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Series / Stumptown (2019)

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Stumptown is an American crime drama series airing on ABC starring Cobie Smulders, Michael Ealy, and Jake Johnson, based on the graphic novel series of the same name.

In the city of Portland, former Marine intelligence officer Dex Parios makes a living as a private investigator. Unfortunately, she's also got a very bad gambling problem and owes a lot of money to the Confederated Tribes of the Wind Coast. This forces her to take on very tough assignments, some of which bring her into conflict with the local cops, like Detective Miles Hoffman.

The series debuted on September 25, 2019, with its first season concluding on March 25, 2020 and an announcement for a second season made in May 2020. However, ABC cancelled the show on September 16, 2020 due to complication in the second season's production caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. ABC Studios attempted to find a new home for the show but was unable to leading to its cancellation.

This series contains examples of:

  • Actor Allusion:
    • Jake Johnson as a bar owner.
    • Donal Logue as a sleazy jaded PI is not too far removed from his role in Gotham as a sleazy, jaded corrupt cop.
    • There's more than one reference to Cobie Smulders' previous series, How I Met Your Mother:
      • Dex's Mustang has a tape stuck in the player, just like Marshall Eriksen's beloved Fiero, the difference being that Marshall's tape only played "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" by The Proclaimers, while Dex's fires off several random tunes from a mix tape.
      • The second episode deals with a man being duped by a con artist because he thought she was "the one", who waxes poetically about the universe giving him a sign that this may be his one true love. Sounds an awful lot like Ted, does it not?
      • At the end of "At All Costs: The Conrad Costas Chronicles", Dex and Grey sit on the beach to talk, which is set to Band of Horses' "The Funeral". A similar scene featuring Ted and Robin (Smulders' character) happened during a Season 9 episode of HIMYM, while that same song had also being used for the ending scene of Season 8's premiere.
  • Addiction Displacement: In "Dex, Drugs and Rock & Roll", when Dex's ex-girlfriend Fiona offers her drugs, Dex refuses and says she doesn't do that anymore. Since she frequently drinks and gambles excessively, one can infer she replaced one addiction with another.
  • The Alcoholic:
    • If Dex doesn't keep busy, she drinks. Or worse, gambles.
    • In "Dirty Dexy Money", Dex deals with a strip-club owner who is even more of an alcoholic than she is.
  • The Alleged Car: Dex's car is a beat-up old piece of crap Mustang with a cassette player that has a habit of turning itself on at inopportune times.
  • Arc Villain: Wallace Kane, at least for Episodes 4-5. He's a crime boss that Cosgrove mentions as having been suspected of ordering at least fifty deaths, and Grey owes him half a million dollars. At the beginning of Episode 4, he's been sprung from prison and has forcibly enlisted Grey to help him with a plan his sentence put on hold. At the end of Episode 5 he's back in custody, along with his Dragon.
  • Armored Closet Gay: In "November Surprise", Dex is hired to dig up dirt on a gay politician, and learns that when he was a young college professor, he carried on an affair with a female student in an attempt to cover up his homosexuality, which resulted in her giving birth to a son.
  • Artistic License Cars: In the pilot, multiple people are kept in the trunk of Dex's Mustang. However, that model of Mustang, the 1992 GT, is a hatchback and therefore doesn't have an actual trunk, just a storage space behind the rear seats.
  • Bedmate Reveal: Going into the Season 1 midseason finale, Dex wakes up next to Grey's girlfriend Liz.
  • Betty and Veronica: Dex's two main love interests are Hoffman, a smooth if straight-as-an-arrow police detective, and Gray, an ex-con and publican.
  • Big "WHAT?!": Dex in Episode 5, when Hoffman tells her that Grey wasn't just a car thief, he's also an explosives expert and safecracker.
  • Blatant Lies: Dex's excuse for hitting Artie Banks' car with a crowbar is that she mixed up her Mustang (a beat-up 1992 model) with Artie's Mustang (a '70s pony car model). When asked why she was trying to break her own car, she claims she read on the internet that her Mustang was the only model year with a piñata hidden inside it. Luckily Cosgrove doesn't like Artie and so she "believes" Dex's story.
