The Big Picture
- Sharona Fleming, Monk’s first assistant, left the show due to a pay dispute but made a return in the final season for closure.
- Captain Stottlemeyer and Lieutenant Disher both found love and happiness in the final season.
- Monk’s ultimate goal of solving his wife Trudy’s murder is achieved in the series finale, bringing him peace and a newfound relationship with his daughter.
It’s been twenty-one years since Monk first aired and fourteen years since the final episode bid farewell to its fans. In the time since the show ended, there have been reruns on cable, episodes streaming on Peacock, and discussions about a planned reunion TV movie. Now, the fans can return to spending time with the neurotic detective in Mr. Monk’s Last Case. But with eight seasons and a total of 125 episodes, it might be best to remember what went down before you watch.
Set in San Francisco, Adrian Monk (Tony Shalhoub) suffers from various phobias and OCD issues, which come into conflict with his superb skills in outsmarting killers. Before the — as the promos used to call him — Obsessive Compulsive Detective returns, the show’s final season wrapped up several important storylines. Monk was, after all, more episodic than serialized, hence why the final season is where a major unsolved murder gets solved and the main cast swiftly receives happy endings to tie up their storylines. Let’s get right into it, or as Adrian Monk would say before solving a case: “Here’s what happened.”
- Release Date
- July 12, 2002
- Tony Shalhoub, Ted Levine, Jason Gray-Stanford, Traylor Howard
- Main Genre
- Comedy, Crime, Drama, Mystery
- Andy Breckman
Mr. Monk’s First Assistant Was Not Forgotten
Sharona Fleming (Bitty Schram, A League of Their Own) was Monk’s nurse and first assistant, who gave him a good deal of “tough love” in how she handled his mental health affecting the active investigation he was a part of. She was a single mom who adored her young son Benjy (Kane Ritchotte), but Sharona couldn’t help but be stuck in an on-again-and-off-again relationship with her ex-husband. Bitty Schram’s time on the show would be short-lived unfortunately, she abruptly left halfway through Season 3 due to a pay dispute. Adrian Monk would get a new assistant quite quickly, but the disappearance of Sharona Fleming was certainly felt. Monk needed to find a replacement, even though no one could truly replace Miss Fleming.
The show’s answer that was given to the characters on her whereabouts was explained away as Sharona and Benjy decided to move back to New Jersey. This kind of exposition could only work for so long, something more was needed, basically actual closure on the character. Season 8, also the final season, brought the ending Bitty Schram deserved. Sharona returned for an episode where she reunited with Monk and the others of the cast. After suffering from an injury, Sharona might be in pain but she is ecstatic that she will be able to sue for a nice chunk of money, set to be used for her son’s college education.
Captain Stottlemeyer and Lieutenant Disher Left the Bachelor Life Behind
Lt. Randy Disher (Jason Gray-Stanford) was loyal and aloof and could be relied upon to reply with the most random lines of dialogue that made sense to him, if not anyone else. In one episode, Monk is piecing together a case, telling the cops, “The killer wore a ski mask, ergo the killer was afraid he’d be recognized, ergo the killer must have worked here recently.” Which leads to Disher responding sincerely, “Ergo the Killer, is that Hungarian?” Into Season 8, his most significant growth arrives in time for the series finale. There was romantic tension the show teased between Sharona and him before her absence, and when Sharona returned, Monk remembered that. In the last episode, Randy accepts the position of a police captain in a New Jersey town, the same one where Sharona lived.
Captain Leland Stottlemeyer (Ted Levine) frequently lost his patience at the incompetence around him, whether it was Disher’s wacky theories or from being Monk’s long-suffering friend. Stottlemeyer was a strong center among the main cast, primarily as the voice of reason many times throughout the show. He was also divorced, until Season 8 when he met a woman that he couldn’t stop thinking about. T.K., played by guest star Virginia Madsen, was a journalist who teased Leland into figuring out her first name until she told him it was Trudy. This could have been a bit of a pickle for the captain, Monk’s first and only wife was named Trudy, a character whose murder became a cold case. But Monk gave his blessing and Stottlemeyer married T.K., despite a few hiccups leading up to the wedding, namely a car explosion and house break-in that was related to a murder case happening at the same time. The series finale ends with Stottlemeyer heading off to work and T.K., who had concerns about being a cop’s wife, is now content with her future.
