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Stumptown Review Roundtable - Episode 1.08 - The Other Woman: Opening Old Wounds

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Another impressive episode of Stumptown with Episode 1x08, The Other Woman, as we near the show’s mid-season finale. This time a case from an unlikely client, Sue Lynn (Tantoo Cardinal), brings Dex (Cobie Smulders) face to face with not only her painful past but a living reminder of that past in the form of Benny’s widow, Naomi (Moon Dailly). We get more history as well about connections between other characters. Read on as Spoiler TV’s Ellys Cartin and I explore the questions the episode raised. And don’t forget to submit your reader questions in our comments section for our final Stumptown Review Roundtable next week.

Sue Lynn hiring Dex certainly came as a surprise. Why do you think she hired Dex? Does she trust her? Did she think it was someone on the reservation and needed an outsider? Or did she have a second reason, that being bringing closure to Naomi and Dex?

DJC: In her own unusual way I think Sue Lyn has a begrudging respect for Dex. I don’t know if she sees something of herself in Dex, a strong woman living a hard life and having to fight every step of the way to get ahead. She recognizes that Dex is good at what she does, and she needed someone from outside her circle to ask the hard questions about who was trying to kill her. Does she want to bring closure to Dex and Naomi? I think it’s not so much as bringing closure to them as to bringing closure to herself. There’s a lot of pain and anger there for all three women. I just know I could sit and watch an entire hour of just Smulders and Cardinal playing off one another as these complex characters. Their dynamic has been the extra treat we were given since Stumptown premiered.

EC: After all their interactions, I have finally realized that Sue Lynn needs Dex to stick around to help Sue Lynn feel connected to Benny. Dex is connected to Sue Lynn’s memories of her son in a way that no one else is. The version of Benny that defied his mother, that ultimately set off after Dex in the ultimate act of that defiance, was also the most dynamic and most alive version. There is no person that keeps Benny alive for Sue Lynn the way Dex does. Being around Dex gives Sue Lynn all the hurt and begrudging pride that she also felt for her son.

Lt. Cosgrove (Camryn Manheim) and Sue Lyn have obviously butted heads before. How are these two women in power alike? How are they different?

DJC: Oh, how I loved that they finally brought Manheim and Cardinal together in some scenes! The two women are alike in that they are both fairly old school, and they both faced and defeated the obstacles to put them in positions of power in a man’s world. They've fought hard for the respect they now command. They’re both women who believe in rules, however different in that their rules are based on two very different cultures. Watching to see if they butt heads again is going to be one of the highlights of the rest of the season.

EC: Fingers crossed we get a Cosgrove and Sue Lynn flashback episode. What makes their clashes interesting is that they are both powerful authority figures who are very protective of the younger people in their lives and the institutions they are a part of. The reference Cosgrove made to Sue Lynn perhaps thwarting justice before is especially intriguing given that we know both women have lived in Portland forever. There must be history there that I can’t wait for the show to unearth.

Taking a case for Sue Lynn, and one that ultimately took Dex back to the reservation brought up a lot of ghosts and bad memories for Dex. Why did she take the case? Given their past and their shared animosities Dex and Naomi are forced to work together by Sue Lynn. Why do you think she did that? Do you think they made a good team? Did working together change anything between Dex and Naomi?

DJC: For all the pain Sue Lyn has caused her, Dex took the case for several reasons. One, deep down she has a moral code and she’s not going to stand by and see someone killed if she can prevent it. Two, despite the pain and differences between them she respects Sue Lynn as someone who tries to do right by her people. And, three I think Dex took the case because some part of her feels like she owes Sue Lynn something for costing her, her son. Sue Lyn is a sharp woman and pairing Dex and Naomi was not by accident, I am a little perplexed as to the why now, why did she do it at this time. Dex and Naomi made a great team, thanks in part to the great on-screen chemistry between Smulders and Dailly. The two will never be best friends but after working together they may have a better understanding of one another and the pain they both share over losing Benny.

EC: We received another puzzle piece into Dex’s past when we found out how she wanted to be accepted by Benny’s tribe. She was looking for a family, and her ties to the community extended past Benny. It’s no wonder she hangs out around the casino as much as she does. However, Dex has a different found family now. Is it time for her to let the reservation go, to let Benny go? I think we are headed in that direction. Dailly’s performance as Naomi Blackbird was excellent this week. Smulders and she played off each other well; I absolutely believed these two women had a complicated, contentious history. When they pierced that tension with their quiet graveside heart-to-heart, it was cathartic for them and the story.

