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Stumptown - 1x14 - Til Dex Do Us Part - Review Roundtable: Connections

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The writers of Stumptown are becoming experts at throwing great curveballs into what appears to be traditional storylines. This week we got their take on the marriage of convenience. We also got a closer look at Miles' difficult relationship with his father and some interesting changes at the Bad Alibi. Spoiler TV writers, Ellys C., Alison M., and Marko P join me in sharing their thoughts about Til Dex Do Us Part. What were your thoughts on the episode? Share them with us in the comments below and don't forget to submit your questions to be included in the next Roundtable.

Were all the plots well developed in this week's episode? Did you feel you needed more buildup to understand the friction and hostility between Hoffman (Michael Ealy) and his father? Did Grey's behavior toward Tookie seem in character or proportionate to the situation? Were all these contentious situations resolved too quickly?

DC: Some of the larger plots were well developed this week, however, some of the B storylines I felt were a bit rushed. I wanted to learn more as to how the dissension between Hoffman and his father developed but realize too that this isn't their show thus in a way that explains the speed with which it was resolved. Regarding the Grey (Jake Johnson) and Tookie (Adrian Martinez) situation, I think this is part of a series of conflicts involving Grey pointing out the character's greatest flaw, he has lousy people skills and is becoming so self-absorbed that there is a risk of making the character unlikeable. This is not the first time he has impulsively lashed out and jumped on someone who has done nothing wrong and is supposed to be his friend. He did it to Dex (Cobie Smulders) regarding his old girlfriend and now to Tookie. While the resolution of this conflict happened at break-neck speed, I'm wondering how many times are we going to witness this character flaw in Grey? And who is he going to lash out at next, Ansel (Cole Sibus)?

EC: The Hoffman family brouhaha was packaged up too neatly for me, but I can concede that I'm used to shows being far more dramatic than Stumptown has shown its modus operandi to be. I was glad to see Grey and Tookie's disagreement work itself out quickly. Grey promoting Ansel was a lovely moment too. However, with Tookie stepping in to help with the bar, I can't help but note that the show can now consider a scenario where Bad Alibi continues to appear as a setting on the show but without Grey.

AD: When we last saw Hoffman and his father, the subtext seemed to indicate that the relationship was extraordinarily contentious, so I was surprised to see the family brunch. I was also shocked that it was a regular occurrence. I needed more context and the history behind the tension in Hoffman's relationship with his father. Does it stem from his decision to become a police officer? I also found the solution incredibly pat. As much as Hoffman may have crossed a line, I suppose, so did his father, so the one-sided apology didn't sit well with me. I also wasn't happy to see Hoffman's mother defending her husband's actions by vilifying the actions of some police officers and equating it to the whole. It was sloppy and flawed logic. Why isn't wrong, wrong? And I'm left wondering, were the allegations against Hoffman's father true?

The fight between Grey and Tookie also felt underdeveloped. I understand Grey's feelings of independence and ownership, but his reaction didn't seem to fit the situation. It felt manufactured, which is always disappointing on a show that usually does so well with character. It didn't help that Tookie was helpful and enthusiastic throughout the situation and showed a moment of genuine hurt when Grey lashed out at him. It didn't feel right. The end was an attempt at humor, and Tookie is always hysterical and endearing, but even at that moment Grey's hard edges were a bit too hard for me.

MP: A lot was going on during this outing. Still, the writers were able to make it all happen and give all stories enough focus and connection to make it an enjoyable hour. I don`t mind how things went down in this episode between the Hoffmans, the previous episodes should`ve delivered a better groundwork. As for Grey and Tookie, every Tookie story is pure gold. Regarding Grey`s behavior, it was a bit proportionated but still worked in the grand sense of storytelling.

Cobie Smulders has incredible chemistry with everyone that crosses Dex's path. Given the circumstance, was her quiet chemistry with Zack (Eoin Macken) as compelling as her interactions with Violet (Cynthia Addai-Robinson)? Is Zack a character you'd like to see again?

DC: Dex's off the charts chemistry with Zack was equally compelling as was her connection with Violet, just on different levels. I attribute that to a couple of things. The first is the spot-on casting of Cobie Smulders as Dex. She has this unique ability to have chemistry with everyone. The connection here was especially strong. I also think it has a lot to do with the writing. Instead of making Zack the defensive jerk and/or gold-digger that he was set-up to be, they make him a likable, vulnerable man who not only opened up to Dex but got her to open up to him about Benny more than she ever had with anyone. A significant indication that Dex is nearing the place where she can forgive herself and move on. The way they are writing her character growth is admirable. Their quiet conversation filled with Dex's tear-filled admission of guilt was a brilliant piece of work from all involved. I would love to see Dex and Zack cross paths again when they are both in a better place emotionally.

