As a true-blue Psych-O, please believe that I say this with all the love in the world: There is little about Psych 2: Lassie Come Home that isn’t baffling. Central mystery? Indecipherable. Character arcs? All over the place. Psychic episodes? Almost nonexistent. Is it fun to dip back into Psych’s warm, goofy world after two and a half long years away? Obviously! But man, what a laundry list of whiffed opportunities.
We’ll get to a full spoiler rundown of everything that’s most baffling about this latest Psych outing in a moment (as Shawn would say, wait for iiiiiitttt—), but first, a quick summary of the two key things that aren’t.
Okay, so first major non-baffling thing: The Peacock partnership.
Originally slated to run on USA in December of last year, the long-awaited sequel to 2017’s genuinely delightful Psych: The Movie ended up being punted seven months forward and one NBC Universal service over, presumably in a bid to help drum up as much enthusiasm as possible for Peacock’s big summer launch.
This isn’t baffling at all! For one thing, as far as strategic programming moves go, a brand new streamer could do worse than make a passionate fandom’s beloved franchise a cornerstone of its launch. (Which, considering how Peacock teased said launch via an “Egg Cam” live feed that ended with a peacock hatching fully grown from a chicken egg, flying over to a hay-strewn baby grand piano and launching into an acoustic cover of Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles” as a pair of horrified farmers watch from the shadows, it’s a streamer that certainly knows from worse.) For another thing, unlike its 2017 predecessor, Lassie Come Home isn’t even Christmas-themed. Did I miss Shawn and Gus and everyone else when the original December premiere date rolled by, Psych-less? Of course. But having that same return to look forward to as Peacock’s launch date approached has pretty well made up for that.
Next (and, I’m sorry to say, final) major non-baffling thing: Lassiter’s character arc.
With Lassie Come Home right there in the title, it was a given that Timothy Omundson’s tightly wound SBPD Detective-turned-Chief would play a key role in Psych 2’s plot. Considering, however, the massive stroke that all but knocked Omundson out of the game shortly before Psych: The Movie started filming—the effects of which he is still working to recover from, more than three years later—just how active a role that would turn out to be was anything but.
On this count, fans have every reason to get excited. While it might have been fun for this sequel to pick up where John Cena’s bomb-toting cameo at the end of the last one left off, writers Andy Berman, Steve Franks (also the series’ creator) and James Roday Rodriguez (i.e. Shawn Spencer, himself) made the smart move to instead focus on working Omundson’s new limitations into the very frame of Psych 2’s central mystery. They made Lassiter the lucky survivor of a brutal shooting in the middle of a secret case he can no longer remember, whose slow, monotonous recovery in a fancy private hospital outside of Santa Barbara is either part of the plot that got him shot in the first place (Lassiter’s take), or has him seeing mysteries (bloody zombies, sleepwalking coma patients, one-handed murderer victims) where there are none (everyone else’s). Narratively, this works aces in giving Lassie plenty of opportunities to bicker with Shawn and Gus (Dulé Hill), vent to Juliet (Maggie Lawson) and grumble at Nurse Dolores (guest star Sarah Chalke), while also driving the plot engines of the story’s various investigations. Practically, it gives Omundson—who’s really turning in excellent work—chill recovery-friendly perks like rolling around his room, Rear Window-style, in a slick wheelchair, hanging out with a sweet-tempered German Shepherd (spoiler: Morrissey is back!) and napping in a plush, king-sized bed while Rodriguez holds his hand.
In short: Lassiter’s recovery-centric arc, from start to finish, makes perfect sense. Not only that, it’s a genuine joy to see the whole Psychphrancisco team rally around Lassiter after his stroke on screen, just as the whole Psych team has been rallying around Omundson after his own in the real world. Nothing to baffle here.
And that, alas, brings us back to where we started: Bafflement. Every other part of this movie seems so untethered from kind of clever, self-aware storytelling that’s always made Psych so great, that trying to make sense of it all can feel Sisyphean. From the unfired Chekhov’s gun of the majestic Lassiter beard invoked by Carlton’s dad (a very averagely bearded Joel McHale) in the cold open flashback, to the steep backwards slides in character growth across the board (the cringey man-child energy is so potent, it felt like I had time-traveled back to 2008), to the fact that, despite introducing himself to several credulous strangers throughout the course of his investigation, the only time Shawn uses his “psychic” “gift” is when he’s privately processing evidence (and even then, that doesn’t happen until more than thirty minutes in).
