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Stumptown Review - The Dex Factor - Review Roundtable: Girls Just Want to Have Fun

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The writers of Stumptown continue to keep us on our toes by throwing in great twists like the one in this episode. Will revelations in this one throw Dex off-kilter as well? Join us as Ellys Cartin, new Spoiler TV writers, Alison D and Laura W discuss it in this latest edition of the Stumptown Review Roundtable. *Note – Writer Marko P was unable to join us this week.

Did Violet (Cynthia Addai-Robinson), the hitwoman, know Dex (Cobie Smulders) was involved because she seemed genuinely surprised to see Dex later at the warehouse? Do you think the revelation that Violet is a hitwoman will affect Dex in the long term? Do you think their relationship will progress?

DJ: My first impression was that Violet showing up at the PTSD group was by design but now I'm not so sure. Her surprise at finding Dex at the warehouse was genuine and though it may not have looked like it I think they were both somewhat pulling their punches during their fight. I think Dex may truly be thrown by this because she made a strong connection with Violet. Given her reaction to the drink Violet surreptitiously sends her, I'd say there's a very good chance these two will cross paths again and I'm all for that.

Ellys: It was a true love connection. Be still my heart! I'm not a romantic, but I am a sucker for two tough people letting down their walls, talking about battling their demons, then making out in front of a breathtaking big-city view. If that wasn't enough of a giveaway it was real, the show gave them not one but two love songs. Amy Shark's Adore and Satica's Honey Whiskey. There is no way the show doesn't mean for their paths to cross again.

Alison: Violet was surprised to discover Dex at the warehouse. I love that the writers subverted expectations with that reveal. When I saw Violet at the bar, I was trying to figure out how she'd already learned about Dex because I was sure it was a setup. It was a brilliant way to build tension in their shared scenes, especially in the car. I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop, even the next morning. I certainly hope Violet isn't a one and done, it would be a waste. The genuine connection she shares with Dex was the highlight of a well-done episode. As far as it affecting Dex, I can see her thinking of Violet, perhaps even a quick flashback to their time together.

Laura W: I think Violet knew Dex was a PI, but I don't think she knew Dex was involved in what she came to town for. When Dex saw Violet as she walked out of the warehouse, you could tell she was genuinely surprised, and during a few shots, you could see the sadness Dex was feeling. I think she was happy with Violet, and then she realized this is just another person she can't have. I have a feeling if they do see each other again, it'll be for work, or because Violet needs help.

Dex returned to the PTSD meeting place where she met Violet? What did you think of their dynamic?

DJ: I loved the dynamic! There was an easy but crackling chemistry between the actresses and the dialogue was quick and sharp. The characters recognized each other as a wounded and kindred soul. They spoke a language the other understood. Their intimate moments were tastefully and beautifully handled. I would love to see more of the two of them together. Like Dex, Violet was at the PTSD group for a reason, and she saw that Dex was there for a reason too, hurting just like she was. Maybe they can help each other heal.

Ellys: That's a great seed the show planted. As previously established, veterans from out-of-town tend to visit the support group whenever they are in Portland. Violet went there for the support group too, which is yet another thing the two have in common. We also saw that Violet isn't a "kill all the time" type of operative, so there is definitely room for these two to reconnect.

Alison: Their dynamic was easy and compelling. I'm a fan. The scenes they shared pulsed in a way her "romantic" scenes with Grey (Jake Jackson) and Hoffman (Michael Ealy) don't. There was nothing frantic or desperate in their time together. It was languid and intimate. Dex felt seen and responded to it. The "still floating" text was so sweet and lovely. Ultimately, Dex saw something of herself in Violet. I wonder if Violet is what Dex could have become without Ansel to ground her. Would she also have leaned into the darkness of the things she'd seen and done? I would be remiss to not bring attention to the beautifully acted nonverbal consent—this was wonderfully done and something we need to see more of on television.

Laura W: I loved them together. They bounced off of each other very well, and they seemed to genuinely enjoy each other's company.

Do you see a version of Stumptown where Grey and Hoffman just remain individual characters and don't rekindle their respective relationships with Dex? Do you want that version of the show? Did this feel like a satisfying and final resolution to the fledgling love triangle, or is this simply a break before it reignites?

DJ: You know, I'm a little tired of the obligatory love triangle for a lead. All three are dynamic characters and deserve their own stories without involving romantic entanglements. Their awkward discussion on the street was on the nose and I loved how Smulders delivered the in-your-face truths while both men acted uncomfortably. She was handling it infinitely better than the men were. Later, anytime the three were in a scene together there appeared to be sharply designed positioning of the men on one side and Dex on the other.

