It's hard to believe it's over. I've been a fan of this show since the beginning, and have developed a bit of a frustrating emotional attachment with it. So, as you can imagine, it feels weird to actually see it go. It seems even weirder to see it go with this. Not a bad episode by any means, but a little bit of a letdown in certain areas and considerably different in focus than I'd really expected. Only as a series finale could an episode of this caliber be a little bit disappointing; it's still pretty good, being the second best episode of the final season, behind Part One. (Note that this is, by its nature, a very spoilerific review. You have been warned.)
Picking up where we left off last week, Adrian plays the tape Trudy left for him twelve years earlier. Apparently, she knew she might die, and she knew precisely why. To the surprise of no one who already saw the first part, Craig T. Nelson's Judge Rickover was responsible - it seems that he had an affair with Trudy many years prior, and fifteen years she had to be silenced to protect his precious political career. Instead of dwelling too much on the fact that he could've easily solved this case twelve years prior, he fights his poisoning to engage Rickover in a final rain-soaked confrontation. And then gets miraculously saved after Natalie, of all people, identifies the source of the toxin. At first, Monk feels empty - he's just closed the case that has kept him going for the past eight years. But he soon finds something to wedge into the gaping hole in his life in the form of Trudy's long lost daughter from the Rickover affair.
The solution to the Trudy case is decent, albeit not as elaborate as I'd expected, and a bit rushed. It's rather disappointing how little detective work Monk actually has to do in this finale, as the killer's identity is just handed to him on a silver platter and it's Natalie who deduces the source of the poison. That just leaves the sundial thing, which I suppose is clever enough. It's also disappointing that we never learn how Dale the Whale knew so much about the case - indeed, the rotund fiend doesn't even make an appearance, which just might be a blessing given the steady decline in quality of the actors portraying him. While we're talking about the episode's negatives, I have to mention Monk's recovery from the poison, a part of the episode that is even more rushed (in that it happens entirely offscreen), completely throwing off the timeline of this episode. And though it's not much of a complaint, I will note that Police Chief Disher is actually sort of a terrifying thought.
On the upside of things, Rickover is an interesting villain, played with just a sliver of sympathy despite having done some truly ghastly things, thankfully not being portrayed as single-mindedly over-the-top pure evil as I'd feared the writers would do with Monk's unknown archnemesis. Kudos to Craig T. Nelson for that. The Monk-Rickover confrontation is adequately tense, adequately dark, and ends on a rather shocking (by this series' standards) note that some fans will definitely find unsatisfying, but that I personally liked. And while Monk's recovery from the poison is, as previously mentioned, weirdly rushed, his semi-recovery from his emotional problems is handled quite nicely, enough to be noticeable but not to an unrealistic degree - no one fully recoils from anything immediately, and besides, we've learned he had his fair share of quirks even before Trudy's death. He'll always be a bit of a stick in the mud. Just, now he's a stick in the mud that can dress quasi-casually.
And thus concludes one of the shows that changed the way I look at television back in the day. Devising a satisfying conclusion to any long-running series, I am well-aware, is tough business. And while this finale could have been better, at the end of the day, it's still an above average episode that'll put a smile on your face, with the skillful blend of comedy and drama typical of all the better episodes of this series. After drivel like "Mr. Monk and the UFO" and "Mr. Monk Goes Camping", it's wonderful to see that the final season could go out on a high note. Goodbye, Adrian Monk. I seriously need to invest in some of the DVD sets now.