Reviewer Nixonkind "got it in one" by quoting from the letter which Jane reads aloud to the crowd: "Chasing monsters changes you." Despite the comic touches provided by Jane's insouciance, simulated at times and achingly real at others, and the moments of levity provided by the reactions of both civilians and police to his intriguing shenanigans, most episodes of "The Mentalist" border on film noire. In the same vein as "Criminal Minds" and "Law and Order: SVU," the members of Team Lisbon operate in a dark place: vile and violent felons wreak their damage upon the innocent or the unwary and cannot always be brought to justice by conventional methods. At unconventional methods, however, Jane excels, but this episode ranks among the best of those which demonstrate the continuing personal price paid for maintaining, honing, and employing his expertise in a socially beneficial fashion. By sinking himself fully into consulting with the CBI, Jane atones for his own hubris and his con artist past, which although they never harmed anyone seriously did ultimately lead to the murder of his wife and daughter. Perhaps more important to him personally, Jane pursues his own very personal revenge on serial killer Red John in the only legal fashion left open to him.
Last week's episode, "Fugue in Red," was carefully planned to give us a refresher course in Jane-the-Con-Artist, conceited and shallow, narcissistic and callous, always out for the main chance. Cho observes that, hideous as it was, the murder of his family made Jane a better person; Lisbon counters that the better person was always there, on the inside. And after its brief retreat behind the comforting shelter of amnesia, Jane's better self, plunged painfully back into present reality by Lisbon's making him revisit the scene of his terrible loss, emerges once more in "Always Bet on Red."
In direct opposition to reviewer vitakato's assertion of "too much fluff in between episodes," the writers have carefully buffered episodes of hideous pain from contiguous episodes of hideous pain: too much agony in every episode would soon blunt the effectiveness of every episode. If not handled carefully, juxtapositions between the now-hidden con man side and the equally shadowy warrior side of Jane's complicated personality could appear as merely mood swings. Writing skills and Simon Baker's nearly flawless depiction of a brilliant mind balanced upon the knife-edge of agony and atonement combine to make this episode one of the strongest yet in the entire series.