  • Boxed Crook: In the second half of season 1, Hoffman blackmails Grey into going undercover in a carjacking ring, threatening to alert the cops to the fact that he bought the Bad Alibi with stolen money if he refuses.
  • Break His Heart to Save Him: In "Family Ties", Grey sends Ansel away so that he won't be at the bar when Kane comes around. Poor Ansel doesn't understand what is happening and goes home thinking that Grey is angry at him.
  • Butch Lesbian: "Dirty Dexy Money" introduces Poppy Matthews, the butch lesbian leader of a local veterans' group.
  • Call-Back: In "All Quiet on the Dextern Front", Jeremy, the client from "The Past and the Furious", returns to hire Dex on behalf of his cousin, who's facing the prospect of losing custody of her kids after she's accused of assault.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Though she's a former Marine, Dex is not typically effective in hand-to-hand combat unless using improvised weapons, even against similarly-sized or female opponents.
  • Cool Old Lady: Sue Lynn Blackbird is the chief of the local reservation and the owner of its casino; nothing much seems to faze her. Even being held at gunpoint only elicits mild irritation.
  • Cutting the Knot: Dex needs to get a teenager's phone to look for clues in recent texts, but the girl is uncooperative, so Dex pretends to drive away. In actuality, she simply broke line-of-sight and snuck back up on the girl on foot, taking the phone after it was unlocked.
  • Dating Catwoman:
    • In "The Dex Factor", Dex's new love interest happens to be a hitwoman who's after the gang that Grey has infiltrated.
    • Likewise, Gray ends up falling for Max(ine), the mechanic for the car theft gang he infiltrates. Gray tips her off to the bust going down and helps her escape to the reservation, where the Portland Police Bureau doesn't have jurisdiction.
  • The Dragon: Frank is this to Kane, even going so far as to personally carry out the plan to help him escape from a prison transport.
  • Double-Meaning Title: "The Other Woman" can apply to how in said episode Dex has to come face to face with both Naomi, her old flame Benny's widow; and Liz, Grey's current girlfriend. Then it takes yet another meaning at the end of the episode when Dex wakes up to find a nude Liz in bed next to her.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Like in the graphic novels, Dex's full first name is Dexedrine. An amazed Artie wonders just how much her parents hated her.
    Artie: How much must parents detest a child to name them Dexedrine? I mean, seriously, you were born, and they took a look at you and said, "Oh, my God. Dexedrine. Our child reminds us of generic cough syrup."
  • Empty Nest: In the second half of season 1, Dex has to contend with loneliness after Ansel decides to move out.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Sue Lynn Blackbird was willing to overlook a lot of Randall Tapper's bad behavior in order to maintain her tribe's lucrative relationship with him, but immediately calls it off after finding out that he was not only scamming her out of money on a school that was never going to be built, but was also using the construction site to smuggle drugs through her reservation. She also abandons a scheme to jail Dex over her gambling debts after realizing that it would result in Ansel being sent away to a board-and-care facility.
  • False Friend:
    • All of Liz's attempts to befriend Dex and Ansel were just part of a plan to manipulate them out of Grey's life.
    • In "Dirty Dexy Money", beneath Ginger Lloyd's friendly exterior is a mean drunk who makes Dex's life Hell when Dex crosses her.
  • Finger in the Mail: In "Reality Checks Don't Bounce", Dex is hired to find the brother of a TV judge, only to discover that she's blundered into a kidnapping plot. At one point, the kidnappers send the judge an ear.
  • Fingore: Dex disables a thug by smashing a car door onto his fingers.
  • Functional Addict: Played with. Dex is a good private investigator despite her vices, but she can't hold down a job where she isn't her own boss, doesn't set her own hours, or isn't allowed to day-drink.
  • The Gambling Addict: Dex. She's already in debt to Sue Lynn's casino when the pilot starts, to the tune of $11,000. In the pilot itself, she scores big at craps only to lose her entire winnings on the very next roll. Hollis lampshades her lack of self-control right afterward.
    Hollis: You know why you're a bad gambler, Dex?
