Psych: “Mr. Yin Presents”

In what I feel is a welcome sign of artistic growth, Psych has taken to ending its half seasons with episodes that raise the stakes for Shawn and Gus, giving Dulé Hill and James Roday opportunities to stretch their acting legs out a bit. This started with the mid-season finale of season three but the creators really set a high bar with last season’s finale, “An Evening With Mr. Yang.” Going back to that rich vein, tonight’s finale gives us the return of Mr. Yang (Ally Sheedy, pictured above) and her unseen partner in crime, Mr. Yin. This time it’s Mr. Yin’s turn to put Shawn and friends to the test.

Roday does triple duty for this episode, starring and helming from a screenplay he co-wrote. Filled with subtle and not-so subtle homages to Hitchcock, this is the prettiest and most ambitious episode of Psych to date. It also has one of the most touching and peculiar scenes I expect to see on TV this year, something that would feel at home in a Wes Anderson film. And yet it retains its sense of fun throughout.

Psych has grown on me. I’ve been a fan since the pilot but have really appreciated how much the creators have let the show and characters grow into something more than the cheap entertainment it originally appeared to be. This isn’t high drama, but Steve Franks and his writing staff have found a good balance, where rich characterization adds depth and humanity to what would in lesser hands be cardboard stereotypes.

I know a lot of critics find Roday too grating for regular viewing but it’s only through watching the full run of the series that I’ve come to see his Shawn as more than a wisecracking, juvenile attention whore. In these few episodes where Shawn faces challenges and risks to himself and those he cares about, the obnoxious facade slips enough to show the scared kid beneath. The scared kid who jokes and jibes and demands to be the center of attention because that way no one will know he is scared. ((And he won’t be alone, when he’s forced to confront his fears.)) And in tonight’s season finale, that scared kid is forced to choose between saving O’Hara and saving Abigail by the devious and deadly Mr. Yin.

The season finale of Psych is on USA Network, tonight at 10/9C.