#TypesTuesday – Power of Truth in Burn Notice and The Mentalist
The season three finale of Burn Notice ( August 6 at 9pm) on USA Network, averaged 7.6 million total viewers, making it the most-watched series telecast in the network’s history.
Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) in Burn Notice joins the very popular Patrick Jane (Simon Baker) in CBS’ The Mentalist as a Power of Truth character who brings wit and a wry sense of humor to solving their cases.
The two also share another Important story device very common to Power of Truth characters. While chasing the bad guys or solving the “mystery of the week” each character has a personal mystery at the center of the emotional conflict in the episode.
Michael Westen is a spy who was “burned.” The agency dumped him and disavows any knowledge of his existence. The questions driving Michael through each episode are: Who “burned” him and why?’ No matter what Michael is doing or whom he is chasing that question is what really propels him forward through the story.
Patrick Jane is a police consultant who uses his background as a stage show “mind reader” to discover the tiny clues or “tells” in plain sight that reveal people’s real motivations. The questions driving Patrick through his episodes are: “Who is Red John and why did he kill my family?” The pursuit of Red John is the real motivation behind all of Patrick’s detective work.
In whatever role they play, Power of Truth characters are driven to look beneath the surface of things to discover what lies below or is obscured from view. In the best Power of Truth films or television programs the protagonist has some of the answers he or she seeks hidden deep inside. For some emotionally fraught reason the character blocks that information or cannot look into the dark internal places where those answers can be found. The most satisfying emotional journey results when this character is forced to uncover an internal secret to solve the larger external mystery.
Film examples of the Power of Truth Character Type include Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs, Captain Benjamin L. Willard in Apocalypse Now, Jake Gittes in Chinatown and Leonard Shelby in Memento. Each of those characters hides or denies some secret or mystery at the heart of his or her being.