    Dex: Because your dice are loaded?
    Hollis: Because you don't know when to quit.
  • Gender-Blender Name: In "The Past and the Furious", Grey goes undercover in a car theft ring in order to meet the elusive Max... who turns out to be a woman.
  • Gender Flip: In the comics, Hoffman is a white woman named Tracy. In the series, he's a black man named Miles.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: In "The Other Woman", Dex gets incredibly jealous when Liz starts winning over Ansel.
  • Hero's Classic Car: Dex has a 1992 Ford Mustang GT. Note that it's a 1990s model and it's treated as very much The Alleged Car, as opposed to 60s/70s Mustang models that are more associated with being a Cool Car.
  • Honey Trap: In "Missed Connections", Dex is hired to track down a young woman who turns out to be part of a con-artist ring that targets lonely rich men.
  • How We Got Here: It is a recurring theme for episodes to open with Dex in some crazy situation and then flashing back to how it all started. The pilot opens with two shady guys in a car driving somewhere and someone clearly locked in the trunk. Dex then pushes her way out of the trunk through the back seat and attacks the men with the car still in motion. The driver loses control, the car spins out and goes airborne. We then jump back three days to see the events that led up to this.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Most episodes' titles manage to work Dex's name in as a pun: "Dex, Drugs and Rock & Roll", "Dex Education", "Dirty Dexy Money", "The Dex Factor", "The Dex Files", etc.
  • Imagine Spot: Meeting established private eye Artie Banks, Dex briefly imagines the two working together in a cheesy 1970s-style TV cop show.
  • Invincible Classic Car: Dex's Mustang seems to be. In the pilot, it survives a long, high-speed jump with a long drop without even a scratch on the bodywork.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Artie zigzags this one pretty hard. He agrees to let Dex apprentice under him, then backstabs her and their client for more money after faking a sob story about a drug addict daughter that got Dex to trust him. Nothing Dex does afterward to try and sway him makes a dent until he watches the client lose custody of her infant daughter, and he confesses to Dex that his daughter had actually died in infancy after an experimental therapy failed; this along with the loss of his police career (he stole the money for her procedure from the evidence room) caused him to concentrate on looking out for himself above everything else. He gets Dex her P.I.'s license and seems to have been sincere, but Dex is still unsure whether to fully trust him.
    • Sue-Lynn is a hardass most of the time, but she is gentle with Ansel, has helped Dex on more than one occasion, and in "The Past and the Furious", she helps reunite Jeremy Stevens with his Native family.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: The Portland cops are not on the best terms with the Confederated Nations, hence why Sue Lynn Blackbird hires Dex to find her granddaughter rather than going to the cops. In "The Other Woman", the Portland police are forced to tread lightly when someone apparently tries to kill Sue Lynn with a car bomb while she's within Portland city limits; in theory, they're responsible for investigating the case, but they can't compel Sue Lynn to cooperate with their investigation.
  • Lighter and Softer: Than the source, which if nothing else has swearing that wouldn't fly on network TV.
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage:
    • Part of the reason Sue-Lynn strongly disapproved of Dex being with her son Benny, as she wanted him to marry within the tribe.
    • In "The Past and the Furious", Dex's investigation into a veteran's birth parents reveals that he was taken from his Native-American birth mother because a racist church secretary objected to his mixed heritage and felt that a "good Christian" family was the only way to "save" him.
  • Meet Cute: Dex and Grey first meet by literally bumping into each other, causing Dex to drop a bottle of beer she scored for thwarting a robbery. They sleep together that very night.
  • Morality Pet:
    • The main thing keeping Dex grounded is her brother Ansel, who has Down Syndrome.
    • Grey likewise tells Ansel that he's what keeps Grey grounded and law-abiding.
  • Mr. Vice Guy: Dex drinks heavily and gambles frequently, but she'll do anything for her friends, clients, and especially for her brother Ansel.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Liz seemingly has this reaction when she realizes that her blaming Dex for whatever may have happened between them has nuked Grey and Dex's friendship. Turns out she lied to try and separate them and was intending for that to happen because she thinks Grey and Dex's friendship is keeping both of them from having meaningful relationships with other people.
