I offer an appreciation as well as a fond farewell to two vastly different crime dramas: Psych, which ended its eighth-year run last week on USA network, and Justified, which ends its fifth season this week on FX but will return for its final sixth season.
(The season finale of Justified begins at 10 p.m. EST Tuesday on FX.)
The two shows could not be more different—one a comic-drama mystery, the other a hard-charging, often violent series—yet each was/is completely satisfying in its own way with realistic characters who drew you in to their exploits, good plots and, especially in Justified’s case, crisp dialogue.
Psych finished its series—no spoilers here, I promise—with an episode that paid homage to the series’ comedy, yet also gave a bit of a serious subtext; it wrapped up certain story threads, yet left room for a glimpse of these character’s future. And there were also a couple of clever surprises and a brilliant reference to a former, much beloved USA series about another defective detective.
Psych is about Shawn Spencer, wonderfully played by James Roday, whose claims of being a psychic somehow lead to him being a consultant for the Santa Barbara police department and setting up a private detective agency with his best friend Gus Guster, the equally terrific Dule Hill.
Shawn’s “heightened observational skills,” of course, have nothing to do with him being a psychic but from the intense training he got since childhood from his father Henry, a former officer with the Santa Barbara police department.
Henry, perfectly played by Corbin Bernsen, wanted his only son to be a cop but Shawn’s rebelliousness lead him to a different path. A bit of a slacker, Shawn used this early training into what began as a con game but developed into real career at which he was quite good.
Psych had its roots in those same “heightened observational skills” in the novels about Sherlock Holmes, the TV series The Mentalist and so many other detective stories in which a detective uses his wits and intuitiveness to solve a crime. Shawn could spot an errant button, a spot of blood, a misplaced book a mile a way and use that information to save the day.
The last episode featured Billy Zane, who has been referenced so many times on Psych that he has deserved an ending credit for years. And we finally got to meet Det. Dobson, played by another actor mentioned numerous times on Psych. I’ll let you figure out which police consultant was referenced as being “in the kitchen, alphabetizing the pantry.”
During the season run, Shawn, perhaps against his nature, began to grow up. He began to see his father not as an adversary but as a concerned parent. His growing relationship with Juliet "Jules" O'Hara (Maggie Lawson) has been a catalyst for the past three season’s action.
But a main point of Psych has been the unshakeable friendship between Shawn and Gus. Buddies since they were children, they are the epitome of the bro-mance. It has always been obvious how much these two men care for each other as true friends who believe in each other and support each other. Gus is the more solid, more adult but he never gives up on Shawn, even when Shawn is messing up or acting immature, which has been often in the series.
A “bro-mance” of sorts also is at the heart of Justified. But this one is quite a different kind.
The story of U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (played to perfection by Timothy Olyphant, right) and the criminal Boyd Crowder (also played to perfection by Walton Goggins) has given an extra texture to Justified.
The two men grew up together and know how each other thinks. As each is fond of saying, “We shovelled coal together,” a phrase that may not mean anything outside of Kentucky's hills but implies a code of mutual obligation for those who live in Harlan County.
Each man could easily have turned the other way and each knows that.
We root for Raylan, of course, as he is supposed to be the good guy, but, in a way, we also want to see Boyd succeed. Both men are capable of incredible violence and incredible tenderness. Raylan can never completely commit to a woman, while Boyd is devoted to Ava (Joelle Carter).
This season of Justified has been perhaps the darkest in a very dark series with Ava in jail and Boyd caught up with even nastier people than usual both for business but also to get Ava freed. Too many people from big cities have underestimated the country Boyd. Hint, never smoke a cigarette with Boyd.
Raylan’s tangling with the very odd and very criminal Crowe family has brought another set of issues, including a turn in Raylan’s relationship with Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Art Mullen (Nick Searcy). Art is the kind of father that Raylan’s own father wasn’t; Art, as Raylan said, “is the only man I truly care about.”
Each actor on Justified is terrific. This year the main villain in the Crowe family is played by a sneering, no holding back Michael Rapaport as Darryl Crowe, Jr. The dialogue is pitch perfect, as it should be since it is based on Elmore Leonard’s 2001 novella Fire in the Hole.
TV will be a little less fun without Psych and Justified.
Photos: Top: James Roday as Shawn Spencer, Dule Hill as Gus Guster on Psych. USA Network photo
Center:Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) and Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant). FX photo