Nov. 25, 2013 at 5:17 AM ET
Spoiler Alert! Do not read this story if you have not watched Sunday's game-changing episode of "The Mentalist."
Put on your happy face: Red John is dead.
Not only was the smiley face killer's identity a surprise until the very end -- it was Sheriff Thomas McCallister (Xander Berkeley) all along -- he died a magnificent death literally at the hands of Patrick Jane (Simon Baker). The episode, titled "Red John," puts an end to Jane's 10-year hunt for the man who murdered his wife, Angela, and daughter, Charlotte, and dozens of others.
It was a well-executed conclusion to the mystery that's driven the CBS series from the beginning: After shooting Red John in the stomach but not killing him, Jane strangles his nemesis to death after getting him to admit that he's sorry for killing his family and that he is afraid to die.
The camera focused on Jane's face for the gruesome moment, and the Emmy-nominated Baker delivered a poignant sense of relief.
"That last scene between the two of them was very much written and directed by Simon," executive producer Bruno Heller said during a press call last week. "The emotion that he brought to that, the feeling. With all that pressure and story that’s gone by and all the baggage, I think he did a beautiful, beautiful, intimate killing there. It’s hard but good to watch."
Baker said Jane made the decision long ago to avenge his family's death, so when he finally gets the opportunity, he doesn't let his emotions get the best of him.
"He made that decision and in his head that was going to happen," Baker said. "What we didn’t know is how he was going to react and whether or not he could go through with it and in what fashion. So, to me, that was just jumping off a cliff, really, and jumping off a cliff to the point where he got what he’s wanted for so long. He’s got Red John within his grasp, literally. He doesn’t take a moment to hesitate. But when he’s on top of him, it's the idea of just shutting him up. Jane just wants to get on with the job."
When Red John dies, a part of Jane dies as well, Baker said. Now that the case is closed, Jane and the series will move in a new direction, Heller said. The Dec. 1 episode flashes forward two years and will explore whether Jane has found gratification and the consequences he must face.
"In a very real sense, Jane is a happier person, weight’s been taken off his shoulders and to that degree, a weight has been taken off the show," Heller said. "It’s going to be the same show to some degree but with less darkness at the edges and more freedom to roam. Jane has more freedom and a sense of possibilities."
In the new world, the California Bureau of Investigations has been dissolved and its team members will be scattered around the country. Jane, who called Lisbon (Robin Tunney) to tell her he was going to miss her at the end of Sunday's episode, is not in the United States. Heller compared the rest of the show's characters to the children of divorce.
"They were in a world that didn’t choose and now they’re in a world that’s changing around them, again, not of their own volition," he said. The series will eventually return to crime-solving, but not crimes in California, Heller added.
As the creator of the show, Heller said he never considered the option of Jane allowing Red John to live.
"For me, it was about giving Patrick Jane exactly what he had hunted for all these years," Heller said. "He wanted revenge and he got it. And I think that’s what the audience wanted so that’s what we gave them."