the show in search of a meatier role. (Or, basically any role with more than one line per episode.) But here, they all had a nice part in things, and it made me happy.

I thought this episode was really well written, managing to explore several different themes in a number of different ways.

We looked at the concept of mercy – from Jane offering solace in a dying man’s final moments, to a killer slashing the throat of her victim so he would avoid the painful death of a gunshot wound, to Rigsby choosing to spare Grace some potentially painful knowledge about her fiancé. Three very different acts that can each be interpreted as merciful.

We also looked at the idea of people caring what happens to them after they die. The doctor feared what would happen to his physical remains, while the mother-in-law was more concerned with less tangible things, like her good name and her legacy.

It’s actually really weird, the timing of this episode, because I had already been thinking about these things (mercy and legacy), before the show even aired. We had a plane crash here just this past week, where the pilot, right as the plane was going down, did a last-minute maneuver to avoid hitting a field where a girls’ sports team was practicing. No one on the ground was injured, but the pilot and both passengers on the plane were killed. I think I’ll always wonder whether turning the plane like that to save the kids made a difference in the pilot’s ability to bring the plane down safely, if he knowingly gave up his life and the lives of the passengers to spare the girls on the field…A terrible tragedy, an incredible act of mercy, and a wonderful legacy – to be the person who did everything he could, in his final moments, to save a playground full of kids…

Returning to the episode, I could definitely relate to the doc not wanting to be autopsied. Back when I was registering to be an organ donor, I read this pamphlet which assured that being an organ donor would not affect the appearance of your body. At first, I was laughing about this, because who the heck cares? I’m going to be dead, so what does it matter what my body looks like or what happens to it? But the more I thought about it, the more disturbed I got by the idea. It got really creepy. Even gave me a shiver. I decided that maybe I do care on some level…

In the mother-in-law’s case, it’s very ironic that the reason she killed was to preserve her legacy – and yet, by choosing to become a murderer, she muddied her own name so much worse than the alien abductee support society ever would have.

Which brings us to abductees. The episode did a pretty good job showing all the different types of people that a self-proclaimed alien abductee is likely to encounter: skeptics who think the person is crazy (e.g. Jane, mother-in-law, business partner), believers (e.g. the man’s wife), people who keep an open mind (Grace), people who want to exploit or take advantage of the abductee (the guy’s shrink, who wanted to write a book about him, and the support group guy who wanted to bilk him out of money).

It may be the X-Files fan in me, but I feel a lot of compassion for those people who either have been abducted or at least believe they have. I don’t know if aliens are actually scooping people up and poking at them, or if it’s some kind of hallucination, but I believe that the pain and fear of the experience are very real to the person going through it.

And lastly, speaking of pain, I will come to the final big issue tackled by the episode: the suicide of a terminally ill man.

This was the part that really got to me. I almost couldn’t believe that they were going to show Jane watching this guy kill himself. It was very intense, the way it was filmed, with the coin gleaming in the light, hypnotically appearing and disappearing, and Jane’s soothing voice while the doctor died…Just a very gripping scene, kind of shocking, a little bit beautiful.

I was clutching my pillow really hard during that scene. I think I cried just a tiny bit. I was definitely shaking.

Two people in my life have committed suicide. Both of these people were suffering from depression, and yet I feel that with the right treatment, both could have gone on to live long, healthy and happy lives. Instead, they died, leaving behind devastation on the level of a train wreck. I have very strong feelings about the waste of life…

…And yet, when it comes to terminally ill patients, my feelings are much more confused. Here, the person isn’t choosing whether to live or die, but rather just the method of death. Isn’t it someone’s individual right to choose whether he/she wants to be spared the agony of a prolonged death? At least a part of me believes this is true.

I myself have had terminally ill pets euthanized over the years. I’ve made that choice for a living being that could not express its wishes to me, believing that I was doing the right thing – sparing unnecessary pain, delivering relief. But what if I was wrong? If the cat could’ve spoken to me, would it have said, “Please don’t kill me, I want to live every last moment I possibly can, even if it will be painful”?

In some ways, it seems almost easier in the case of a human being who can fully express his wishes. And yet…I’m glad Jane said what he did, about not being sure the doctor was making the right choice, because that’s exactly how I feel. I’m just not sure…

What if the doctor was suffering from depression when he made the decision? Surely there’d be depression after finding out you are terminally ill. If the symptoms of his depression were treated, would he change his mind and decide to stick it out? What if he’s denying himself the chance for something unexpected to happen, like a spontaneous remission or a medical breakthrough? Should anyone throw away even one second of his or her life, when so many others would be grateful just to have that one more second?

It’s hard stuff, people…I felt the show handled it respectfully and sensitively.

This episode made me think, and it made me feel, and isn’t that exactly what television, at its very best, should do?

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