  • Myth Arc: The show has a recurring plot where Dex (and Sue-Lynn) try to move on from Benny's death in Afghanistan, though the former learns of something else that may have killed Benny, which did not involve the Taliban.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Ansel knows that a lot of people assume that he's stupid because he has Downs Syndrome, and isn't above using this to his advantage, such as when he pretends to be dumb in order to outwit a kidnapper.
  • Oblivious Adoption: In "The Past and the Furious", Dex is hired to find the birth mother of a fellow veteran who only recently learned that he was adopted.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: Dex suspects that Baxter Hall might be behind the kidnapping, so she approaches him in his club. He seems to admit to it and even offers to hand "her" over to Dex. Dex then discovers that he was really talking about a stolen car. A woman hired him to get her a rare car and he mistook Dex for the buyer.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Dex prefers to be called "Dex" and pretty much everybody complies with her wish. Calling her "Dexedrine" is a quick way to ruin her day.
  • Parental Abandonment: Dex and Ansel's parents ran off and dumped Ansel in a board-and-care facility while Dex was overseas.
  • Parental Marriage Veto: In her youth, Dex wanted to marry Sue Lynn's son Benny. Sue Lynn did not give her blessing, they broke up, and Benny married someone from within the tribe. Years later, they divorced, he joined the Army to track Dex down, and was killed in action while they were on patrol.
  • Phony Veteran: The opening scene has Dex being hit on by a guy in a bar who claims to have served in Afghanistan. She lets him talk a bit about his experience before cutting him off and listing the holes in his story: his dog tags don't match the name on his credit card, no one calls Afghanistan "the 'Stan," and he doesn't know what language is spoken there.
  • Promoted to Parent: Dex got promoted to being her brother Ansel's guardian when their parents disappeared.
  • Punk in the Trunk: The pilot opens with two shady guys driving somewhere with Dex locked in the trunk. It ends with Dex turning the tables on them:
    Dex: Two more in the trunk.
  • Real Award, Fictional Character: Dex's military awards include: the Legion of Merit, the Purple Heart, the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, the Marines Overseas Service Ribbon, the Canadian Meritorious Service Cross, the Rifle Expert Badge, and the Pistol Expert Badge.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Lieutenant Cosgrove. She has a point that just because Dex has good instincts and determination doesn't balance her acting as an unlicensed private investigator. Dex, to her credit, heeds this advice and begins an apprenticeship so she can get licensed.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Grey delivers one to Dex after finding out that she may have slept with Liz, accusing her of being obsessed with chaos and incapable of handling calm situations, and telling her to find another bar.
  • Running Gag: Hoffman going to Lee with his and Dex's relationship problems.
  • Semper Fi: Dex is former Marine counterintelligence.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Dex served several tours in Afghanistan. The death of her true love Benny left her with very bad PTSD (since she blames herself for him joining the military), causing her to have flashbacks. It's also notable that she never carries a gun, likely for this reason.
  • Sherlock Scan: Dex does this to a guy trying to hit on her by noticing the names on his credit card and dog tags don't match, to say nothing of him not knowing basic facts about Afghanistan, which is where Dex was deployed.
  • Shout-Out: The Season 1 poster shows Dex laying on a crushed car as if she fell on it. This seems to be based on the famous photo of Evelyn McHale's 1947 suicide, known as "The Most Beautiful Suicide."
  • Shown Their Work:
    • It's hard to see since the scene is dark, but Dex is wearing appropriate MARPAT camouflage in the Afghanistan flashbacks, and even has correct collar pins which indicate she's a corporal.
    • Dex's uniform seen in episode 8 is highly accurate, down to her awards being both real and in the correct order of precedence.
    • Episode 9 name-checks both Dante's, a popular Portland nightclub, and the New Season school references New Seasons, a Whole Foods-esque upscale grocery chain in Portland. Averted, though, with a junkyard described as being located in 920 SE Belmont. 920 SE Belmont is in a hipster-yuppie neighborhood in Portland; a junkyard would never be there, unless it's an ironic junkyard.
