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Stumptown Review Roundtable - Episode 1x10 - Growing Pains

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Stumptown returned from its winter hiatus with the well-written and emotionally charged tenth episode of the season “Reality Checks Don’t Bounce”. In it we see what happens after those cliffhanger moments of last December, we see the formation of a new team of crime-fighters and several members face significant changes in their lives. Read on as my SpoilerTV colleagues Ellys Cartin and Marko Pekic discuss this solid episode in our first Stumptown Review Roundtable for 2020.

It's a classic move for character-based shows to have the protagonist handle a case that gives them clarity on their own situation. How effective was Stumptown's use of this template?

DC: It was an effective use of the template. The writers let the dissension between the two brothers show Dex a path she and Ansel might be on. Such a spotlight ultimately helped her make the difficult decision she was facing.

EC: It’s always very convenient when shows do this, although I’ve seen it done with multiple cases in a row instead of just one episode. The plus side for Stumptown’s version was that there weren’t any significant similarities between the two sets of siblings. That allowed for the Price Brothers’ story to take center stage. Shows that are of a procedural nature stay fresh by having memorable guest stories each week. I count this one as a success. The fight scene at the pet shop, even though it ended with someone getting shot, was nonstop entertainment.

MP: It was an interesting take on the Dex’s situation, as Ansel moving out wasn’t only about him being on her own but her being on her own as well. The show did a good job in showcasing how tormented Dex is despite the brave face she puts on week after week. Ansel is one of the pillars that are supporting the life she builds for herself. So, seeing how much the brothers resent each other for their past actions made her realize, that suppressing Ansel`s wishes will just make him resent her and that is something she certainly doesn’t want.

The episode ends in a pivotal moment in the relationship between Dex (Cobie Smulders) and her brother Ansel (Cole Sibus). How is Dex going to handle Ansel moving out? Is it going to be everything he expected?

DC: I think they’re both going to have to make some major adjustments. Ansel is Dex’s anchor and she may struggle to keep things on an even keel without him being close for her to keep an eye on. Conversely, Ansel is going to discover that being on his own is not going to be as easy or attractive as if may appear to be now.

EC: The brevity with which the show swept away this big decision is consistent with the laid-back attitude that Stumptown is glued to now. It doesn’t want to lean too far into interpersonal drama. While I expect that both Dex and Ansel will have some “growing apart” pains, it will probably be a while before this new arrangement hits any snags. One thing I would note is that Dex didn’t tell her brother what we know to be true: that she needs him more than he needs her. Taking care of him has played a big part in her getting her life together. Now, more than ever, she will have to find the strength to improve for herself instead of someone else. And maybe she won’t be able to.

MP: I sure hope not. Ansel staying with Grey is a good choice as it keeps the family close, but Ansel must face difficulties that with his disease are sometimes hard to handle. Can he function normally? Probably. Will it all go smooth with in the first try? Definitely not. The real question is will Dex let him do this on his own and make mistakes or will she interfere the moment she gets a chance. I assume Dex will do "Helicopter" parenting and breathing close on Ansel`s neck with him initially realizing. That could provide some great laughs if handled right.

Hoffman (Michael Ealy) and Grey (Jake Johnson) team up on a car-jacking case. Is this a good pairing? Can they trust one another to set aside their feelings for Dex to get the job done?

DC: I have mixed feelings about this pairing. For someone claiming he’s gone straight as a legitimate bar owner, Grey tends to fall too often into that shady life much too easily. Hoffman, while a great cop, tends to get tunnel vision when trying to solve the case at the expense of the feelings of others. In this case, I think they’re both working hard to impress the most important person in their lives, Dex, and ultimately put her in the crosshairs of the mistakes they are going to make trying to prove themselves.

EC: Can’t lie. I kind of loved seeing these two partner up for some side quests. I would end this with a wish for more of that, but there’s a catch.

MP: Michael Ealy is just that great as Hoffman. The complexity and charm he puts into his performance really work well, no matter with whom he shares the screen. The Hoffman-Grey moments worked fine and provided the needed amusement and tension, yet they shouldn`t force it and suffocate it with the unnecessary drama. The writers are trying to keep a coherent story and keep the characters tied together and while it is a smart storytelling move, the writing needs to support it.

In the end, Dex agrees to let Ansel move out and move in with Grey? Is this a good compromise instead of Ansel moving out on his own? Can Dex trust Grey to keep an eye on her brother, especially after he’s agreed to go undercover for Hoffman?

DC: I thought the whole point of Dex letting Ansel move out was to be on his own. I fail to see how moving in with Grey accomplishes that, while it is a compromise for Dex thinking she was the problem, it’s a situation that could backfire. While it often seemed that Ansel was taking care of Dex rather than the other way around, moving in with Grey just gives him someone else who needs to be taken care of. I don’t trust Grey with Ansel, no matter how well-intentioned his motives. Grey may have Ansel’s best interests at heart, but he is too easily distracted by the lure of the danger and walking back into his old life to remember he is responsible for someone else now.

EC: It didn’t quite make narrative sense for me that Grey would consider undercover work while he was buddying up with Hoffman. Those two developments clashed, and it feels too soon for Grey to be deciding to play in his old stomping grounds. I think that there needed to be a more personal motivator for Grey to try out undercover work. Ansel moving in with his buddy otherwise made sense in terms of the show’s handling of this sort of thing.

MP: Grey would never intentionally put Ansel in danger, so I find it a good compromise at this point. As said in my previous answer, it won’t go smooth but the awareness the show is raising with this storyline is admirable and should be handled with maximum delicacy. Show us the good and the bad, show us the strength and despair that comes with it.

What was the most impactful moment of the episode? Why do you think it was? What are going to be the repercussions of that moment?

DC: Hands down for me that moment would be Ansel giving Dex the adult keychain. It was his message to her that he was proud of her and the person she’s become. He’s also telling he was adult enough to see that and be on own. The repercussions are that they have both grown and transitioning their relationship for more one caring for the other, to them taking care of each other.

EC: A scene I really liked was Cosgrove messing with Hoffman. Made me smile. The most impactful moment of the episode was basically a flashback, the one where we find out what Dex told Hoffman when we came to visit her in the midseason finale. She told him she needed to do it alone. It being getting her life together, although at that point she didn’t fully realize that Ansel would be leaving her in a way. I’m curious to see if the show is going to stick with it being the right choice for Dex to fly solo or if she will end up needing that support system.

MP: The moment in the hospital, as the brothers part ways. It really showed how damaged a relationship can get when people don’t talk stuff through and resent each other’s actions instead. It led to Dex’s decision to let Ansel move out so the repercussions are big and the next couple of episodes will let us know how that will turn out.

What were your overall thoughts about this episode? Did it measure up to the level of previous episodes?

DC: This show continues to prove it is one of the very best of the 2019-2020 television season. The care the show takes in its measured and layered storytelling and the depth it gives these intriguing characters is extremely compelling and makes this show very watchable. Add this all-star cast and you’ve got the makings of quality entertainment.

EC: Stumptown is a warm bowl of garlic mashed potatoes with a very little bit of cheese sprinkled on top. Right now, that’s just the kind of show I need.

MP: It was a great episode. I really enjoyed it. It had charm, it had drama and most importantly it had that touch of reality that makes this show stand out from other shows. They crack just the right way so the show doesn’t feel staged and mostly thanks to the performances of the cast. The level season 1 is producing so far is quite impressive and I hope the writers will be able to continuously deliver throughout the season.

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