By James Hibberd
Updated August 23, 2012 at 02:52 PM EDT
Credit: Sonja Flemming/CBS

With CBS’ The Mentalist approaching its 100th episode and moving to a new night, creator Bruno Heller is intensifying Patrick Jane’s hunt for Red John.

“This is going to be a big season in terms of the Red John story,” promises Bruno Heller about the show’s elusive serial killer. “We make a quantum leap forward. Jane (Simon Baker) and the audience will learn something incredibly important about Red John that makes his hunt inches away instead of miles.”

One focal point of the season will be Red John’s accomplice (Emmanuelle Chriqui), who was captured in last May’s finale. The CBI, Jane and the FBI will battle for custody of the key witness who can reveal the killer’s identity — as well as how to best extract that information from her. “As the season unrolls, there’s a struggle to convince her to talk,” Heller says. “The custody battle sets the scene for a longer and more intense rivalry because Jane believes there’s somebody he can’t trust within the FBI, and the FBI feels the same way about Jane and the CBI.”

The agents are led by guest star Polly Walker, who also worked on Heller’s Rome. “She’s a wonderful actress I’ve been wanting to have on the show for awhile,” he says.

Though Heller won’t say if Red John’s identity is finally revealed, he did hint last May that the person is likely already a cast member on the show. “You see the white whale,” Heller says. “They haven’t actually caught it, but they got it in their sights. It’s going to be a killer season. Things are going to start moving forward very swiftly.”

And what about those rumors that Red John’s voice sounds like it could be played by none other than Simon Baker himself? “I can neither confirm nor deny who plays Red John in the voice parts,” Heller says, sounding amused. “It does sound a bit like Baker, doesn’t it?”

The Mentalist returns Sunday, Sept. 30 at 10 p.m.

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