Television, as a medium, has had a long, not particularly successful (from a quality standpoint) relationship with weddings. They're an element we see pop up in all sorts of long-running series, apparently intended to be a big, pivotal emotional moment but instead usually just coming across as a big, overblown spectacle. To its credit, "Mr. Monk Is the Best Man" avoids this fate, being played rather subtly. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean it's a huge success. But, at the very least, it is a sizable improvement after the rather awful pair of episodes that preceded it.
Apparently six months have passed since "Happy Birthday, Mr. Monk" aired a month ago, and Stottlemeyer and T.K. are getting married. Everyone's excited, perhaps most of all Monk, who takes his position as best man very seriously. But will there even be a wedding? If a rogue bridesmaid has her way, most certainly not. Meanwhile, there's the mysterious death of a seemingly random bum, shot and set ablaze, which just might be (read: is) more than it seems. For being ostensibly a character episode about the Captain's (uninteresting) relationship with T.K., this episode actually achieves a fairly even balance of character and mystery, in contrast to the generally lopsided-one-way-or-the-other episodes that makes up the majority of this season.
The mystery is a huge improvement over the last couple of episodes, by virtue of there actually being one. An increasingly prominent sub-genre of mysteries in this series have involved killers who make some sort of glaring mistake and spend the majority of the episode trying to backpedal their way out of it before Monk catches onto what's happening, and this is a moderately well-executed example of such. As usual, it's rather easy to guess who did it, and there's no ambiguity in the how department, but I rather enjoyed trying to figure out the why. If there's one downside to the mystery portion of the episode, it's that Teri Polo makes a decidedly unconvincing killer.
For me, at least, it was hard to feel any emotional investment in Stottlemeyer's upcoming (and potentially nonexistent) marriage to T.K., because we've only seen this woman in one episode prior (two if you want to be picky and count the photo in "Mr. Monk and Sharona"), and we know next to nothing about her. There's no real connection to the character. And, as a result, the attempted dramatic aspects of this episode come across as insignificant and, quite frankly, hard to care about, though in all fairness the wonderful Ted Levine gives it his best shot. This episode is at its best when it goes for full-on comedy, in two particular scenes: Adrian's pathetic attempt at throwing Leland a bachelor party (with juice boxes, the film "Bachelor Party", and a delightfully uncomfortable attempt at a joke), and the great Carol Kane's turn as a rather eccentric florist (a scene which actually reminds me of something from the show's earlier seasons).
Leland Stottlemeyer has had ridiculously bad luck with relationships. His first marriage, we're told, lasted a week. The next one....well, we saw how lousy that turned out earlier in the series (with that unpleasantly awkward line about Karen never touching him anymore in "Mr. Monk and the Captain's Marriage"). Then there's that girlfriend that turned out to be a cold-blooded murderer. Now, he's stuck with a mostly personality-free, utterly boring wife. And thus concludes his personal story, in a tragically unspectacular fashion. (I told you the writers have a hard time with story arcs!) Now, with that rather hastily swept out of the way, the final three episodes are free to focus on the conclusions to Adrian Monk's stories - namely, the long quest for a badge and the even longer quest for Trudy-related justice. And, as a fan of this show from the very beginning, I'm incredibly nervous about how they'll handle it.