“Forget it Dex, It’s Stumptown”
September 25, 2019
After recapping this episode, but before posting this, I decided to go back and read how I introduced the very first episode of The Orville, our first hate-blog series, and y’all … I didn’t hate it:
Before we begin this … whatever this is … a brief history of my relationship with The Orville: I heard about the series last year when Fox ordered it and thought, “Guh, Seth MacFarlane + Star Trek? Pass.” But then during the upfronts this past May, Fox released the first trailer and my initial reaction was, “The Orville might not be so bad — it has some solid jokes in there and could be Galaxy Quest-esque. Maybe I shouldn’t be so quick to judge!” And in fact, I recorded the pilot episode based on that trailer.
I watched 20 minutes of the pilot and deleted it. But I did so while wishing it well. I didn’t delete the show out of hate or anger — I deleted it because I was bored. I recognized after 20 minutes of it not keeping my attention that The Orville was not a show for me. I didn’t think it was “bad,” just not for me. And after writing about television for more than 10 years, I’ve come to recognize that not everything is for me, or should be for me, and that’s fine.
And that is what is going to make my recapping this series difficult, is that The Orville is not bad, exactly, but it’s not for me. In the end, The Orville is actually just like Galaxy Quest — but like the Galaxy Quest series in the movie, not Galaxy Quest the movie itself — in that it’s a ripoff of Star Trek — a very very very very sincere ripoff of Star Trek. With the occasional joke. The Orville is neither my thing nor is it terrible enough to really rip it to pieces the way I can with garbage like Real Housewives or The Bachelorette.
Oh, poor sweet, innocent past me. I had no idea what I was in for.
I bring this up because I feel similarly about Stumptown. Stumptown is exactly what I feared it would be: it’s fine. It’s the kind of show I would have set on my DVR, I would have watched two, maybe three episodes before forgetting about it, only to have it pile up week after week. After about seven or eight episodes, I would have been forced to erase all them — feeling guilty while doing so, and telling myself that I would catch up with it on demand (I will never catch up with it on demand) — to make room for more episodes of Ghost Hunters and Real Housewives of Bullshit.
It’s not bad! But it’s also not great. And this is my problem: like The Orville (or at least the pilot of The Orville), this show is neither my thing, specifically a mystery box series that I can pull apart and explore, nor is it garbage that I can rip on. And y’all, this is going to be a problem.
BUT THIS IS WHAT YOU CHOSE, SO LET’S GO.
Meet Dex. Dex is a wise-cracking, hard-drinking Afghanistan War veteran who has a fondness for casual sex, gambling and seeing through other people’s bullshit. And get this: Dex is a woman. I KNOW. WHAT A TWIST.
We first meet Dex at a casino where a dog tag-wearing douchebag tries to pick her up, claiming to have seen some shit during his three tours in ‘Stan. After Dex hits him with some Pashto that he definitely does not understand, she points out that his dog tags don’t match the credit card he’s using, that his car keys don’t look like rentals, which belies his claim that he’s from out of town, and she’s pretty sure he’s married. The point is: Dex is good at reading people.
And this is why she’s hired by the indigenous woman who runs the casino, Sue Lynn, to find her missing 17-year-old granddaughter, Nina, who also happens to be the daughter of Dex’s now-deceased boyfriend, Benny. Though she’s reluctant to get involved, Dex agrees to find the girl because she’s the sole caretaker of her younger brother, Ansel, who has Down’s syndrome, and because she doesn’t have a job and also, too, she owes Sue Lynn’s casino all of the monies because she’s bad at the gambling.
So after swatting a phone out of the hands of one of Nina’s bratty friends, Dex learns that Nina is hiding out at a seedy motel with her boyfriend. Dex heads to the motel, finds the girl who claims she and the boyfriend are eloping (even though she doesn’t have a ring) because she doesn’t want Sue Lynn to do to her what she did to Dex and her dad.
But Dex is like, “Don’t care, you’re coming with me,” and she drags the kid out of the motel. Case solved! Show over!
Except not. Because as they are driving away, Dex is rear-ended by a couple of goons who beat the shit out of Dex and kidnap Nina. Oops.
The cops arrive in the form of Hey! It’s That Guy! Michael Ealy, who has been in exactly one bajillion things, including FlashForward. Hey! Remember FlashForward? That was a show I began blogging because I was genuinely excited about it, only to have it turn into maybe my very first hate blog over at Tubular. What a piece of shit.
ANYWAY, Micahel Ealy is Detective Miles Hoffman, and he’s here to make sex eyes at Dex, while also arresting her for her 14 outstanding unpaid parking tickets.
Down at the station, Hoffman and Lieutenant Camryn Manheim grill Dex about the case, suggesting that they think she maybe possibly could be a suspect, thanks to her relationship to the victim. Dex sasses them because that’s her default setting.
Dex is bailed out by
Nick from New Girl Grey, her best friend who is definitely in love with her from afar, and they go back to the bar he is preparing to open where he tries to talk her out of being an amateur detective because she’s a girl and it’s dangerous. And also because he’s definitely in love with her from afar.
But she doesn’t listen and instead returns to the motel to talk to the boyfriend. There, he tells her that Nina told him that Sue Lynn had picked a fight with a meth dealer named Baxter Hall.
Meanwhile, Sue Lynn receives a ransom demand of $2 million for Nina’s return, and she refuses to play nice with Hoffman and Lieutenant Camryn Manheim.
