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Stumptown - Episodes 1.17 and 1.18 - The Dex Files and All Hands on Dex - Review Roundtable: Coming Full Circle

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The first season of the incredible Stumptown came to a dramatic conclusion with an intense and emotional two-part finale, The Dex Files and All Hands on Dex. We finally learned what happened to Benjamin Blackbird, but did the revelation bring closure to Dex and those close to her? My fellow SpoilerTV colleagues, Elly, Allison and Laura and I share our thoughts about the finale and what the chances are for this show we all enjoy having a second season in what we sincerely hope isn’t the final Stumptown Review Roundtable.

Now that Benny (Sam Marra)’s murder has been solved, what does this mean for Dex (Cobie Smulders) and Sue Lynn (Tantoo Cardinal)’s relationship? Were you satisfied with the truth about how Benny died? Where do Sue Lynn and Dex go from here?

Donna: From the first episode, by far, the most interesting and complex relationship on the show has been the one between Dex and Sue Lynn. At first, it appeared adversarial in the sense Sue Lynn was seeking vengeance for the loss of her son. However, as the season progressed, we saw there were many, deeper layers to this relationship. When the chips were down, they each turned to the other for help, and neither hesitated to help. For example, when Dex and Ansel had to go into hiding as Dex wrapped up the case of Benny’s murder, Sue Lyn did not hesitate to take them in. While the solution to Benny’s murder seemed a little too easily solved, part of me had hoped he would turn up to save Dex at the last minute but have to leave again because he had been and must return to witness protection. Now knowing that having him return had been discussed but rejected I will admit they made the right decision. I think this is just the first step for Sue Lynn and Dex to start healing. I love it when they work together and would love to see more stories or cases where their worlds cross paths.

Allison: There has always been more to Sue Lynn than Benny’s death. The same is true about her relationship with Dex. The fractures in their relationship existed before Benny died, and their complex dynamic isn’t going anywhere. I expect Sue Lynn will continue to keep secrets; Dex will continue to run afoul of those secrets during her investigative work. I don’t know if satisfied describes how I feel about finally knowing the truth about Benny’s death. I’m going to miss Benny, and I hope the mystery of his death being solved doesn’t mean we won’t see more of the past, but Dex and Sue Lynn need the closure for growth. It won’t solve everything or possibly anything, but it is a stepping stone.

Ellys: Stumptown put off addressing Benny’s death for such a long time that one might speculate they were conflicted over what they intended to do with the character. We now know there was a 50/50 chance Benny would have been revealed to be alive, but it was not to be. I believe they made the right decision in that regard, especially since it made the scenes between Sue Lynn and Dex more powerful. The evolution of their relationship is surely one of the strongest parts of Season 1. We went from Sue Lynn telling Dex she needed to get it together to Sue Lynn handing Dex a gun and entrusting her with getting justice for Benny. Their dynamic on the show had the most satisfying payoff and I can certainly see another case bringing them together in season two, although I don’t think it will take a case for them to hang out.

Laura: The problem with Benny’s death, in my opinion, was that it was always going to go a predictable way. Either he wasn’t dead, or his team sabotaged him. It was more intricate than I would’ve expected, with Dex obviously also being involved, but I wish it wasn’t predictable. I hope Dex and Sue Lynn can continue to have an open, mother-daughter-like relationship. I hope they can still stay in contact and be there for each other when they need it.

Hoffman (Michael Ealy) compromised himself with the Department in several ways to help Dex. Did he do the right thing? What do you think his final decision regarding the Police Department will be?

Donna: Hoffman is a cop through and through so, of course, he will be back. Right now, he needs time to sort his priorities because once again his generous and caring heart has him choosing friends over duty. He did the right thing in helping Dex, but then he’s always been the cop in his division that thought and acted outside the box, but those actions have always gotten results. He’s at that point where he’s trying to come to grips with loyalty and duty. I do not foresee a long-term romantic relationship between him and Dex. Dex has and will always have one true love and like Grey (Jake Johnson) theirs is going to ultimately be a lovers to friends and partners relationship.

Allison: I think Hoffman will eventually find his way back to the police department. There might be some detours along the way, but he’ll get there eventually. Hoffman’s arc this season has always been leading to this moment, a place where the line blurs and he isn’t sure on which side he belongs. It could also bring him greater insight into his father. I’m happy with this pivot. Michael Ealy is going to do great things with Hoffman’s upheaval and uncertainty.

Ellys: Hoffman has had some internal conflict over his job for a while, but somehow I don’t think he’ll walk away from being a detective permanently. His friendship with Dex definitely took precedence at the moment, however, his bonds with Cosgrove (Camryn Manheim) and Lee (Fiona Rene) carry weight as well. His differences with the police department aren’t irreconcilable at this point. Before he does put the badge back on, there are creative opportunities for him to work with Dex or work with his father’s firm. I loved it when he went rogue and called in his dad to defend Dex, and Steven Williams brings great energy to the show.

