One of the standards of the mystery genre is the locked room mystery. This week, Monk
gave us yet another derivation on that chestnut with the victim locking himself inside a panic room with a chimpanze who was apparently the killer. Being a savy TV viewer and having read more than my fair share of detective novels, I figured out the chimp had to be a red herring as soon as we saw him standing over the body, holding a gun. The real question was--how was the chimp used as a red herring? Early on, I figured that somehow the chimp had been trained to use the gun to kill the victim, but this turns out not to be the case. Instead, we find out the perps are human beings, using cunning methods that it's up to good ol' Mr. Monk to sort out, using deductive reasoning and astute observation that most of the rest of us missed. In short, the mystery plot, while interesting, was once again there only to serve for the main "hook" of the script--pairing Monk up with a monkey.
Last week, I lamented that the characters had become little more than pale imitations of themselves from the past two seasons. This week, things get a bit better, if only because at least half of the main characters seem to be functioning in character--namely Monk and Sherona. Sure, there's the way-too-long scene where Monk "locks" himself inside the panic room and panics (there's a hole cut in the door, so he's never trapped at any point), but otherwise both Monk and Sherona do quite well this week in the smaller moments. Monk's attempts to, at first, ignore the monkey unleashing hell upon his apartment are quite amusing as is his panic over getting "jail goo" on his hand. Most telling was the scene in the dark where Monk must shine a flashlight on everyone's face while speaking. Those little moments worked well, as did Sherona's defense of the "victim" in the case of the monkey.
However, once again, both Stottlemeyer and Disher come off as bumblers and iditos. In past seasons, we've seen Disher be the gung-ho cop who has a bit too much enthusiasm for his own good. His mistakes were honest ones and didn't feel like he was being put out there as the butt of jokes as he is here. He does things here that just don't make any sense, nor do they instill much credibility in his being a police offer. For example, he can't keep up with which gun is the unloaded piece of evidence and which is his and loaded, thus leading to hilarity of Stottlemeyer interrogating a monkey with a fully loaded weapon (more on this in a moment). Later, Disher is at Sherona's house and uses his walkie-talkie to talk to Stottlemeyer who is not more than six feet away. Now, in the past, we've seen Disher's overenthusiasm get the better of him, but not to the point of stupidity that we see here. Honestly, this is one character who they either need to decide to develop a bit more or write to the sides more often.
As for Stottlemeyer, it was frustrating. There are scenes where you can clearly see him as a friend and an ally of Monk, though his lack of patience at times with his OCD wonder-detective is entirely understandable. However, the previously mentioned scene where he interrogates the monkey comes off as bad. The idea behind it is good--do some research to find out if the chimp could pull the crime. But his acting like a complete idiot to the chimp makes little sense and is only in there for humorous value and, once again, it goes on too long.
So, while I am willing to say this is a set up from last week, it's not really that BIG a step forward. They need to stop concentrating on the "hilarious" concepts--Monk goes to NYC, Monk meets a monkey--and get back to what made the show so good--the characters were all reasonable and believable and we liked tuning in to see them each week.
posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/26/2004 02:57:00 PM