Monday, October 1, 2012

Psych Season Five Is Mediocre Until A Concept Episode Outshines The Rest!

The Good: “Dual Spires” is brilliant, Funny
The Bad: No superlative performances, Greater character development is sacrificed for plot convenience.
The Basics: Psych is good television in its fifth season, though there is a lone, truly great episode for fans of Twin Peaks.

Concept shows are harder for me to bear with when the series shows fidelity to the concept, as opposed to organic character development. Psych is one such concept show. The idea behind the show is ridiculously simple. Focusing on a fake psychic who wanders around playing detective, with his trusty sidekick, Psych spent the first four seasons with Shawn (the fake psychic) flirting with the chief detective in Santa Barbara, Juliet. But, with the climactic events of the fourth season finale, it seemed like there would be real changes in store for the characters of Psych.

The fifth season of Psychcould have led to some real development and conflict, namely between Juliet and Lassiter. The final episode of the fourth season had Juliet being victimized by a serial killer and in resolving that episode, Lassiter actually rose to the occasion of being heroic in relation to her. The writers and producers of Psych completely abandon that potential in favor of a return to highly episodic works that quickly return Juliet to work and have only the use of Harry in a new job as a serious change between this and prior seasons.

Cases include a Chinatown kidnapping that involves gangs and two brothers, one who fights for love and one who just wants to fight. Gus and Jules switch partners which allows Lassiter to benefit from Gus's knowledge. The pair investigates a UFO abduction and find a true gentleman as a most dangerous adversary. Gus and Shawn investigate a car thief ring. Shawn and Gus join forces (and, alternately, combat) their geriatric dopplegangers when a retired police chief is killed.

The pair happens to be on a boat when four inmates on a furlough make an escape attempt, which Shawn makes worse, resulting in a hostage situation! The duo competes against a fake profiler when people on an organ donor list get killed off! That profiler quickly makes the move on Juliet that Shawn has not in the prior years and Shawn complicates their budding relationship when he helps a superspy complete her mission. When Despereaux returns, Shawn and Gus go to Canada to extradite him, leading to a change in the Shawn/Juliet relationship.

Gus learns about Shawn’s relationship when they investigate a murder at Scare Fest. After a concept episode that is an homage to Twin Peaks (reviewed here!), Shawn and Gus are sent to Police Academy. Psych does its annual Christmas episode that shows Shawn what life would have been like for those around him had he not returned to Santa Barbara five years prior. After another random mystery, the season ends with the return of Yang as the hunt for Yin reaches a climax no one expected.

Fundamentally, Psych Season Five utilizes the characters from the prior seasons in very familiar ways. In the fifth season, the principle characters are:

Shawn Spencer – He continues to play the fake psychic detective and is thrilled when Juliet returns to work, though he does not make any advances on her until she expresses interest in the fake profiler. Catching a glimpse of what might be in store for him if he comes clean with her, he continues his charade,

Gus – He continues to act as Shawn’s sidekick and hampers him slightly when Shawn witnesses a murder, but he does not. Never seen this season using his “super sniffer” or doing his pharmaceutical sales work, he is committed to the Psych agency now,

Harry Spencer – Now determining which cases the Santa Barbara Police Department will contract out to Psych, he takes a perverse joy in making Shawn work for his money. Otherwise, he just shows up,

Lassiter – Back to his usual, arrogant self, he only really rises to the occasion when his sister arrives to make a video of how the detective bureau works,

Juliet - Begins the season at a desk job away from the detectives, working to find her equilibrium after her capture and torment. She falls for the rich fake profiler before hearing Shawn reveal his true feelings over a wiretap,

and Vick – A complete nonentity for the season, she is only truly memorable for her position of authority in investigating the murder of her predecessor and Henry’s former boss.

Gus seems sillier than before. Ironically, he also seems more faith-motivated than in prior seasons. Psych is also more overtly addy in the fifth season than in prior seasons. There are noticeable references to Snyders of Hannover, Snickers bars, and several other products throughout the season. There are no superlative performances in the fifth season of Psych. Instead, these are all the familiar characters and performances that James Roday (Shawn), Dule Hill (Gus), and the rest of the actors have played for the prior years.

The lone episode that makes me recommend bothering with the season (the fifth season of Psych is not bad, just familiar in a way that feels more monotonous than original) is “Dual Spires.” “Dual Spires” is a parody/homage to the David Lynch cult television favorite Twin Peaks. As a fan of that series, “Dual Spires” is a treat to watch and one of the most entertaining hours that Psych pulled off.

In the end, though, Psych is largely average and familiar, leaving little reason for viewers to be enthusiastic about continuing to watch the series.

For prior seasons of Psych, check out my reviews of:
Season 1
Season 2
Season 3
Season 4


For other television reviews, visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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