Last week Psych did a vampire themed episode, but this week the flashback that opens “The Amazing Psych-Man and Tap Man, Issue #2” could pass for the beginning of a Halloween episode as well, putting the young Shawn and Gus into costumes. Given that last week’s Halloween episode did just fine, it’s a good omen. This time, Psych puts forth a superhero theme that once again thankfully veered away from common trends of today, just like the vampire episode staying away from Twilight and other recent popular vampire media. No gritty reboot for this episode, which thankfully stuck to more of a comic-book style instead of the comic-book film adaptation style, right down to animating the transitions to commercial breaks and flipping the page.
The case of the week sees the Santa Barbara police cracking down on a gang of cocaine traffickers, while also dealing with a masked vigilante known as The Mantis who keeps beating them to crime scenes. Juliette seems mildly impressed by the feats, which sends Shawn into a fit of jealousy that leads to some great exchanges with Gus. Lassiter is sidelined for most of the episode, with a few lines here and there for his usual bit of attitude—and when that happens, I tend to get worried.
“The Amazing Psych-Man & Tap Man, Issue #2” is a Shawn-centric episode for the most part, but what helps keep things light and away from the dangerous territory where James Roday comes off as incredibly annoying and way too arrogant is some surprisingly clever writing. As I said in my comments on the season première, one of my biggest problems with Psych is its tendency to make the Santa Barbara police officials—people who are supposed to be smart and capable of doing their job—look like idiots when they fall for Shawn’s psychic act during a case. There is a really nice reversal in tonight’s episode with how jealous Shawn gets of The Mantis. When Juliette notes that the vigilante is just a normal citizen overpowering the drug traffickers, Gus cuts in and notes that Shawn isn’t a normal citizen, thanks to all his “psychic powers” that don’t exist. It’s a nice bit of dramatic irony that earns a good laugh, and it sends Shawn into even more of a conniption fit as he struggles to find something wrong with The Mantis. It’s an even better twist when Shawn finally gets what he wants, finding The Mantis on a rooftop hovering over a body riddled with bullets, but his observational gifts notice some incongruities that point to The Mantis’ innocence, and Gus calls him on it.
Though it is a superhero-themed episode, there aren’t too many overt comic book references in “The Amazing Psych-Man & Tap Man, Issue #2”—outside of requisite name drops to vigilantes like Batman and Iron Man—until the final fight sequence when Gus and Shawn team up with The Mantis, bringing back their flashback identities as The Catch and Tap Man. The sequence looks influenced by the Adam West Batman television series, complete with “POW” and “WHIFF” inserts on signs and panes of glass in the background. That’s a nice touch, and much better for the tone of the show than trying to imitate the recent string of comic book adaptations in the “gritty reboot” category. The goofy, slapstick attitude of Batman works well when integrated here.
The final twist is obvious, mainly because the final detail that all the drug money was missing gets dropped with all the subtlety of a hand grenade, and there are a few too many minutes of the episode left for things to wrap up neatly. The Mantis isn’t trying to stop the drug runners for honorable reasons. He’s just trying to take their money. That’s fine, since the final mini-chase gives Shawn’s alter-ego The Catch some more legitimacy, blocking punches with his mitt and making a nice home plate stop to get the out. Even if Shawn makes an eye roll-inducing joke like “Nobody steals on The Catch,” it’s okay.
Psych is incredibly cheesy and soft. Its sense of humor isn’t for viewers looking for gut-busting laughter or innovative jokes. They’re highly nostalgic and referential, and nothing about the format or the characters can change after so little has happened to them over five seasons. But when the show finds the right way for Shawn to use his gifts—by not getting self-indulgent and recognizing his own character flaws —and throws in a bunch of silly humor that works, it’s a very relaxing hour of light comedy. I feel like I say this every week, but Psych isn’t earth-shattering, it’s merely competent. That’s more than I can say for a lot of programs that have gone off the air since it debuted.
- I can’t quite put my finger on what it was, but the visual style tonight seems particularly well done. I want to say that the early scenes in the station had different lighting than a lot of the episodes that take place in broad daylight. Perhaps that’s it.
- The easy California joke to make in regards to the Santa Barbara police looking for cocaine in town? Start canvassing UCSB. That was always one of those pesky rumors about the otherwise decent member of the UC system.
- Again, just as in the vampire episode, there’s some pretty forced humor about homosexuality that never quite feels right involving the guest star Joey McIntyre as a new cop transferred from Ventura. They’re cheap laughs, and since they don’t really work, I wish the show would cut them out for good.
- No Woody the Coroner tonight. He’s not a regular, but he’s so funny that I had to note the absence.
- The reporter has to follow where Rob Lowe eats every meal, but Gus already knows the dinner location: Lucky’s.
- “Don’t think I’ve forgotten about the Detective Dipstick incident.”
- “Damn it, I had a handful of gummy worms in my jacket that he probably won’t even eat!”