On the most part, "Mr Monk Makes a Friend" was a lovely episode, with a well-executed balance of funny and emotional moments. The twist/truth can be seen from miles away and the whole mystery was obvious pretty much immediately once everybody started suspecting Hal, a fun, interesting and not what he seems character but that he was not what he seems was obvious straight away. It's a shame because it does have moments of engagement, is well paced and doesn't take a back-seat. Disher also seemed a bit too subdued, though at least he wasn't the stupid and childish character he was in some Season 5 episodes.
However, everything to do with Monk and his new best friend was done absolutely beautifully. One really loves with how he is like an excited and happy child and finally feels accepted. Can totally relate to this, being bullied and treated like a freak at school for ridiculous reasons and finally feeling accepted at music college. One also feels sorry for Monk, am sure everybody has moments where they feel happy and excited at having a best friend, feeling accepted and completely trusting them only to be played and have your hopes dashed. Also went through this recently when taken for a ride by a neighbour.
There are many delightful character moments that make up for the predictable mystery. Monk's chemistry with Hal is the episode's driving force and sees many moments of humour and pathos, the other important element (nobody else trusting Hal) is also done well and the reasoning is fully understandable. The waiting for and reaction to the anticipated phone call, the whole grocery store scene, the first meeting, the hilarious hockey scene, Natalie getting punked, Monk saying to Kroger about wanting a best friend for Christmas every year, the apartment cover up scenes, the rock polishing and the suspenseful and poignant ending, all standouts.
As said many times, one of the best things about 'Monk' has always been the acting of Tony Shalhoub in the title role. It was essential for him to work and be the glue of the show, and Shalhoub not only is that but also at his very best he IS the show. Have always loved the balance of the humour, which is often hilarious, and pathos, which is sincere and touching.
Natalie is down to earth, sympathetic and sassy, also being sensitive to Monk's needs and quirks which Traylor Howard does well bringing out. Jason Gray-Stanford and Ted Levine are good as usual as Disher and Stottlemeyer. Andy Richter is very good as the mysterious Hal.
It's not just the cast though. Another star is the writing, which is also essential to whether the show would be successful or not and succeed it does here. The mix of wry humour, lovable quirkiness and tender easy-to-relate-to drama is delicately done, particularly the last one. The quirks are sympathetically done and never exploited or overdone.
The music is both understated and quirky. While there is a preference for the theme music for Season 1, Randy Newman's "It's a Jungle Out There" has grown on me overtime, found it annoying at first but appreciate its meaning and what it's trying to say much more now. Oh and a good job is done with the different opening credits sequence to accommodate the changes made.
Altogether, the mystery disappoints but everything else captivates. 8/10 Bethany Cox