Laura: I think Hoffman did the right thing for him. To him, the right thing was helping Dex, and putting his job in jeopardy was a consequence of that, but I don’t think he would’ve changed it. I’m hoping he’ll still be a cop; I can’t really see him being anything else and he is a fantastic cop when it doesn’t get too personal for him.

Just when Grey thought he was getting to know his father he discovers that a leopard doesn’t change its spots. What kind of job do you think his Dad (Matt Craven) was involved in? Do you think his father’s partners are going to “persuade” Grey to help them find his Dad? Will he do it?

Donna: I think this was the only storyline in the finale that felt was a little too convenient for me. Of course, he’s going to get involved, and find his Dad, but not for his partners but for himself so he can go down that poor me road again. I’m sorry if that sounds harsh but Grey has a history of being self-absorbed, so I don’t think he’ll miss the chance to lash out at his father again.

Allison: Grey is going to get involved, and while he might be “persuaded” to help them find his dad, he’ll protect his dad and his dad’s family. Whatever happens, it’s the perfect opportunity for Grey and Hoffman to team up. Whatever his dad took, it was small and valuable. Tech? Components? I’m not sure, but something he can sell without a middle man.

Ellys: I was surprised that there was a last-minute twist with Grey’s dad, maybe because I wasn’t all that invested in him being there or what he was up to. In a way, Grey getting trapped in this situation feels like a story that’s already been done twice this season, and I’m doubtful there is anything creatively fulfilling to be mined from it. However, more Matt Craven can’t be a completely bad thing.

Laura: The problem with Grey is that he’s so caring towards the people he loves that it almost becomes a fault, meaning I don’t think his father’s partners will even have to persuade him. They might have to offer something for him to receive in the end, but I don’t think they’ll have to push hard. I’m afraid his dad was involved in something for money, instead of cars, because surely his new wife and child would notice if he was doing something like stealing cars.

Dex and Ansel (Cole Sibus) got a surprise visitor at the end of the episode. When he came down the stairs exclaiming, “She’s here!” did Ansel know who was at the door? What do you think the arrival of this visitor means? What do you think their reactions are going to be?

Donna: He knew! They threw us a very believable red herring with making us think he was talking to his girlfriend when all the time he was talking to his mother. Bears the question, how long had he been in touch with her. Has he known where she was? Who called whom? And why? Clearly, Ansel was excited to greet who was at the door, but this is not going to be an all smiles and hugs happy reunion. Dex has a lot of baggage regarding how her parents abandoned her and Ansel. The mother bear protector in her is going to come out and while Ansel may believe whatever story Mama Parios has, Dex is going to be suspicious and defensive.

Allison: Ansel definitely knew. Tookie (Adrian Martinez)’s assumptions were designed to muddy the plot waters. The audience would find Ansel’s relationship woes minor when set against the search for Benny’s killer. The character’s return will be the catalyst for next season’s big mystery. Dex will need to work through the demons. She’s still a vet suffering from PTSD, but now she’ll struggle with abandonment issues. Not to mention her anger. Ansel, it seems, was never in the dark, and I’m interested in learning more about that little surprise.

Ellys: Considering we all knew the season had to end with a parent or both parents arriving, I’m more curious why they didn’t cast anybody for the role, and the reason can only be they didn’t feel confident enough to offer a recurring role to someone. Should the show return for Season 2, Dex will undoubtedly have some questions and resentment and heartbreak to unload. I would predict that Mom Parios will not be forthcoming with the truth, and Dex will have to ferret out the details.

Laura: I think Ansel knew who was at the door, we could see him talking to someone earlier in the episode who we all assumed was his girlfriend, who I’m now afraid was his mother. It’s interesting to me that Ansel is so open and welcoming to her, but maybe that’ll change. I don’t think Dex will be for it at all. She still holds plenty of resentment for her parents, which isn’t misplaced, and I think this will go a lot worse than Ansel is hoping.

There is still no decision from the network on a season two of Stumptown. Considering the state of production during the coronavirus, what do you think the show’s chances are for a second season? What do you want to see in the second season? Who would you cast to play Mom Parios?

