Farewell Psych: A Love Letter
By Stacey Gillard
I discovered Psych late. A friend sent me the DVDs of the first 2 seasons and after watching 3 episodes I ordered seasons 3 through 7. I had watched them all within 2 weeks and then had to wait another 2 weeks until the 8th and final season was released on April 1st. Last night I reluctantly finished my marathon by watching the series finale. I had managed to avoid being spoiled for how it ended, the show finished a couple of weeks ago and many of my friends in the US had been loyal viewers from the first episode, but I had heard the buzz of how perfect an ending it was, so I went in with high expectations. They were met, and even exceeded.
After being severely disappointed by another series finale this week (*ahem* HIMYM *ahem*) I had steeled myself to feeling dissatisfied. Instead I felt ecstatic, comforted, vindicated. Everyone was where they should have been. At times I doubted Shawn and Gus would find a way to avoid their break-up and even that prospect didn’t upset me. If Gus could find his place in his new job, find happiness, I was confident the friendship would endure the distance. Not ideal? Sure. But not devastating. Henry had accepted that his family’s connection to Santa Barbara was ending and while he was the one who stayed put he was happy to move on emotionally and build a life beyond that. Lassie was settled, happy with a new family and in a job he’d been coveting since the very first season. Juliet and Karen were enjoying their friendship, comfortable in their new city. And Shawn and Juliet…well, who didn’t see that working out? The fact that Juliet accepted Shawn’s proposal with the attached rider of Gus being part of the package was a given. None of their situations made me feel like I’d been cheated of an investment in characters (*ahem* HIMYM *ahem*) and all of them seemed happy enough that I was comfortable saying goodbye.
So what was it about Psych that grabbed me so immediately and with such intensity? Only one other show has had that effect on me: I was hooked on Supernatural within the first 10 minutes of the pilot episode. It’s an intangible feeling, like that moment you meet a stranger and just know they’re going to be someone important in your life, or when you walk into a house and know it’s where you’re supposed to live. Psych brought multi-layered characters into our living rooms, but it was a subtle characterization. They had their quirks, their foibles, and those were showcased more often than not due to the comedic nature of the show, but the layers shone through when needed. Lassie’s unquestioning pride in and loyalty to Juliet; Juliet’s frustration any time her vulnerabilities showed through; Shawn’s intelligence that he was so loathe to reveal; Henry’s deep love and concern for his son; Gus’ ability to overcome any fears if Shawn was in peril. These aspects tipped the scale from pure slapstick comedy to action-packed police procedural with substance…and a lot of pure slapstick comedy.
It was also about love stories. Shawn and Juliet were the ultimate love story. Conventional in the will they/won’t they aspect but unconventional in the lack of angst attached (setting aside the 3 episodes they spent apart after Juliet discovered Shawn’s secret), that when they finally did take that plunge it was sweet and funny and changed nothing else about the show. Shawn and Gus’ version of the love story was one that I will always enjoy in any show – the bromance. They truly were connected at their souls and while Shawn’s actions towards Gus often threw him under the bus he came through for him when needed. Season 8’s episode “Nightmare on State Street” showed us Gus’ deep-rooted fears of losing Shawn through a series of nightmares in which Shawn always abandoned him to his grisly fate. And yet when back in the real world Shawn was always there for him, a lesson Gus truly needed to learn, one that would ultimately lead him to follow his best friend to their new lives in San Francisco.
The relationships of the actors were a huge part of why the show worked so well. Their friendships shone through, the comfort level they achieved with each other allowing them to just go with it when James Roday went off on one of his famous improvisational stints. If you get the chance to watch the DVDs with commentary, please do. The amount of fun the cast and crew had on set is obvious, as is the pride they have in the show they developed.
It’s impossible for me to watch any episode of Psych without a crazy grin on my face, or without laughing so hard my tummy hurts. Yes, there are tears, too – every single character has had moments that highlight the amazing abilities of the actors to switch between hilarious and heartbreakingly serious at the drop of a hat – but I’ve never finished an episode with a bad taste in my mouth. And let’s not forget The Musical, a fine example of showrunners recognizing the alternative talents of their cast and utilizing it with the utmost success.
So, farewell for now, Psych. While our love may be new it is enduring. I feel we will meet again in the near future, maybe in the form of a Psych movie and I, for one, am willing to “wait for iiiiiiiiit.”
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