EC: I didn't realize that Zack was Eoin Macken until I looked up the episode's cast! Dex and Zack's conversation on the couch was making my eyes blur with tears before Dex herself started weeping. There were many tears in this episode (Zack's when he walked away from Jenna!), and I was here for all of them. While one might ask why in almost every recent episode Dex has had a tender encounter with an eligible single, I ask why shouldn't she? I grew up on the old detective/secret agent shows, usually led by a man, where the main character had a different love interest/crush/person they just had insane chemistry with in every episode. Stumptown has given Dex the agency that male protagonists on similar shows always receive. She can have multiple meaningful romantic sparks or connections without consequence, and I am on board with any of the possible love interests, including Zack and Violet, recurring on the show again.

AD: It was compelling. The conversation between Dex and Zack felt like a continuation of the conversation she started with Violet. With every new person that enters her life, Dex becomes more introspective. She's learning to forgive the mistakes of her past, real and imagined. I'm enjoying her growth. Dex's energy with Zack lacked the raw sexiness of her encounter with Violet, but both were intimate. She shares the highs of love and the lows of loss and guilt with Zack; with Violet, they seemed a single person that took two different paths at that fork in the road. With both, Dex blossomed. I wouldn't mind seeing Zack again. Should he get bonus points for not being an assassin?

MP: Cobie and Eoin were on fire. Their scenes were so intense and strong. I wouldn`t mind for him to stick around a bit more. Yet, Addai-Robinson`s Violet is far more intriguing, and I want to see her story to play out this season. Can Violet and Dex smooth things over? Not sure but them going at it should make for good TV.

Were you surprised by Jenna (Troian Bellisario)'s connection to the hit-and-run? Do you think her sister knew what she had done? If so, then why did she hire Dex?

DC: I really didn't suspect Jenna as being involved until she interrupted Dex and Zack's conversation. Her reaction seemed forced as if her words were saying one thing and her face and body language said another. It was a great twist. In hindsight, I don't think the sister knew. Her hiring Dex was probably just another in a long line of her preventing her sister from impulsive acts or getting her out of trouble.

EC: Have you all seen Dead to Me? If not, get on that. My first note is that I loved seeing Bellisario back on my TV. As for clues to her involvement, something about Jenna struck my villain radar when she went overboard describing the merits of her prospective wedding cake. It seemed a little insincere, a forced projection of righteousness. Her concern about Dex hanging out with Zack clearly came from a place of alarm as well, all great breadcrumbs that Bellisario sprinkled. It was impossible to not feel immense pity for Jenna when she asked Zack if they could get past this. What a scene that was! I don't think her sister knew completely, but I think that Jenna said something that alerted her sister when she confronted her offscreen about Dex being a private investigator.

AD: I didn't suspect Jenna as the hit-and-run driver until she found Dex and Zack in the middle of their cozy conversation. With Troian Bellisario in the role, I knew she had a bigger part to play than a flustered bride. The sister seemed solely concerned with protecting her Jenna and the family name. Her shock at the wedding seemed genuine to me. It seemed she was desperate for Dex to find dirt on Zack and was incredibly disappointed when it didn't happen, but I never sensed that the purpose was to cover for her sister's actual involvement. It certainly would have added an extra layer to the plot.

MP: I was caught off guard with the path this story took down the line. The writers were very sneaky and left clues as the story was going on. Troian`s breakdown at the Alter was quite impeccable. Troian is such a great actress, I wished we had the chance to see Dex confront Jenna first. At this point, it seems unlikely that Jenna`s sister knew, but then that was maybe her motivation between breaking them up.

Usually, we see Dex is the one reaching out to her friends, seeking advice, this week Grey and Tookie both come to Dex with their troubles. What did you think of this role reversal? How do you think Dex handled both? Did she give good advice?

DC: I loved this role reversal. This may be perhaps the biggest indication that Dex is growing. For so long, during all her troubles her friends have been there for her. Now, she is in a place to be there for her friends in ways in which she is becoming comfortable. She handled both situations beautifully. I was particularly touched by the way she handled Tookie's problem and gave careful but honest advice to both.


