The final season of Monk was released on DVD this past Tuesday. Here’s what happened.

Cast and Crew Information

Tony Shalhoub as Adrian Monk
Traylor Howard as Natalie Teeger (when 43 years old you reach, look as good you will not)
Jason Gray-Stanford as Lt. Randall Discher
Ted Levine as Captain Leland Stottlemeyer
Hector Elizondo as Dr. Neven Bell
Tim Bagley as Harold Krenshaw
Bitty Schram as Sharona Fleming

Created by Andy Breckman
Co-written by Andy Breckman (2 episodes), Dylan Morgan (2 episodes), Hy Conrad (2 episodes), Joe Toplyn (2 episodes), Josh Siegal (2 episodes), Tom Scharpling (2 episodes), Beth Armogida (1 episode), David Breckman (1 episode), Jack Bernstein (1 episode), Joe Ventura (1 episode), Justin Brenneman (1 episode), Max Pross (1 episode), Michael Angeli (1 episode), Peter Wolk (1 episode), Salvatore Savo (1 episode), Tom Gammill (1 episode)
Directed by Randy Zisk (6 episodes) and 1 episode each from Andre Belgrader, Anton Cropper, David Breckman, David Grossman, Dean Parisot, Jerry Levine, Joe Pennella, Kevin Hooks, Mary Lou Belli, Michael Zinberg and Tawnia McKiernan

Availability Information

This season (as with all others) is available on DVD. Don’t trust the episode listings though: the packaging has a few errors on disks two and three. The sequences are off, “Mr. Monk and the Dog” is on disk 3, and “Mr. Monk and Sharona” is on disk 2.

Premise

The premise of the series revolves around former detective Adrian Monk. He always had quirks, but is an incredible detective. His wife’s murder 12 years ago destroyed him. He was fired from the force on a psychological discharge. His OCD and phobias drove into high gear, rendering him a shutin. When the series opens, it’s a very apparant homage to Sherlock Holmes. The brilliant detective doesn’t quite fit the mold of society, spends time only with a medical professional (his nurse Sharona Fleming), and frequently outshines bumbling police officers LEland STottlemeyer and RAndall DEacan. Randall Deacan quickly became Randy Disher, both officers became less bumbling, and Bitty Schram left the series to have her character replaced by Traylor Howard as Natalie Teeger. The quality of the mysteries improved over time as well. In the first two seasons, several mysteries could be solved or half-solved by the viewer before the opening credits rolled. By the fourth season, that didn’t happen as often, and the characters had really come into their own.

In this final season, we get to see all of the moments that the series has been building towards, with mostly satisfying closure to go along with them.

High Point

“Did you get a name?”

“Yes I did. Right before your computer crashed.”

Low Point

It’s under spoiler guard for a reason: in the series finale, the final confrontation takes place, and Monk is not only too sick to emote properly, he doesn’t even get to say “unless I’m wrong, which, you know, I’m not,” “he’s the guy” or (most importantly, to my mind) “here’s what happened.” How can they not have a final “here’s what happened” on this series? End spoilers. Alternatively, one could argue that Monk should have run for exactly 10 seasons.

The Review

This is an original season of the series. It starts with episodes that are highly unusual for the series, often with risky premises, making me wonder if the ideas had been kicking around for a few years, and they didn’t run them for risk of alienating the audience. That’s less of a concern in the final season, especially with the promises that had been made to date. After that, we get emotionally satisfying conclusions for all of our major characters. I give it 5 out of 6.

The effects were minimal, and mostly in the final two part episode. The pedestrian accidents were convincing, though the stunt doubles were not. I give it 3 out of 6.

The stories were generally well told. Each mystery holds up well, though details between seasons don’t always line up. The way Monk got Trudy’s last gift to him is one discrepancy, but that was originally a minor detail, so that’s easily forgiven. The relative pay rates of Sharona and Natalie was not a minor detail, but rather a very large point of one of Traylor Howard’s first episodes, so that’s less forgivable. Maybe I’m being picky, but when the lead character’s attention to detail is such a huge part of the series, you should expect a similar attention to detail in the viewership, and this sort of thing will get noticed. Still, the critical details come out in the resolutions for each individual character, and those play out nicely. Most importantly, the resolution to the biggest unsolved mystery of Monk’s career is (aside from the low point) wholly satisfying. By the time the series wraps, you need to understand why Trudy was murdered, why the world’s greatest detective couldn’t solve the case before, and why he is able to solve it now. Every one of those critical points was addressed to my satisfaction, alleviating my greatest fear about how the series could possibly wrap itself up. I give it 5 out of 6.

The acting was well done. We see the palpable progress made by Adrian Monk through the season building towards the finale, and get some great work by the supporting cast. The pain and anxiety felt by the characters in the series finale is most definitely shared by the viewers, as is the joy in the opening of the episode that precedes it. I give it 5 out of 6.

The production involved solid editing and musical scores. The lighting options for detective shows are limited; you either need near total darkness for a high tension scene, or (as is more common) you need the scene so well lit with high key lighting that viewers can see every detail and have the opportunity to spot every clue. It leads to bland lighting choices in most situations, but that’s a necessity of the genre. I give it 4 out of 6.

The emotional response is almost perfect. (See the “Low Point” for the “almost” bit.) I give it 5 out of 6.

Overall, it’s not as strong in general as seasons 4-7, but it’s strong enough with a satisfying conclusion. I give it 5 out of 6.

In total, Monk: Season Eight receives 32 out of 42.