James Roday and Dule Hill in PsychFinally, the USA Network comedy-mystery Psych came up with a fully satisfying episode, last Friday night. The season finale hit all the right notes: it had a solid mystery at its center, including a couple of pleasing, unexpected twists; the setting, a comic book convention, was interesting and unusual and was handled well, especially in revealing that a couple of the top supporting characters were comic book fans; the setting was tied in very strongly with the murder mystery, particularly in the way it is used to place clues to the mystery throughout the episode and motivated the crimes; the way Sean, the main character and fake psychic private detective, used his persona as a psychic in order to obtain clues from a convention hall full of people and expose the murderer in public; Sean’s attempt to romance one of the suspects was handled with greater humor than usual, because his lack of progress was funnier and more dramatically interesting than the greater immediate success he usually seems to have in this part of the story; a subplot involving the prima donna nature of even the most minor celebrities (guest actor George Takei from Star Trek); the angry police lieutenant who is persistently antagonistic toward Sean, the lead character, is away with the pregnant chief throughout the episode, and hence not boringly and predictably snarling at Sean; and some amusing self-referential humor.

James Roday still plays Shawn, the lead character, a little to cutely, but he has toned it down a bit, which allows the show to take a more realistic tone and thereby becomemore involving. Or perhaps I’m just becoming accustomed to Roday’s overacting. Either way, it’s not such a distraction now. (This reminds me of how the USA Network’s other Friday night comedy-mystery show, Monk, became stronger when the overacting Bitty Schram was replaced by Traylor Howard when the former left in a contract disagreement. And yes, I know that some people think Schram was much better than Howard. Well, they’re wrong.)

Psych will return with new original episodes in January, according to USA Network. Until last night, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to the new season; I thought the show was diverting but that it was falling well short of its potential. If the series can pick up where last night’s episode left off, it will be a real success.