Like, why bring up the specter of Omundsen’s real-life king’s beard, if you’re not going to let a convalescent Lassiter grow out Omundsen’s real-life king’s beard? Why take all the emotional maturity so hard-won by Shawn and Gus and even Henry (a previously zenned-out Corbin Bernsen) by the end of Psych: The Movie, and throw it in a man-child blender? Why give Shawn an investigation to mount, if he’s not going to use his psychic showmanship skills to grift suspects and/or witnesses for information along the way? And as long as we’re (I’m) asking questions: Why turn the old Psych office in Santa Barbara into a pop-up cat café, if neither the cats nor the proprietress have anything interesting to contribute to the story after their anticlimactic introduction? Why spend so much time watching Gus assault a seemingly catatonic patient in the name of a poorly considered Dirty Rotten Scoundrels gag, but later spend so little time caring about the details of that same patient’s connection to Lassiter’s mystery investigation? Why spend literally any time on another hallucination of Jimmi Simpson’s Mary Lightly, let alone one where he’s a baby who challenges Shawn to change his diaper? (I am confounded, even, that that’s a sentence I’ve had to type out.)
Look: Psych went off the air in 2014, after seven long (some might say, too long) seasons. The character growth we needed, we got. The visual gags we wanted, we saw. The personal and professional endgames we hoped for came to pass. As a storytelling vehicle, Psych (the series) crossed its finish line long ago. Meaning, there’s nothing we needed these movie specials to do. Which is to say, if we’re going to pull The Blueberry out of long term parking, it had better be for a good reason, and/or it had better be with a mystery that’s compelling, and an investigation that’s both emotionally satisfying and comedically tight.
Psych: The Movie ticked all these boxes: In Juliet being targeted by the protégé of a serial killer whose obsession with Shawn had played a major ongoing part of the original series, its plot hinged on a compelling (but not convoluted) mystery that organically brought back both series regulars (Vick, Woody, Buzz) and fan-favorite guest stars (Ralph Macchio, Mena Suvari, John Cena), and that gave more than one relationship room to evolve in interesting ways. (Vick’s being especially lovely to see unfold.) Shawn’s showy psychic grift, meanwhile, was on point from the start, while whatever goofy, off-mystery digressions the movie made—most notably with Jazmyn Simon’s Selene, Robert LaSardo’s Proveedor and (again) Jimmi Simpson’s Mary Lightly—ultimately served the grander purpose of nudging Gus and Shawn along their long path towards personal growth. Plus, it was extremely funny without ever becoming mean.
Psych 2, by comparison, ticks almost none of these boxes. Its humor is weirdly stale, mostly because it leans (with off-brand heaviness) on cringey poop and dick pic jokes, and that’s whenever it’s not just being unkind. It is also astonishingly free of Shawn telling anyone “I’m a psychic detective.” (He has plenty of “…and this is my partner, Hilarious So-and-So,” but never following an actual psychic introduction, which makes me certain it’s simply a matter of people who know their material too well not being able to see obvious holes. But still.) Mystery-wise, while it does succeed in luring out most of the original series’ core characters as they each try, in their own way, to help Lassiter find some peace, the central scheme is so convoluted that it took me two careful watch-throughs and multiple rewinds to make even shaky sense of its timeline and mechanics. Even still, I’m not totally convinced that Lassiter didn’t end up in that fancy private recovery room of his because someone wanted him to stop investigating the mysteries he uncovered while stuck in that fancy private recovery room of his. And, sure, I’ll admit to not always being the most observant person in the world, but I do watch television professionally, and I have been a fan of the series since the beginning. It shouldn’t take me two viewings to grasp the basics of what a Psych mystery is doing.
So again I say, in a word: Baffling.
And yet, it’s still Psych, and the alchemic reaction that happens when Steve Franks brings James Roday Rodriguez, Dulé Hill, Maggie Lawson, Corbin Bernsen, Kirsten Nelson and Timothy Omundsen together will always feel like something close to magic. So what, Lassie Come Home wasn’t my favorite Psych outing. Given both the depth of the Psych-O fandom and the love all those actors obviously have for their characters—not to mention NBC Universal’s vested interest in keeping the franchise profitable, now that Peacock is a streaming reality—it’s wildly unlikely that Lassie Come Home will be the last Psych movie fans will ever get. So let me just channel Shawn for us all one last time and say: Wait for iiiiiitttt—
Psych 2: Lassie Come Home is now streaming on Peacock Premium, alongside Psych: The Movie and all seven seasons of the original Psych series.
Alexis Gunderson is a TV critic and audiobibliophile. She can be found @AlexisKG.
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