“Forget It Dex, It’s Stumptown” gives Cobie Smulders the leading role she deserves in a promising new drama.
This recap of Stumptown (ABC) Season 1, Episode 1, “Forget It Dex, It’s Stumptown”, contains spoilers.
Smart people like me have been insisting for ages that Cobie Smulders, queen of underappreciated supporting roles and ensemble gigs, deserved a project of her very own. And with ABC’s new crime drama Stumptown, adapted from the graphic novel by Greg Rucka, she finally has one. As the archetypal wisecracking, heavy-drinking, PTSD-afflicted veteran-turned-PI Dex Parios, she’s giving a well-worn trope a new look and a new attitude, and she feels right at home in the show’s grimy interpretation of Portland, Oregon.
It’s always surprising how fresh a played-out genre trope can feel with a simple casting switcheroo, but Smulders brings more than tokenism to Dex. She has the deadpan timing and delivery for Stumptown‘s moments of levity, the athleticism for its action, the range for its introspection, and the model-like looks for all the one-night-stands characters like this tend to engage in. And it’s handy that she can cover all those bases, since “Forget It Dex, It’s Stumptown” pinballs from one disaster to another at quite a clip, introducing the show’s players and plot elements while also dealing with the kidnapping of a local casino owner’s (Tantoo Cardinal) granddaughter.
Dex has a connection to the granddaughter: She was in a relationship with her late father, who died in Afghanistan. Dex didn’t just leave her ex-boyfriend there, but part of herself, though she’s reluctant to admit that. But the fact is obvious to her best friend Grey (Jake Johnson) and to most of the people she encounters, who in Stumptown Episode 1 include local detective Miles Hoffman (Michael Ealy) and her brother, Ansel (Cole Sibus), who has Down Syndrome. It’s an interesting, atypical core cast that helps to keep Stumptown feeling somewhat distinct from other network dramas.
It helps that the show evokes the grim aesthetic and tone of its source material without forgetting to lighten the mood; the premiere gets good use out of a running gag in which Dex’s car plays random tracks from a stuck mixtape, and there’s a good balance between gumshoeing, action and laidback character-building. Smulders is suited to it all, and the game supporting cast fit right in. Hopefully, the show continues to double-down on its strengths.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.