The day we hoped would never come — Reviewing ‘Mr. Monk and the End’
Monk was an Emmy-winning television series that almost single-handedly resurrected the USA Network’s critical standing during its highly rated eight season run that culminated with the two hour “Mr. Monk and the End” episode broadcast on Dec. 4, 2009. Stretching over two weeks, the finale saw notoriously finicky private detective Adrian Monk finally apprehend his wife’s murderer.
Rendered brilliantly by veteran actor Tony Shalhoub, Monk’s obsessive-compulsive disorder was heightened by the death of his beloved wife Trudy, portrayed by The Office regular Melora Hardin for the majority of the series.
Although it was sad to see Monk conclude, watching him emerge victorious was definitely worth it. Plot-wise, the final episode explored Monk being poisoned because he was getting too close to the truth — the identity of Trudy’s murderer.
Guest-starring Craig T. Nelson as a judge responsible for ordering the murder of Trudy, the final episode was humorous, uplifting, sad, gut-wrenching, and dramatic, covering the breadth of human emotions. Not many shows currently on television can lay claim to this remarkable feat.
For awhile viewers may have wondered whether Monk would survive his poisoning, but this viewer knew otherwise. Seeing his determination in the face of certain death was mesmerizing, and writer-creator Andy Breckman should be commended for writing an episode that leaves the viewer knowing deep down that Monk will continue solving crimes somewhere in the land of television.
Several scenes which were particularly note-worthy included Monk’s confrontation with the judge and its exciting conclusion, the high-speed car chase mixing comedy elements with Detective Stottlemeyer [Ted Levine] and the flaky Lieutenant Disher [Jason Gray-Stanford], and the moment where Monk agonizingly watches Trudy admit she had a relationship with the judge.
It was somewhat surprising to see the episode resolved with about 30 minutes to go. However, the episode still delivered in providing closure to the characters as well as to the legions of fans of the show.
Major spoiler alert — when Monk realizes Trudy had a daughter before she met him, the viewer knows happiness is on Monk’s horizon, since he now has a step-daughter who looks amazingly like Trudy. It would have been interesting to see further episodes centering on Monk and his step-daughter’s new relationship.
Additional spoiler alert — the shocking revelation of Lieutenant Disher’s decision to move to New Jersey, become a police chief, and move in with Sharona. Perhaps the series creators will decide to film occasional two-hour Monk television movies of the week in the future, and hopefully Disher will find his way back to California.
An excellent wrap-up to the series, it still would have been nice to see another appearance by Monk’s former assistant, Sharona [Bitty Schram], or Monk’s brother Ambrose, played by the amazing John Turturro in several episodes.
Monk’s original psychiatrist Dr. Kroger [Stanley Kamel] was missed due to the actor’s sudden passing in April 2008, yet he was seen in a montage along with Sharona and Ambrose. As Monk’s replacement psychiatrist Dr. Bell, Hector Elizondo contributed one scene with the detective near the episode’s conclusion convincingly as always.
Before signing off, Randy Newman composed an exclusive song for the finale’s montage of past highlights entitled “When I’m Gone.“ The song perfectly sums up how viewers feel at the conclusion of the series.
With 125 episodes, the award-winning Monk paved the way for USA Network’s character-welcome slate of programming, not to mention the rise of cable television as a worthy alternative to traditional broadcast television.
Plenty of series now feature main characters with various hang-ups, yet Monk was a true trailblazer. As a series that the whole family could watch together, Monk is sorely missed, and it is highly unlikely another series will approach its originality, expert mix of comedy and drama, and sublime acting anytime soon.
[Author’s Note: In a moment of full disclosure, this was my very first article as a beat reporter for the since-fallen Examiner.com. Originally published a few hours after the premiere of “Mr. Monk and the End” dropped on Dec. 4, 2009, it stands as a review of supremely modest intentions. Fingers crossed my writing style and command of the English language has significantly improved in the interim].
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