Donna: Given the current freeze on production due to world events I would say that Stumptown’s chances for renewal have greatly improved. Networks will be looking to get shows back on the air as quickly as possible and having a show with a cast and production crew that are comfortable working with each other is going to look very attractive. If there was one show out there that I strongly feel deserves another season and that second chance, it’s Stumptown. This is a cleverly written show featuring one of the strongest casts on TV today headed by the amazing Cobie Smulders. The second season would be highlighted with the mystery surrounding the disappearance and sudden return of Mama Parios? Where has she been? Why did she leave like she did? Where is Dad? Several names come to mind as to who could play Mama Parios, but my top two are Sela Ward and if they were to get a really out of the box name I would love to see Joan Cusack play in this playground with this cast.

Allison: I think the current state of television production might increase its chances of renewal. Some shows many have received pilot orders without having the opportunity to shoot the pilot and other shows may have been waiting to hear whether the pilot was going forward. Television might lean into the established. I want more development for these wonderfully flawed characters, more friendship, fewer love triangles, more flashbacks, to know where Tookie and Laura (Patricia De Leon)’s relationship stands, and the return of Violet (Cynthia Addai-Robinson), but I’ll take Zack (Eoin Macken) too. As far as who could play Mama Parios, I’m not good at this sort of thing, but what about Kim Delaney or Sharon Lawrence. I’ve never seen NYPD Blue, but it started to autoplay, so it’s on my mind.

Ellys: Based on this finale, I would say the show itself was not confident of its chances. I choose to remain more optimistic. However, TV patterns indicate that if it is brought back for season 2, they are more than likely to overhaul it in some way, and I like it just the way it is. There are many interesting threads to be continued: Tookie’s marriage, Hoffman’s career crisis, Dex’s ongoing recovery, etc. Dex burned her bridges with Jeremy, but I would still like to see him and Zack and Violet return to the show in a recurring capacity. My choice for Mom Parios would be Susan Sullivan.

Laura: I’m hoping, selfishly, that with all the shows on hold, and ending early, that ABC will maybe give less viewed shows a boost as they probably don’t know how their pilots are going to fall at this point. In a second season, I’d love to see Dex and Grey getting closer, and I’d love to see Ansel branching out, maybe getting his own apartment and a job apart from the bar. If I was given the option to cast Dex’s mom, my first choice would be Mary Steenburgen. However, given that she’s currently on Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist , my second choice would be Geena Davis.

What was the outstanding moment or performance in this episode and your overall thoughts on the 2-part season finale?

Donna: This two-part finale gave me the perfect balance of intense storytelling and action with heart-breaking emotion. There was a scene in each episode that I thought were exceptional moments and no surprise they both were scenes with Dex and Sue Lynn. In 1.17, watching these two amazing actresses contain and yet beautiful convey all the emotions of what they were feeling when Dex went to explain to Sue Lynn what had happened to her son may be one of my favorite of their scenes this season. And then again, they nearly top that in 1.18, where the two come together at Benny’s grave, to say a formal goodbye to the man who meant so much to both of them, and yet it was more, it was them turning a corner in their relationship as well. I cannot begin to express how many more of these scenes between Dex and Sue Lynn I want to see in a new season.

Allison: For me, it was the scene between Hoffman and Dex at his apartment when she arrives with the money. I felt every word of Hoffman’s speech. You could hear and see conflict and conviction. He’s torn in so many ways, including about the way Dex exists in his life. I said it earlier, but I’m so invested in his struggle in a potential Season 2. Overall, it was a satisfying conclusion to a season. It resolved this season’s big mystery while planting the seeds for what comes next. 1.17 and 1.18 were very different episodes. 1.17 built the tension and felt non-stop while 1.18 leaned heavily on the emotion. It was a quieter hour. I usually go for the emotion and the character development, but except for Hoffman’s moment with Dex, I found 1.17 the more satisfying episode.

Ellys: While the villain reveal was a smidge underwhelming, the moonlight chase through the forest that followed was not. It was appropriately intense. I also liked Lee and Hoffman’s budding relationship. My favorite scene was everyone working together to smuggle Dex out of the Bad Alibi. The performance that stuck with me afterward was Adrian Martinez in The Dex Files. Tookie’s quiet devastation to the point of almost being numb when he learned the truth about his wife, truth he never wanted to consider because his heart is that big and pure. There isn’t a single Stumptown resident that I don’t want more chances to hang out with.

Laura: The outstanding performance in this episode for me was, of course, Cobie Smulders as Dex Parios. Though she always brings her all to playing Dex, we got to see her on a different level this episode, and I think she did it phenomenally. The two-part finale had good twists that shocked me but also wasn’t dragged out long enough for me to be annoyed with it. I’m really hoping we get a second season.

Each episode of Stumptown’s first season was marked by stellar stories filled with surprises at every twist and turn. The writing was outstanding and brought to vivid life by this stellar cast. Share your thoughts on the two-part finale, the show’s chances on a second season, and what you would like to see in the comments below.

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