Liz (Monica Barbaro) continues to insert herself into Dex’s world. In this episode, she works hard to curry favor with Ansel (Cole Sibus). Do you think Liz is genuine or is she playing some kind of game?

DJC: There is a part of my gut-instinct that just does not trust Liz at all. To me, she’s trying too hard to ingratiate herself into Dex’s world and family. I had one theory that got blown up by that twist at the end. However, I do think she has an ulterior motive. Could we learn that perhaps Benny wasn’t the paragon everyone thought he was, and Liz was another one of his conquests? Does Liz have some odd connection to Dex and Ansel’s past? Is she a victim of some of Dex’s out-of-control days after returning from the war? Finding out is what is going to make the second half of the season exciting.

EC: We are so tuned in to Dex’s life that we do view Liz as an alien invader. On one hand, Liz is surprisingly similar to Dex. She is trying to outgrow significant trauma in her past, and she is navigating the choppy seas of building a new life and found family for herself. Is our perception of sinister intent just tainted by how protective we are over Dex and Ansel, whom we love? Liz could just be a sweet, ordinary human being trying to live life.

What are your theories about the dark secret Dex is keeping about Benny’s last days?

DJC: Dex is always so hard on herself, so I believe that the secret may not be as big as she believes it to be. It’s clear she blames herself for Benny’s death, so maybe the secret was that just before he went on patrol that day, they had an argument and he was distracted when he went out which made him careless. So, in her mind, she directly caused his death. That may also be too simplistic an answer and the excellent writers of the show have a true, out-of-left-field, surprise in store for us.

EC: She killed him to put him out of his misery. Or he was planning to come home to his family, and she stopped him? Honestly, I was puzzled when she brought up there was some other aspect of his death that she needed forgiveness for.

Stumptown threw in a very surprising twist at the end of the episode. How do you think this turn of events will affect Dex? Grey (Jake Johnson)? Ansel?

DJC: That’s what I love about this show! This was a surprising and complicated turn of events. Dex having a drunken one-night stand is not new, but this time I think she will feel the repercussions. Is this some bizarre turn part of Liz’s plan to cause Dex and/or Grey more pain? Not so sure about that, I think this was truly a spontaneous moment. Dex and Grey’s already strained relationship will certainly take another hit. I just worry about it causing problems between Dex and Ansel in some way.

EC: I didn’t see it coming until they went to the casino together and Liz started blowing on the dice! My eyes widened. My jaw dropped. I know Dex and Miles aren’t official. Part of me just wants him to be chill with it. As for Grey and Ansel, my heart skipped a beat. I don’t know how Grey will take this, considering he suppressed his own attraction to Dex years ago to just be there for her and Ansel. It will sting. It will burn. However, it’s not exactly a twist yet, in my opinion. Dex drunkenly sleeping with someone isn’t all that surprising. The fallout from the twist will determine if it was worth it narratively to take the characters there.

What was a standout moment or who was a standout performer for you in this episode?

DJC: This week the standout for me is the writing staff of Stumptown. They’ve taken us on the most complex leg of this incredible journey with these characters. Kudos too, to the casting director of the show who has put together a top-notch cast who makes the show a pleasure to watch each week. Each week we see bits and pieces of the puzzles of finding out who each of these people is and how their lives are enter-twined. They’re coming together as this unique family who is heading toward some great common challenge that will test all their resolves.

EC: Stumptown is not at all the procedural I expected it to be. It has become this cozy small town-kind-of-vibes show that I love to visit each week to hang out in familiar places with characters I like. I am very fond of each one of them, so I cannot pick a standout. I commend each performer for what they have created.

What were your overall thoughts of The Other Woman? With next week being the Winter Mid-Season finale, what do you think is going to happen?

DJC: This was, for me, by far the show’s best hour so far, great writing, and outstanding performances by all. This week’s mid-season finale has the potential of topping that. Obviously, the show is going to go into its mid-season break on a massive cliffhanger, my greatest fear though is that it’s going to involve some threat to Ansel. Whether it be a physical threat or an emotional one like a fight with Dex and him not wanting to live with her anymore, or maybe even one of their parents returns to town and wants to take him away from Dex, who knows? I just know, whatever happens, it will keep Stumptown fans on pins and needles until it’s return in 2020.

EC: Nothing else needs to happen in this episode but the characters sitting around eating cookies and drinking cocoa. It looks like Dex will meet up with Sue Lynn, so we might get answers about Benny. It could be emotional, plus the Liz complications. I have an awful feeling that we’re heading for a cliffhanger with Dex putting herself in a dangerous situation. It already feels too soon to be taking a break.

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