[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for Mr. Monk’s Last Case: A Monk Movie. In addition, this article includes discussion of suicide and suicidal ideation.]
When writing Mr. Monk’s Last Case: A Monk Movie, original series creator Andy Breckman tells Consequence that “my mandate from Tony [Shalhoub] and the rest of the creative team was this shouldn’t be just another episode of Monk. This should feel larger in every sense of the word.”
And thus, the feature-length film, reuniting anxious detective Adrian Monk (Shalhoub) with his longtime friends, explores a complicated case involving a tech billionaire (James Purefoy) and Monk’s beloved step-daughter Molly (Caitlin McGee). In addition, it takes a much darker tone from the long-running USA Network procedural, because from the earliest scenes it’s clear something is wrong with Adrian Monk: Specifically, he’s experiencing a great deal of suicidal ideation, with a full-scale plan to die by suicide on a designated date.
Shalhoub says that “before the script, Andy pitched the idea to us, and it was a startling pitch, his whole premise about Monk being in such a dark place. We’ve taken him down dark roads during the eight seasons, but never to this degree. But I felt that that was right, because it changed a whole landscape for us. And, knowing Andy as well as I do, I trusted that he would be able to balance the darker aspects with great comedic bits too, which he did, gave us all the opportunity to play fun stuff, too. So yeah, I thought it was a really good idea.”
The reason Breckman wanted to put Monk on this path was that “we wanted the stakes to be higher, and we wanted the movie to feel urgent and maybe more topical.” In addition, Mr. Monk’s Last Case very much takes place in the aftermath of COVID-19, and as Breckman notes, “The pandemic sort of put everybody in a darker place. And Monk is more sensitive to these things than most.”
The comparison point Breckman made when discussing it with Shalhoub was It’s a Wonderful Life. “It is a heartwarming, ultimately uplifting movie, but the premise is a man who was about to off himself. So I just thought that was a brilliant stroke,” Shalhoub says.
“It’s a Wonderful Life proved that it could be done,” Breckman says. “You could go to dark places…”
“And still have ultimately have it be something hopeful and life-affirming,” Shalhoub finishes.
Breckman also jokes that “I had the presence of mind to wait for Tony to be very, very tired before I pitched — I woke him up at three in the morning. That I recommend that to any writer.”