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“All my life, whenever I think of happy times in
my childhood an image pops into my head – it’s a
Fourth of July picnic when I was twelve or so, there’s
music playing and a little girl is laughing as she’s
held up in the air by her father. … She’s just a memory
that always makes me smile. And Red John killed her. He
reached into my head and killed a happy memory …”
-Patrick Jane, Season 5, “Red John’s Rules”
And so one question in the Great Red John Hunt is answered. How did Red John know about Eileen Barlow, the little girl who represented Jane’s “happy memory?” He found out from Jane’s psychiatrist. Dr. Sophie Miller, whom he then beheaded almost as an afterthought.
Sometimes you figure out what a story is about after it’s done. Looking at “Black-Winged Redbird” now, it seems to be a story about people being overwhelmed by forces larger than themselves. Titus Stone, the hapless drone designer, is overwhelmed by guilt and shame after his invention goes awry and he’s forced to lie about it. Lisbon, spared by Red John, finds that thoughts of the suspect list are infecting her dreams. Even Red John is apparently being moved by forces he doesn’t fully control. As Jane points out, he didn’t have to meet Sophie to get the information he wanted. For some reason Red John felt impelled to talk to Jane’s psychiatrist – a move that’s going to have significant ramifications in episodes to come.
Lisbon’s dream was a particularly chilling scene to shoot. Robin Tunney did a spectacular job portraying Lisbon’s wordless descent into horror as the bloody scene came into view. And the image of the dead bodies of Rigsby, Cho and Van Pelt was disturbing, even in the context of the set. The jagged, not-quite-real feeling of the cinematography and editing was an effort to fulfill a Bruno Heller directive that the dream feel legitimately dreamlike, i.e. illogical and slightly surreal. Bruno has said more than once that no dream is complete without a flying pig. I’ve never actually seen a flying pig in my dreams, but I take him at his word.
It’s odd to say this about an episode that involves suicide by drone and a decapitation, but the show was a blast to make, in part because of director Robert Duncan McNeill, known universally as “Robbie.” In addition to being a skilled and sensitive interpreter of the material, Robbie is a former actor who trained at the prestigious Julliard School in New York and, more importantly, spent seven years as Lieutenant Tom Paris on Star Trek: Voyager, making him a fount of Star Trek dish, none of which will be shared here for obvious legal reasons.
One production footnote: when Elizabeth Rohm, the actress who played Sophie Miller, came in to record her audio tracks for the episode it quickly became apparent that nobody had given her the full script to read. All she’d seen were the pages with her dialogue on them. She had no idea what happened in the episode. “Um, you probably should know that your character gets killed in this one,” I offered awkwardly. “Really? How?” she asked. “Um, your head is cut off?” I said. “Oh,” she said cheerfully. “Well, let’s get to work.” We did, and she knocked it out of the park in minutes.
Thanks for watching. Next week, in “Wedding in Red,” Jane gets a close look at one of the Red John suspects. And for fans of the Rigsby/Van Pelt relationship – let’s just say your day has come. As for the episode after that – “Red Listed” – you’ll want to watch it with the lights on. Stay tuned.
Executive Producer Tom Szentgyorgyi