LOS ANGELES -- The final episode of "Monk" has some heavy lifting to do: Resolve Monk's poisoning and whether he survives, uncover his wife's killer or, just maybe, reveal whether Trudy really is alive after all.
Tony Shalhoub, who inhabited the title character so perfectly for eight seasons that he collected three Emmy Awards, refuses to drop any spoilers and offers only a broad outline of Adrian Monk's fate Friday (9 p.m. EST, USA Network).
"The ending, just from my point of view, is very satisfying," Shalhoub said. "Granted, the last two episodes are much darker than episodes we've done in the past, more drama than the usual dramedy tone, but I really thought the writers hit it out of the park."
Will viewers be just as contented with the conclusion of a two-part finale that began last week? Shalhoub, weighing his words even more carefully, veers toward psychological analysis.
"I think what they will feel is kind of a magnification of what I believe they've been feeling all along, which is kind of mixed about Monk: Feel good for him, bad for him, frustrated for him," he said. "Hoping for his success and for his healing, his recovery."
The last episode brings, presumably, the culmination of Monk's effort to solve his wife's decade-old Christmastime murder. Her car was blown up, with her apparently in it, after she expressed concern about the case of a missing midwife.
At the time, Monk was a San Francisco police detective with a mild obsessive-compulsive disorder. After Trudy's death, his increased phobias forced him into a psychiatric leave from the department but his skills made him a valuable consultant and freelance crime-solver.
In part one of "Mr. Monk and the End," Monk was poisoned while investigating the murder of a doctor who had been interviewed in the midwife's disappearance. As doctors try to identify the toxin and a cure, an increasingly ill Monk finally opens the Christmas gift that Trudy (Melora Hardin, "The Office") left for him so long ago.
It's a videotape from her with a chilling message: "If you're watching this, it means I'm dead. ... There's something I never told you. Something happened ... something terrible. It was years ago, before we met," she says _ and cut to part two.
"Monk" fans, naturally, are intrigued and game for speculation. Among the theories floated online: Monk solves Trudy's murder, dies, and is reunited with her in the afterlife; Monk solves her murder, lives, and finds new love and mental health; Trudy isn't dead but in hiding and finally, with her safety ensured, is reunited with Monk for the happiest of endings.
There is also the anticipated viewer depression that accompanies the conclusion of any series, particularly one with a loyal following. Is it possible that Monk could make a comeback someday, in a TV film or otherwise?
Shalhoub, whose next job is onstage in New York, appearing with his wife, Brooke Adams, in a Stanley Tucci-directed revival of "Lend Me A Tenor" in April, hedges his bets.
"We've been talking for years about the possibility of a Monk movie. I just don't know. I never say never," he said. But if it happens too many years from now, Shalhoub added, he'll end up playing Monk's dad.
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