“Monarch” ends its first (and, maybe, only) season with a surprise – a semi-sensible conclusion.
That’s the one thing we never expected. Until now, the show has kept piling up odd, soap-style twists. But then comes the season-finale, at 9:02 p.m. Tuesday (Dec. 6) on Fox. If the show isn’t renewed, fans will have had a fairly satisfying farewell.
And no, we weren’t expecting that. Until now, “Monarch” (shown here with Trace Adkins) was like that crazy uncle who sometimes visits – weird, senseless, but fun in his own, goofy way.
Its strengths have been notable, including:
— The music. It’s scarce in the finale, but has been strong most weeks. These are mostly cover songs – country, with a dash of pop or Americana – chosen wisely and performed skillfully.
— The casting. Two of the three stars are singers who are surprisingly good actors; there’s Adkins as Albie Roman and Beth Ditto as his daughter, Gigi. The third is an actress who’s a surprisingly good singer – Anna Friel as the daughter, Nicky. Add a couple appealing young actor/singers (Inigo Pascual as Nicky’s adopted son Ace and Emma Milani as a newcomer, Anna) and you have people we want to watch and listen to.
— The production values. “Monarch” consistently looks large and lush, especially during the songs.
All of that was impressive – but drowned out by the absurdity of the soap-style twists.
That started in the opener, when Albie suddenly told his wife Dottie about an affair he had, decades ago. That happened to be on the night Dottie, dying of cancer, had secretly chosen to commit suicide, with Nicky’s help.
Later, we learned that Dottie had not only known about the affair, but had killed the lover … whose granddaughter is Anna. She’s Albie’s granddaughter … now the lover of his adopted grandson Ace. Soaps are like that.
Then there was Nicky’s abusive husband, who (sort of) was killed twice and buried three times. Soaps are like that, too.
There was Gigi’s wife, who had an affair with Gigi’s brother. When she got pregnant, she covered up the affair by saying he would be the sperm-donor for her baby. (You’re allowed to take notes here.)
And there was the bizarre approach to criminal justice. People seemed convinced that:
— Lethal chemicals in Dottie’s body, and nearby, were proof of murder. They skipped the more logical possibility that they proved suicide.
— A drop of Nicky’s blood in her husband’s truck was proof that she had killed him … even though his oft-buried body hadn’t been found.
“Monarch” kept doing things big. Time to bring Nicky in for questioning? Let’s have three (three!) squad cars speed to the mansion, lights flashing. Time to arrest Albie? Let’s do that onstage.
That happens at the start of the finale … then “Monarch” finds ways to finish the season sensibly. We kind of hope it will be back; like that crazy uncle, it’s been fun.