Ellys: I was amused, and I also cringed when Dex brought up that they had both hooked up with her. The scene did make me think that maybe things will be over between her and Hoffman, but I still expect something else between her and Grey, just to put a pin in their thing. At this point, the show could continue with the three of them as individuals and friends. I would be fine with that.

Alison: I hate love triangles. They usually only serve the showrunner instead of the characters or plot. It's conflict for the sake of conflict, which is far from interesting or entertaining. And when there is a love triangle, people take sides, I know I have. Stumptown, for me, is the rare exception, Grey or Hoffman, I'm fine with either. I'd also be fine if this was the end of the love triangle and the fledgling friendship between Grey and Hoffman was given the space to flourish. I was intrigued by the framing in the interrogation room, Grey and Hoffman on one side of the table and Dex on the other. Was it a deliberate choice? Will there come a time when Dex is pitted against these two men, and will Violet be the cause? I'd be here for that arc. Is this the end of the love triangle? I have my doubts. I think this is just the end of the beginning.

Laura W: I'm hoping that eventually Hoffman, at least, can be his own character. They've spent so much time in this triangle that I don't think they've allowed Hoffman to be anyone but Dex's love interest, while they've given Grey storylines and backstory that's separate from Dex. I don't think this is the end of the triangle, but I do think it'll be a few episodes before we see it ramp up again.

Dex and Grey butted heads again regarding what was best for Ansel (Cole Sibus)? Has Ansel traded one adult guardian for another? Is Tookie (Adrian Martinez) a good influence on Ansel? Did you think when the couple came into Bad Alibi that they could be Dex and Ansel's parents?

DJ: Grey and Dex are certainly playing out the good parent vs. bad parent dynamic when it comes to Ansel. One is always going to know what the better choice is when it comes to whatever Ansel is asking to do. One is always going to take the practical, safe route, while the other is going to see it as an opportunity for Ansel to grow. Just for the briefest moment when they first walked in the thought crossed my mind that it would be dramatic for the parents to show up and upset Ansel while Dex and Grey were occupied elsewhere. Then, when they interacted with Ansel and he didn't know them the thought was gone. I adore the relationship between Ansel and Tookie. Tookie is like the lovable uncle of the family, taking the kids out for fun and getting in trouble but still being a responsible adult.

Ellys: Whenever a door opens on this show, I expect the absentee parents to walk through it. Lately, the show has been throwing up red alerts that we should expect them, and they had better be played by TV legends if we're going to have to wait until the season finale to meet them. While Dex and Grey are co-parenting Ansel, Tookie is stepping into more of a friend and mentor role, which I think is just what Ansel needs and wants from someone. And Tookie is the best!

Alison: Grey seems more indulgent big brother than a parental figure, but I do think Ansel moving out has shown a more parental Dex. Ansel moving out is a great opportunity to develop his character. Tookie is fabulous. He's the only member of their motley crew that's close to a fully functioning adult while bringing lighthearted humor. I'd like to see him take on a bigger role from time to time. I love to rely on outside of Dex and Grey. Since Ansel was old enough to remember his parents leaving, I never considered the bickering couple was Dex and Ansel's parents. I did think there was more to them than what was presented. The reveal seemed too small. A strange inclusion in a packed episode, so I wonder if they won't be back.

Laura W: I think the difference between Ansel going to Dex and Grey for advice is permission. When Ansel asks Dex for things, it's usually not just to get her thoughts, but to make sure he's allowed to do it in the first place, whereas, with Grey, Ansel asks him his opinion. Though Ansel is looking to Grey for things like getting his license, he's making the decisions on his own. Tookie and Ansel's dynamic is such fun and I'm so glad we're seeing more of them together. I think that Tookie is a good influence on Ansel because while he has the fun, playfulness that Dex had, he's still his own responsible, level-headed person who isn't afraid to tell Ansel how it really goes. I think if (when?) we get to meet Dex and Ansel's parents, it will be with Dex, so I didn't really think the couple at Bad Alibi were their parents.

We briefly met Hoffman's father, and discover that he and his son represent opposite sides of the law. There was a definite tension between them. Will we see them at odds again soon?

DJ: There was a decided tension between Hoffman and his father which I would love to see explored more fully. Were they always this way? What caused the tension? Is that tension the reason Hoffman became a cop? See? So much story there to tell.

Ellys: Here for Hoffman angst! Considering his dad is representing the rich kid from the car ring case, we'll be seeing more of father and son soon. Michael Ealy can certainly handle more drama, so I look forward to his character getting this development.

Alison: I certainly hope so. I need more background on their relationship, just more about Hoffman in general. His character hasn't really been revealed outside of his job and interactions with Dex.

Laura W: I hope we get to see Hoffman and his dad again soon! As I said earlier, Hoffman is kind of a one-dimensional character right now, so I'm excited to dive into more of who he is and why he is, and I think his dad could be a very insightful look into that.

