Psych season 7 episode 1 review: Santabarbaratown 2

Review Nick Slawicz
28 Feb 2013 - 14:56

Psych returns for it seventh season with a strong episode that's both funny and touching. Here's Nick's review...

This review contains spoilers.

7.1 Santabarbaratown 2

The Cranberry is dead. Long live the Cranberry.

The Psych season finales have long had a habit of taking things to a whole new level of seriousness – traditionally with the appearance of Yin and Yang and their personal interest in harming Shawn and his loved ones – but the rule of Conservation of Plot has always held firm: come the first episode of the next series, everything must be as it was.

Perhaps that’s why the idea that Henry might not survive his bullet wound never really crossed my mind. The whole interplay of Henry and Shawn – of father and son, and all the myriad daddy issues that their particular relationship throws out – is so pivotal to the show that losing Corbin Bernsen would be roughly equivalent to losing Dulé Hill: a paradigm shift so huge that the show would never and quite possibly could never be the same again.

From the voyeuristic perspective of the viewer, of course, this made perfect sense. In-universe, however, the threat of Henry’s demise was a necessary trigger – no pun intended – for us to see a whole new side of Shawn. But was it worth it?

Generally speaking, I’d argue yes. Badass Shawn (as he shall henceforth be known) was an interesting addition to James Roday’s box of tricks. Usually when we’ve seen Shawn in situations of genuine danger, it’s been somewhat reluctantly, but there were no girlish shrieks here: instead, what we got was a man foolishly, recklessly and stubbornly throwing himself into danger. Shawn the Avenging Angel might be a bit of a stretch, but with lines like, "There’s one thing I’d like to do before we eat, though... let’s catch the son of a bitch that shot my dad," it’s hard to not be at least a little swept away in Badass Shawn’s thirst for justice.

But there are still some problems. Historically, Shawn has always been at his best when he’s an exceptional everyman: sure, he might have a gift, and he might have the perfect one-liner for every given situation, but he’s driven by pop-culture and exactly the same stupid minutiae that make up most of our lives. Setting up a baking tray of bullets to dispatch a room full of enemies might have worked in Die Hard, but not so much in Psych. Even with the gravity of the situation, it just didn’t feel like a trick that Shawn – for all his smarts – would ever pull out.

Don’t get me wrong, though: these are minor nitpicks in what was generally a very strong episode. Showrunner Steve Franks really managed to get a few exceptional setpieces in this week’s script (co-written by Bill Callahan, who also worked on the first Santabarbaratown) – and the opening scene in the hospital, as Henry is being rushed into surgery, gives us Psych at its absolute best: funny and touching all rolled into one. The re-emergence of Chelsea, from last year’s Neil Simon’s Lovers’ Retreat, wasn’t quite so welcome, but her stalkerish spongebaths helped to keep things breezy when the episode threatened to get too heavy at points.

And then there was the Blueberry.

I don’t think anyone really expected Shawn’s Looney Tunes-esque plan of pulling down a support beam to work, especially given that it would have been far too convenient a way of getting rid of four or five heavily-armed mooks, but I was expecting a lost bumper at most. The sight of our beloved Toyota, ripped in half as a result of (apparently) shoddy German engineering, made me genuinely sad in a way that – ashamed as I am to admit it – the gunshot that started the episode never quite managed.

And then, all-too-briefly, we had the Cranberry, before that too was snatched from us in an explosion that seemed just on the wrong side of gratuitously and needlessly cruel. Say what you want about Steve Franks, but he really knows how to hit us where it hurts.

So what’s the verdict? Both in-universe and for the viewers, it can only be optimistic. For Shawn and the gang, everything is back to normal, and after a short (and enjoyable) break we can return to the tried-and-true Case of the Week formula; for us, we have evidence that even after six seasons, Psych is still one of the most entertaining shows out on the air – and with the wonderful Cybill Shepherd returning next week (in what can only be described as a compromising position), it looks like we might be riding this high for a while.

If there’s a take-home message from Santabarbaratown 2, it’s this: Psych is back, and it’s as good as ever.

Oh, and you can hospitalise as many human characters as you like... just please, please don’t hurt the cars.

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