Natalie, Monk’s Second Assistant, Helped Him Out the Longest
To fill in the role of Sharona was Natalie Teeger (Traylor Howard). From Season 3 onward, Natalie was by her boss’ side, arguing about increasing her pay and doing her part to help with the case on hand. The differences between the two assistants went beyond Natalie calling him, “Mr. Monk” and Sharona calling him more directly “Adrian.” Natalie had a gentle, more supportive approach to helping the detective out when his phobias or OCD were too much for him to handle, unlike the annoyance or bluntness Sharona provided. By far, Natalie had more patience, which Monk never forgot to stretch thin. Natalie was a widowed single mom, taking care of her teen daughter Julie (Emmy Clarke), after losing her U.S. Navy husband, who died overseas. Natalie would later get into a romantic relationship with a friend of her late husband in the series finale.
The ‘Monk’ Series Finale Solved Trudy’s Murder
While this was a funny mystery show, there were times fans reached for tissues out of sorrow due to the titular character’s past. Since the pilot, Adrian Monk had struggled with the increased severity of his phobias and OCD due to the murder of his wife Trudy (Melora Hardin). Due to this, he dealt with setbacks and small moments of progress across the series’ episodes. It played into his removal from the police force, which is why he is a consultant throughout most of Monk. Several times, he attempted to be reinstated as an official detective again, but he eventually realized he favored being his own boss. He had Natalie, Sharona, and others to help him in his daily life, with additional support in his sessions with one of TV’s best therapists, Dr. Kroger (Stanely Kamel), for six seasons. When Kamel died unexpectedly, Hector Elizondo came on to play Dr. Bell, a new therapist for Monk. But the mystery of Trudy’s death haunted Adrian terribly. He would see a version of her throughout the show, not as a ghost, but as a figment of his memories that he couldn’t let go of.
What Monk truly wanted, above everything else, was to uncover the truth behind his wife’s death. She was killed in a car explosion before the show began. This would then develop into an intricate conspiracy, although it wasn’t too well plotted out. The conspiracy surrounding Trudy’s murder was no different, a story arc that popped up occasionally. It involved a six-fingered man (a nod to the One-Armed Man of The Fugitive) and a mysterious figure who ordered the hit on Trudy, known as The Judge. It then became apparent in the two-part series finale, “Mr. Monk and the End,” the mystery wasn’t so complicated as it seemed to be.
The ‘Monk’ Finale Lets Adrian Monk Find Hope
“The Judge” returns with a new hit out, this time on Adrian Monk, who is poisoned through the wet wipes he constantly uses for his hands. Practically on his deathbed, Monk opens the Christmas gift Trudy left him, which he never touched and which has been seen here and there in the series. Inside is a tape Trudy recorded before her death, where she confessed to having an affair with her college professor. It led to her getting pregnant and having a baby that didn’t survive. This revelatory tape, put together with the guest star appearance of Craig T. Nelson as Judge Ethan Rickover, reveals to Monk his wife’s killer. The finale builds to a confrontation, where Monk gathers the evidence he needs and Rickover ends his life, knowing he will be exposed for his crimes. While solving Trudy’s murder might have brought an enormous amount of relief for the detective, another twist is what gave him peace.
He learns the daughter Trudy believed had died was secretly adopted, and from this, he can meet a grown-up Molly (Supernatural‘s Alona Tal — replaced with Caitlin McGee for Last Case). Adrian Monk has a new piece of Trudy in his life, bonding with Molly, easing his worries down just enough to head to the movies, except he will have to the theater’s screening room 10 for its number value. Monk is left in a good place as the show concludes, where a montage works as a clip show and brings the cast together for a new case to solve. Pixar icon Randy Newman, who did the show’s main theme, played one final song, as the show allows Monk to have a better handle on his mental health. This will set us up for Mr. Monk’s Last Case, where the show’s other biggest mystery could be given a solution, the details on Mr. Monk’s skin care to make sure his extremely clean hands aren’t extremely dry.
Mr. Monk’s Last Case premieres on Peacock December 8.