If ever there was a time for USA Network to revamp its “blue sky” era, it’s now, when comforting TV is as in demand as prestige dramas or high-concept shows. The closest we’ve gotten in recent months is a set of Peacock ads disguised as a Monk reunion and the cast of Psych joining fans (virtually) for “Psychtacular binge-a-thons” back in April. Now, along with some bleaker options, Peacock’s lined up the next best thing for its launch—Psych 2: Lassie Come Home, the latest installment in Steve Franks’ TV movie franchise based on a TV series.
It’s been nearly three years since Franks and his co-writer James Roday Rodriguez (the actor recently changed his name) kicked off their ersatz continuation series with Psych: The Movie, a joyful affair that reunited the cast and made a great addition to the holiday movie canon. But Lassie Come Home doesn’t spend much time catching us up on the interim adventures of Shawn Spencer (Rodriguez), Burton “Gus” Guster (Dulé Hill), Juliet O’Hara (Maggie Lawson), and of course, Carlton Lassiter (Timothy Omundson). In true Psych fashion, after a mysterious opening, the movie throws an only slightly less enthusiastic Shawn and Gus right into their next case, which centers on one of their own.
Lassiter, recovering from multiple gunshot wounds, is now at the Hershel House, where he’s haunted by visions of his dead father (Joel McHale, who seems to be playing everyone’s dad these days) and his assailant. His condition, though promising, is enough to make him and his former pseudo-colleagues Shawn and Gus doubt the validity of his claims about injured strangers prowling the grounds late at night. That development is what provides Lassie Come Home with its greatest source of tension: The lifestyle, whether it’s that of a real detective or a fake psychic one, has caught up with Lassiter and Shawn (Gus has always had one foot out the door). These former sorta adversaries both wonder if and how long they can keep this up. Shawn is now married to Juliet, and they’ve sworn to be more honest with each other—though we come to learn that Juliet’s keeping some of her own secrets.
Along with a possible new threat, Carlton wrestles with his concerns about being a good father, having lost his own at a young age. The original series hinted at this conflict early on: A disagreement about having children was one of the reasons for his divorce from Victoria (Justine Bateman). But, as Lassiter admitted, he was never actually opposed to having kids. Psych ended with Lassiter getting a second chance at a family, but Lassie Come Home proves that work has just begun.
Fatherhood is explored across multiple storylines, including Shawn’s relationship with his dad Henry (Corbin Bernsen, magnificently cranky as ever), which, despite the greater distance between them, is still somewhat strained. They have a blow-up halfway through the movie that seems to come out of nowhere, one of the few times that the years between installments throw off the movie’s rhythm. But though it’s not quite as giddy as Psych: The Movie, Lassie Come Home is still a delight. As Shawn and Gus, Rodriguez and Hill pick up right where they left off; it’s impossible to argue with Shawn when he announces that they’re “home” again. Lassie Come Home features considerable growth for all of its main characters, especially man-child Shawn, but it lightens those personal discoveries with rapid-fire riffing, ridiculous chases, and inspired guest-star turns from Sarah Chalke and Kadeem Hardison. Along with the requisite pineapple appearance, a pop-up cat café and an ice bar provide some great background jokes.
But all roads lead back to Hershel House and Lassiter’s recovery. If Psych: The Movie was a love letter to fans of the sunny series, Lassie Come Home is a loving tribute to Omundson and his alter ego, both of whom make great strides with this movie. Omundson shows the same grit as this weary detective while also tapping into his sudden vulnerability. The first time we see Lassiter on screen is incredibly emotional, given Omundson’s own recovery following a stroke in 2017, but it’s not long before we’re immersed in the character’s storyline again. There isn’t a cantankerous beat missed between Lassie and Shawn, despite their newfound (and grudging) mutual respect.
Psych 2: Lassie Come Home opens with Shawn telling Gus that they can’t “just stop doing bits we’ve been doing for years,” and we wouldn’t want them to—these movies work as charming follow-ups to the series and as pick-me-ups during a summer that’s basically been postponed. Lassie Come Home goes a step further, opening up a poignant new chapter for these characters and performers.