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Stumptown (season 01)

Just Reviews Stumptown Season One

I enjoyed the first episode of Stumptown, and I’m pleased that I continued to enjoy the subsequent seventeen episodes of this first season.  Stumptown is based on the fantastic comic book series written by Greg Rucka and illustrated by first Matthew Southworth and then Justin Greenwood.  It centers on Dex Parios (played by Cobie Smulders), a private investigator in Portland, Oregon.

Stumptown is a fun adventure series.  It’s episodic by nature, but the formula works fairly well, and I enjoyed the show’s tongue-in-cheek, just slightly off-kilter sensibility.  The individual cases have danger and drama each week, but the show maintains an enjoyably comedic tone.  It’s a series that regularly returned to the status quo at the end of each episode, but it was able to zig where the standard sort of network procedural would have zagged enough to keep my interest.  I loved, for example, the show’s many unusual music choices used to score its action sequences.  I loved the use of a freeze-frame (that would then cut to an illustrated-looking version of the freeze-frame) that takes us into the opening titles each week.  (It was used to great comedic effect, and it looked cool!)  And while the show was generally episodic, they enjoyed throwing in a good cliffhanger on a regular basis, to help ensure viewers would return for the next episode.

It’s been a while since I’ve watched an episodic network show like this.  Even though I enjoyed the pilot episode, I was a little worried that the series would fall into a boring regular pattern.  But I enjoyed the outlandish cases in which Dex found herself involved week after week.  There were some fun and memorable installments in this first season!  If the show had a failing, it was its over-reliance on soap-opera-ish melodrama.  I found myself a little bored by the love triangle between Dex, Grey (Jake Johnson) and Hoffman (Michael Ealy) and the predictable sitcom-ish misunderstandings and bad-timing complications that arose between them.  Similarly, while I like that Grey had a tougher edge than the Grey in the comic series, I didn’t love the outlandish way the show wound up continually pushing him back into criminal-adjacent situations.

The show’s greatest strength is its cast.  Cobie Smulders is terrific in the lead role as screwed-up, P.T.S.D.-suffering P.I. Dex Parios.  She’s endearing and engaging and completely believable as this tough, don’t-mess-with-her young woman.  She can effortlessly play the drama while also demonstrating very solid comedic timing (clearly honed by her decade on How I Met Your Mother).  I’ve really enjoyed the dimension that Jake Johnson has brought to Grey.  Like Ms. Smulders, Mr. Johnson is very skilled at playing both the dramatic beats and the comedic … [continued]