So when Dex finds this Baxter Hall character — and he is definitely a character who will definitely be making a future appearance on this show — and he asks her if she has the money, she assumes he’s talking about a ransom, and she lies that she has it. Baxter leads her outside to see “the girl” which turns out to be a very sweet 1970 GTO. When the actual car’s buyer arrives, Dex panics and steals the GTO which is definitely not going to be a problem in a future episode.
As she’s driving away, Dex receives a call from Hoffman informing her that Nina has been returned, so she swings by the casino to confirm it. There, Sue Lynn tells Dex a story about a chimney and a plumber, and blah blah blah long story short, Dex is a fuck-up and Sue Lynn should have never hired her.
Driving home in her shitty car, Dex is hit with flashbacks from Afghanistan. To cope, she begins calling everyone in her phone looking to hook-up with someone, anyone. She ends up going to Hoffman’s place to make the sex, which they do. After, he reveals he’s done a little background research on her, and for exposition purposes, proceeds to tell her her own story: under pressure from his family, her boyfriend Benny married a woman from his own community. However, their marriage fell apart, he joined the Army and deployed to Afghanistan. There, his vehicle was hit by an IED and he was killed with an engagement ring in his pocket. SEE, THE RING WAS FOR DEX. HE WENT TO AFGHANISTAN TO PROPOSE TO DEX. I mean, it seems like joining the Army and deploying to Afghanistan is a lot of trouble to go through for a proposal, but sure.
Anyway, Dex notices Nina’s file on Hoffman’s desk, and a detail about where Nina was found is different from what she was told and she’s has an HMMM.
Later at home, Dex finds the engagement ring Benny died with, and takes it and her brother to the motel. There, she gives the ring to Boyfriend, only to have the two kidnapping goons come out from the back room and drag her away because ! THE BOYFRIEND ! WAS IN ON IT ! THE ! WHOLE ! TIME !
Ansel sees the men drive off with his sister in the trunk of her own car, and calls Grey to tell him, who in turn calls Hoffman, who in turn puts out an APB on Dex’s car.
Meanwhile, Dex is a nothing if not a fighter, and in the scene that actually opens the episode, she uses a fire extinguisher to escape the trunk and attack her kidnappers. It’s a super fun single car chase which takes place with Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” blaring over it. Because there’s no more fun song than “Sweet Caroline.” (So good! So good! So good!)
The car comes to a stop and Dex gets the jump on both of the kidnappers, demands to know where Nina is, and somehow manages to get them both restrained in the trunk of her car. Don’t worry about it. Don’t worry your pretty little head how one woman managed to subdue two guys and put them in the trunk of her car.
The point is Nina was never actually returned to her family, that’s just what Sue Lynn told them so the cops would back off. Sue Lynn heads to a construction site to meet Boyfriend with a briefcase full of cash, which is where Dex is also headed, with an entire squad of cop cars, responding to Hoffman’s APB, in hot pursuit.
At the construction site, Sue Lynn hands over the cash, and Boyfriend releases Nina, but then has a change of mind? And lifts a gun? To shoot them both? I don’t know. The point is before he can shoot, Dex arrives and smacks a fleeing Boyfriend with her car door. She pulls to a stop and gets out of the car to kick the kid’s gun away before she’s surrounded by a bunch of armed cops. And per the header image, she lets the police know about her two friends in the trunk of her car.
Later, at Grey’s bar, Hoffman returns the engagement ring to Dex along with the phone number of a friend of his who needs the kind of help the cops can’t provide. Meanwhile, Grey looks on disapprovingly. Because he’s in love with her from afar, duh.
As for what to say about this episode:
I guess we can first point out that it’s SUPER WEIRD that Jake Johnson is basically just playing Nick from New Girl in this series? What with the best friend vibe? And being a bar owner? Are we going to learn later that he’s writing a novel? Because he should totally be writing a novel.
Anyway, expect so many more Nick from New Girl gifs, guys.
Other than that, I don’t know what to say. It’s fun, I suppose, to see a grittier and considerably less twee side of Portland — zero birds were put on zero things in this episode, so that’s something.
As for Cobie Smulders, she is sexy and smart and great, which comes as no kind of surprise because she’s always sexy and smart and great. From what I understand, Dex is going to be openly bisexual (which they hint at when she’s going through her phone book looking for a hook-up), and that’s a refreshing twist for a network series. Also, I appreciate the representation of female war vets on TV in general — it was striking to me that both this series and This Is Us introduced female vets who are struggling with PTSD after serving stints in our endless middle east wars. It feels important.
That said. My one complaint about Dex’s character is that she’s another strong female character who is openly sexual and non-committal, and that behavior is tied to some past trauma. She’s defiant of sexual norms that are put on women, but not because she chooses to be, but because it’s an expression of her painful past. It’s not something that is celebrated about her — it’s to be pitied.
And I call bullllllllshit on that. Why can’t a female character fuck like a man without it being tied to some heartbreak? Why does it need to be explained at all? Sometimes — and this might be shocking — but sometimes women also have sexual needs and urges and sometimes they would like to explore them without getting dragged down with a lot of emotional baggage. No flashbacks necessary!
Anyway. Alirght, you jerks. Let’s see where this goes.
Stumptown airs on ABC on Wednesdays at 9/10 p.m.