It’s about damn time someone on Psych painted the detectives and psychic consultants into the kind of corner Anthony Michael Hall’s character forces them into at the end of this rather abrupt season finale. Shawn and Gus’ cushy place at the police department should be challenged to see how they work with Jules and Lassiter to prove their worth. Judging by Psych’s past, this will last for all of one episode a year from now, but as far as a place to cut out for the summer, it’s stronger than endangering a supporting character like Henry and leaving him sprawled on a beach with a gunshot wound when his survival was a foregone conclusion. As with many major events this season, the “restructuring” at the SBPD could all go out the window the moment the musical shows up next winter. However, as presented tonight, Shawn, Gus, and Lassie have their work cut out if they’re going to be back in the position they want to be in when next season rolls around.
But just because I think it’s a good direction for the show to choose for a cliffhanger, that doesn’t mean I agree with Trout’s reasoning. His criticism, that the team’s over 100 successful homicide investigations—an annoying success rate, but I’ll leave that alone for now—only shows just how widespread murders have become in Santa Barbara. He thinks the SBPD hasn’t effectively deterred crime. But if a fictional, grey-skied Vancouver version of Santa Barbara has such a high murder rate, and solving 100 homicides isn’t bringing crime down, there are obviously some larger institutional problems contributing to the issue. Trout is simply a curmudgeon looking to hand out pink slips.
Following a high-profile car crash between the blueberry and Lassiter’s police car in pursuit of a suspect on a motorcycle jumping into a road running race, the usual team tells the story of the case entirely in flashback. Shawn and Gus start with a man who enters the Psych office asking for help tracking down whoever gave him a lethal dose of a pest-control poison. As they investigate, wives, clients, and bank employees lead a trail to other dead bodies. But as Shawn and Lassiter narrate the events to Trout, their bungling of the investigation becomes clear. Anthony Michael Hall’s character strives for efficiency, following protocol, and saving taxpayer money (that issue never really seems to be a problem on Psych, presumably because of their area).
My problem with this finale is that the big developments of the season—Henry’s recovery from a gunshot, Juliet realizing Shawn’s secret, Gus keeping a girlfriend for more than an episode—all get swept under the rug as if they had no affect on the show at large. Henry’s quite the ladies man in his retirement, Shawn and Juliet have no discernible hurdles to resuming their relationship as though no huge breaches of trust ever occurred, and Gus is back to hoping the next girl that comes along will be better. Lassiter tied the knot rather quickly—and his recap of the misadventures of that weekend is one of the funniest moments of the episode delivered at the worst time for all involved—but that’s the only permanent change.
It will be difficult to respect Juliet going forward for taking Shawn back so easily and without actually solving the core issue of his deception, or at least dealing with it comically. She’s been lied to from the start, belittled, taken for granted, and manipulated, and yet because the guy with more hair gel than JD on Scrubs somehow charms her, it’s all fine a few episodes later. Given the opportunity to break down that relationship because of a lie, then build it back up on apology and reconciliation, Psych chose to ignore the conflict altogether and put the two kids back together in scenes only suggested by other dialogue.
That shows a distinct lack of faith in the ability to build that relationship work into the established structure, favoring formula over something that would benefit the show. Last season, Shawn had a ring and was thinking about proposing. Now, he should be trying to work with way back into Juliet’s good graces, but apparently she took a Forget-Me-Now and everything is fine. Stripping away Juliet’s self-respect, and her will to find out exactly what happened and why Shawn lied, doesn’t serve Maggie Lawson’s good work in the role.
But if it should come down to whether I laughed at my favorite characters, then this is a serviceable finale. Lassiter gets his suck-up moments and his David Caruso fantasy sequence running a crime scene. And Gus’ insistence that poisoning could be contagious created some of the best physical comedy of the season. Psych gets rescued from the gutter by the fully developed characters around Shawn, who at this point look exasperated that they have to endure even more riffing.
Despite my general malaise toward the show, I really do enjoy watching and reviewing Psych. It’s a show that I don’t agree with a lot of people on, mostly because there aren’t too many die-hard fans continuing to watch it. But I look at an episode like this, with a great guest star and a lot of funny moments, and think that all the pieces for a great show have always been there, but Psych just lets them sit there, forgetting that in order to actually make the show better, it needs to fit those elements together.
Season Grade: B-
- The eighth season of Psych will presumably air in 2014, but the two-hour musical originally intended for this season has been pushed to a December special.
- With the frequently grey skies and sleepier feel to the town, there’s no reason this show couldn’t have been set in Monterey or Carmel instead of Santa Barbara.
- Shawn watched Air Bud. I saw it for the first time in years a couple months ago, and speaking as a dog lover, it still holds up.
- Top three episodes of the season: “100 Clues,” “Juliet Takes A Luvah,” and “Dead Air.”