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USA’s ‘Psych’ bows out true to its classic self

By Jason Kasman

Section: Arts

March 28, 2014

On Wednesday night, March 26, the “Psych” team bid a final farewell as it finished an eight season run on the USA Network. The show follows the shenanigans of fake psychic Shawn Spencer (James Roday) and his partner Burton Guster (Dulé Hill) as they assist the Santa Barbara police department in solving crimes. Its series finale was a real tear jerker, especially for those who have made it through all 119 episodes. It was also the best episode of a tragically flawed season.

The final season of “Psych” could not have been harder to watch. Each episode fell flatter than the last, with gimmicky plotlines that so obviously exist only to play out the whims of a soon-to-disband writing team. This season brought viewers a hastily-thrown-together musical episode, a “remake” episode (in which the game of the whole episode is “aren’t remakes the worst? Look how bad this episode is!”), a ’60s themed episode and more. Important plot developments fell by the wayside as silliness prevailed.

And, while “Psych” has certainly succeeded in being silly in the past, the greatest part of the series is the relationships between characters. There’s the ever-present bro-mance of Shawn and Gus, the adorable love story of Shawn and Detective Juliet O’Hara (Maggie Lawson) and the complex father-son situation of Shawn and his father, Henry (Corbin Bernsen), just to name a few. The past seven seasons spent a lot of time cultivating these characters and making sure we, the viewers, cared where they went. Everything had crescendoed to a point when Shawn was about to propose to Juliet, who now knew the truth about his life, they were going to move in together and start a new chapter of their lives, when suddenly—

The show’s cancellation was announced and all of that character development was dropped. Juliet does not even appear in the first three episodes of the season and is nearly invisible for the remainder (not appearing in over half of the episodes). Juliet and Shawn’s relationship might as well have been unchanged. There was no consequence to his big reveal that he is a fake, nothing happened. Chief Vick (Kirsten Nelson, who had played the lovable, straight-shooter woman so well) was replaced by a random character two episodes from the finale who seems to serve no other purpose than being strange. Nothing seemed to be leading to an end.

And so, as the season crawled toward the finish line, it was a reasonable fear that this last episode would not be a sufficient conclusion. However, I’m quite happy to report that the season finale was a near-perfect culmination to a phenomenal show. The final episode, “The Break-Up,” tugs at the heartstrings and amps up the funny. It has a wonderful balance of series callbacks without feeling like a “flashback” episode. As a loyal viewer, I left the episode confident that the characters I loved so much would live on contentedly in some non-televised non-reality.

The episode begins with a webcam confession from Shawn. He narrates the story of how he tries to tell Gus that he has decided to leave Santa Barbara for San Francisco to live with Juliet. He would be closing up the Psych Office. But of course, Shawn being the immature man-child he is, he cannot find an appropriate time to break the bad news to his lifelong friend, especially considering Gus’s recent appointment to a cushy new job. The case, whatever it is (because really, that is not the point of this episode) is solved rather quickly—the villain is actually nabbed by Henry, who gets in a touching scene with his son. Meanwhile, the hunt for a Junior Detective is completed as McNab (Sage Brocklebank), the loveable but laughably inept patrolman, is promoted to the position.

The meat of the episode comes at the end, when Shawn tracks down Juliet at a crime scene in San Francisco. Mere moments later, Gus barges in to announce that he’s quit his job to follow Shawn up north. And oh the tears, the tears that flow. Finally, after eight seasons of agony-inducing impatience, Shawn pops the question to Juliet who, of course, says yes.

As the final credits rolled, it was clear that “Psych” had ended on a high note. After weeks of painful drudge, the show was able to conclude with the formula that had made it so enjoyable in the first place: a mixture of laughter, emotion and characters worth caring about.

Where USA network will go from here is the real question. “Psych” followed in the footsteps of “Monk,” the comedic crime serial about OCD detective Adrian Monk (Tony Shaloub). There is even a quick reference to Monk at the end of the episode where Juliet explains they’ve already got a “guy,” and he’s in the kitchen alphabetizing the cereals. Both shows filled that specific genre of criminal comedy and found a pattern that worked, not only because of the set up, but because there were characters that people genuinely cared about. It’ll be interesting to see what the network can drum up next, or if the timeslot will just be filled with “Law and Order” reruns. Lord knows Dick Wolf could always use another rerun.

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