AD: Dex being the voice of reason was another sign of her growth. Her scene with Tookie was a great showing for both characters. I appreciated hearing Tookie wanted to be better for his wife and Dex assuring him that love doesn't mean changing who you are. It was a short and meaningful conversation. When it came to Grey, Dex seemed to know him better than he knew himself. She respected his reservations, and then set him on the right path.

MP: The interaction between the cast is always great and seeing the writers being able to turn it around and give more depth to their relationships. Dex is an honest person and every advice she gives is from the bottom of her big damaged heart, also she is smart enough and knows how to adapt to others and talk to them and make them feel heard.

Dex seemed to recognize Zack as someone with a wounded heart. In their confession, Dex admitted she's still haunted by a choice she made regarding Benny. What do you think that choice was? Do you think Dex is ready to forgive herself and move on?

DC: I don't feel whatever painful choice that Dex had to make it will continue to haunt her. I'm thinking it was likely her rejecting Benny after he told her he was choosing her over his family. Knowing how important his family and culture were to him, she sent him away and, in his confusion or despair about that he was reckless and that got him killed. It's not a series changing choice but goes more to Dex's character and the price she is paying for making it. Dex is on the path of forgiving herself and moving on. Before she can truly do that, she needs to make peace and share the truth with Sue Lynn (Tantoo Cardinal). Given her treatment of Dex in recent episodes I'm wondering if Sue Lynn already knows and realizes that it's not her forgiveness Dex needs, but her own.

EC: Normally, when a show drags out a mystery like this, it can be frustrating. Stumptown has chosen to make the characters more important than whatever this secret is; the show doesn't hinge on whatever this revelation will be. I don't expect it to be anything shocking or surprising. The value will be derived from how Dex responds to finally being able to speak it out loud and who she speaks it to. I am glad she didn't tell Zack, because I think the person she eventually needs to confess this to has to be Sue Lynn. Benny's mother is the only person who can fully understand (and perhaps already does) how this has impacted Dex for so long.

AD: Benny left behind his family to pursue Dex. He was in Afghanistan because of her. Dex's biggest regret must be tied to not preventing his death by sending him away. She lost him, but his wife, daughter, and mother also lost him. Dex feels the weight of what she lost, and she carries the baggage of what she thinks she took. She's suffering from survivor's guilt, which is the root of the closeness she shared with Zack in this episode. He is also suffering from survivor's guilt and in one another they found the beginning of catharsis. When they part at the episode's end it was clear that neither had forgiven themselves, but they are on the road to healing. I'd like to see the day they meet under different circumstances.

MP: Before she can honestly forgive herself, Dex needs to heal properly. And that is a long process. When the writers decide to do character moments like this, they should consider bringing back the meetings and let Dex process her emotions with similarly hurt people.

What were your favorite parts and overall thoughts about this episode?

DC: The very strong aspects of this episode far outweighed it's few weaknesses. I loved Dex stopping the wedding, wearing a beautiful dress but in true Dex fashion was ready for anything by wearing her boots underneath it. I'm loving seeing the beats they have been making regarding Dex's growth, this week featuring Dex being the confidant to her friends in a big role reversal. Hands down though the stand-out moment of this emotional episode was the honest, quiet, heart-rending conversation between Dex and Zack featuring exceptional work from both Smulders and Macken.

EC: The perfect pseudo-romantic drama of Dex stopping the wedding. (And stopping the awful walk-down-the-aisle music). She hit a guy with grass! She smacked down big time in a gorgeous dress wearing the boots. Heartbreak everywhere! Pitch perfect performances from Smulders, Macken, and Bellisario. What not to love! Besides that wedding song of course.

AD: I always enjoy quiet moments, especially when those moments advance the characters. Dex and Zack's interactions were my favorites in this episode. I also enjoyed seeing Ansel teaching Grey. Moving out has brought out the best in his character. The episode felt uneven and incomplete. It wasn't nearly as strong a showing as "The Dex Factor." The episode did too much, too fast. They didn't provide the background necessary for the audience to fully invest in Hoffman's interactions with his parents and the Grey/Tookie conflict never felt true or even necessary.

MP: Dex kicking behinds and taking numbers as always. The way the writers make these fights plausible and show Dex isn`t someone with superhuman strength but instead smart and resourceful. As for the episode, in general, a very good outing, with good character moments, story progression and surprising twist. Excited to see how the season will come to an end.

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