    • Averted in "Reality Checks Don't Bounce" - Hoffman is seen pumping gas in one scene. Self-service is banned in Oregon (although it has been temporarily allowed during the COVID-19 pandemic).
    • In "Dirty Dexy Money", Dex works for the owner of Hold the Meat, a vegan strip club this is a gender-flipped version of Casa Diablo, a well-known Portland vegan strip club.
    • The props department snagged authentic Portland recycling bins (yellow with blue printing), seen behind the Bad Alibi in "'Til Dex Do Us Part".
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: Almost every character Dex snarks to responds in kind in one form or another.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Fights and other action scenes are commonly set to upbeat oldies tunes. Usually crossed with Left the Background Music On as the songs usually play on the radio of Dex's car.
  • Spotting the Thread: In one of the first scenes, Dex is hit on by a guy who claims to be an Afghanistan vet, but she easily notices holes in his story, like the fact that he doesn't know what Pashto is. Part of her Sherlock Scan, above.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers:
    • Dex and Benny Blackbird were in love but his mother did not want him to marry outside the tribe. They broke up, Dex joined the Marines and Benny married a woman his mother approved of. However, Benny's marriage broke up and he defied his mother by joining the Army. He deployed to Afghanistan and while on leave he went looking for Dex with an engagement ring in his pocket. Before he could reach her, his vehicle hit a bomb and Benny was killed.
    • Subverted with Nina and Michael. They try to elope and get away from Sue Lynn but are stopped by Dex who feels really guilty about it. However, it was all just part of Michael's plan to have Nina kidnapped and hold her for ransom.
  • The Stoic: The more serious a situation Grey is in, the less he emotes. Peaks when his reaction to being shot in the finale is a vaguely upset, "Oh...Oh no...".
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: In "The Other Woman", Dex is forced to work with Naomi Blackbird - the widow of her late flame Benny - in order to figure out who's trying to kill Sue Lynn.
  • The Teetotaler: Sue Lynn Blackbird does not drink, and is pissed when she finds out that Randall Tapper has been moving drugs through her reservation. "The Other Woman" also reveals that she has kicked people out of the tribe for dealing drugs on her reservation. Truth in Television due to the extremely high rates of substance abuse among American Indian nations.
  • Token Minority Couple: In "All Quiet on the Dextern Front", Ansel gets a girlfriend who also has Down syndrome, and Grey and Tookie gush about how perfect she is for him, even though she's only been on the show for a few minutes.
  • Trapped by Gambling Debts: Dex Parios has a bad gambling problem and consequently owes a lot of money to the Confederated Tribes of the Wind River, who run the local casino. Dex has taken a few jobs directly from chief Sue Lynn Blackbird in exchange for paying down her debts, most notably searching for her granddaughter in the pilot.
  • Wrench Wench: When Grey meets the carjacking ring Hoffman assigned him to, he meets a young female mechanic named Max, who he begins to develop feelings for.
  • Wham Episode:
    • "At All Costs: The Conrad Costas Chronicles" suggests that Dex and Ansel may have been left by their parents to protect them from... something.
    • "The Dex Files" suggests that Benny's death in Afghanistan was arranged because he was going to be a whistleblower.
  • What Did I Do Last Night?: At the end of "The Other Woman", Dex, after a hard night of drinking and gambling, wakes up in bed with a naked Liz. She spends much of the next episode, "Dex Education", trying to figure out exactly what happened. She ultimately discovers that Liz got her drunk and then slipped into her bed to convince her that they slept together, as part of a ploy to get Grey to cut Dex out of his life.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Absolute quiet triggers Dex's PTSD. In "All Quiet on the Dextern Front", already in the throes of a particularly bad flashback, she returns home to an empty house and completely freaks out, tearing apart her living room. When Grey finds out about it, he convinces Ansel to move back in with Dex to keep an eye on her.
  • Worthy Opponent: Dex to Violet. Dex stops Violet from killing Leo's car theft gang that stole her crew's heroin, throwing her off a balcony. Violet later leaves one of Violet's favorite drinks for Dex at the Bad Alibi.

Alternative Title(s): Stumptown