Television series can often be reduced to simple mathematical equations: the chemistry of partners locked in a banter-based relationship (Bones) + an all-seeing detective (Monk) + element of playing at being psychic (Psyche) = The Mentalist. The great part about math is that we can go back and do a check of that equation: Bones = good, Monk = good, Psyche = love. And luckily, The Mentalist manages to bear out that proof.

Simon Baker (The Guardian) plays Patrick Jane, a man who made a name for himself pretending to be a TV psychic until he got his family murdered by the serial killer he pretended to profile. He now uses his people-reading ability for good, as a consultant to the California Bureau of Investigation. Once you get past the silliness of the premise, we’re left with an irreverent character who lives to tweak the system, bend the rules, and gets away with it because of his effectiveness .

Baker delights in this role, his enthusiasm for the tricks he performs, a thrill of the grift charm, evident in his performance. His boss, hard-boiled Teresa Lisbon (Robin Tunney, Prison Break) anticipates the audience’s reaction to some of Jane’s antics with eye rolls and smirks.

“Science don’t know everything.” –Wayne Rigsby (Owain Yeoman)

Jane, like the Sherlock Holmes, Adrian Monks, and Robert Gorens (Law & Order: Criminal Intent) before him, goes through life seeing everything. Through their observations, deductive reasoning, and their ability to read people, they find themselves typically the smartest person in the room (a vision of themselves that they protect fiercely). In fact, like Adrian Monk especially, they all also share both a need for fastidious control of the world around them and similar tragic back story.

“There is no more. There is no other side. This is it.” –Patrick Jane

As Jane continues to force himself “to stare into the cold blue flame of true, demonic evil,” what we see often is a man who can’t believe in anything beyond his logical world, no element of the supernatural or the possibility of a world beyond this one, because that would shatter too many of the suppositions that he has constructed to hold his world together.

“The kingdom of God is a real place … and you have an immortal soul.” –Grace Van Pelt (Amanda Righetti)

Too often, it is presented that one cannot be both a logical person and a person of faith. Yet, it’s important to have a passionate concern for the logical aspects of faith. No one has to leave logic behind in order to embrace faith. Science and religion are not at odds. Both are pursuits of truth and can find a common meeting place. Sometimes we can find God in the beauty of His most complicated creation, our minds. In the Christian tradition we typically draw on four sources to shape our faith: Scripture (the Bible), the historic church tradition (we learn in community, with time merely being a dimension to community), personal experience, and reason (both intuitive and deductive). It’s how we arrive at truth.

I suppose that I could have come at the mathematics of The Mentalist in other ways (C.S.I. + HouseMedium) which speaks only to the familiarity of the feel of the show. But the characters put their own spin on the cop procedural, with Baker’s gleeful performance, which much like the show itself, entertains, manipulates, or confuses people. In a good way.

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