Once again in a time of need Sue Lynn (Tantoo Cardinal) came through to help at Dex's request. Both she and Grey both said they owed Dex. What do you think Sue Lynn owes Dex? Does she know more about Benny than she is telling? Is that why her attitude towards Dex seems to be softening?

DJ: If she didn't when the show began, Sue Lynn knows more about what happened to Benny and the role Dex played in it. That's the reason her attitude towards Dex has changed throughout the season and why she's willing to help whenever Dex is involved. She sees that she isn't the only one in pain and she also sees how hard Dex is trying to do the right thing. I am intrigued though as to just what it is she believes she owes Dex. I've said it in roundtables before and I will say it again, next to Dex's relationship with Ansel, her connection to Sue Lynn is one of the show's strongest relationships.

Ellys: Sue Lynn is an integral part of how this show feels like a small-town-centric story. It just makes sense for her to get involved with whatever shenanigans Dex is up to. Her sticking her neck out to help Grey is another way the show has looped her into the core circle of characters. I was surprised to hear her note that she still owed Dex. They seem just about even to me.

Alison: Sue Lynn's softening attitude toward Dex seems tied to her growth, Dex's growth. I don't know that we've gotten the entire Benny story. I'm sure Sue Lynn is privy to aspects of Benny's life that Dex doesn't know, but she seems the type to hold them close. Sue Lynn is a big picture, long game type.

Laura W: I definitely think Sue Lynn knows more about Benny than she's letting on, and I think she always has. I don't think she would continue to let Dex be in her life if she didn't at least suspect that there was more. As we saw a few weeks ago, Sue Lynn is just starting to see how unstable Dex has become, and I think that's why her feelings are softening on her; she's realizing how much Dex has really taken on.

What was the biggest twist in this episode? Are the writers doing a good job surprising you? What are your thoughts on the use of music in this episode?

DJ: The biggest twist had to be Dex's surprise at finding Dex at the warehouse. They've done a masterful job all season of teeing up what looks like the obvious then tossing in a wonderful curveball to situations. It's one of the reasons I love this show so much. The music use was incredible this episode. Taking Girls Just Want to Have Fun as a running theme was perfect then ventured into award-worthy category by having a cover of it start out slow underneath the fight between Dex and Violet and then have it build into the speed and tempo until it reached the original as the fight was escalated was nothing short of genius.

Ellys: Not many shows would drop a big twist early in the episode and have it stick the landing. Revealing Violet in the bar and immediately indicating it was a chance meeting was absolutely thrilling to me. The stakes went through the roof. In addition to the two incredible songs I mentioned earlier, setting Violet and Dex's smackdown to the Lauper classic was perfect. It kept the brutality of the scene from overtaking the fun and matched perfectly with the lack of personal animosity the two women had towards the other even though they were beating the daylights out of each other.

Alison: Once Violet's interest in Dex proved genuine, there was nothing truly surprising about the episode. I knew Violet would reach out to Dex in some way, but I expected Dex to find Bender on the seat of her car; I wasn't expecting Violet to order Dex a Seabreeze. Either way, I hope it means we'll be seeing more of Violet.

Laura W : One of my very favorite things about Stumptown is the soundtrack to each episode, and this week didn't fail. The twist of realizing Violet might try to kill Dex as a cover of Girls Just Want to Have Fun played over the scene was my favorite scene from the episode for sure.

Share your overall impressions of the episode.

DJ: Stumptown has been an exceptional show from the beginning. Episodes like this are an indication they are just hitting their stride in providing us quality entertainment. They keep the perfect balance of suspense, excitement, humanity, and humor that ear-mark top-notch television.

Ellys: First, a round of applause for Addai-Robinson, a true leading lady. I cannot wait for the show to bring her back to continue Violet's story. Also, it was never the most interesting side plot, but can we all agree that Max (Inbar Lavi) was definitely playing Grey the whole time? I think he knew it too, but he was okay with it. Overall, I loved everything else about this episode.

Alison: Rather than surprising the viewer, the writers have a great handle on building tension into the episodes. The Dex Factor was the superior example of that ability. Part of that is the music, which was phenomenal in this episode. The music feels perfectly paired with every scene. I'm not sure what comes next, but I'm excited about it.

Laura W: Between the chemistry Dex, Grey, and Hoffman all have together, and continuing to see Ansel become more independent, this was a very strong episode for me. The writers are continuing in their stride of keeping the episodes fun and exciting to watch, while also giving us the character growth that's necessary for the first season of a show. I'm excited to see what they do in the future about characters like Max and Violet.

What did you think of The Dex Factor? Who are your favorite Stumptown characters and why? Share your thoughts in the comments below and don't forget to add any questions you would like us to discuss in the next roundtable.

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