It's not always easy to impress with a freshman season, but Stumptown Season 1 was one of the few new shows that truly intrigued me this TV season.
Lead by the incredible performance of Cobie Smulders, as Dex Parois, the messy, very real, PI, the first season started strong and kept up the momentum throughout its run.
Join us as we discuss the best moments, the worst, and everything in between that made Stumptown one of the greats!
Most Improved Character: Sue Lynn
When we first met Sue Lynn on Stumptown Season 1 Episode 1, she was hostile and cold. If we didn't know any better, it almost felt like she would be the season's big bad. Nothing is ever that black and white.
It seemed like Sue Lynn hated Dex, but as we learned on the Stumptown Season 1 Finale, Sue Lynn held a lot of guilt for the status of her relationship with Benny when he died unexpectedly.
It was easier for her to blame Dex for his death and focus her anger towards her than to face her own guilt.
Sue Lynn ended up being a great source of support for Dex throughout Stumptown Season 1 and eventually became one of my own personal favorites.
Season MVP: Ansel
There is not a single Stumptown fan out there who doesn't love Ansel! Episode after episode, he lit up every one of his scenes.
Ansel was a constant for many of the characters, always providing them the support they needed. It wasn't until Ansel went on his journey of self-discovery that he really began to shine, though.
Dex will always see Ansel as her little brother, and until Ansel left and took the time to grow into the man he wanted to be, he was always going to feel like just that.
Ansel moving back into Dex's house at the end of Stumptown Season 1 just goes to show what a great sibling he is. He was willing to put aside his needs to be there for Dex when she needed him most.
Storyline We Wish Would Die: The Love Triangle
Please, God, can someone murder the love triangle if we get a second season of Stumptown? Love triangles have their place on TV, but Stumptown is not one of those places. The love triangle takes what is an otherwise a strong show, and turns it into soapy drama.
The worst part is that both men involved are extremely worthy of any women's affection. Dex needs to heal on her own, though, before she can fully commit to a relationship, which is why things haven't been able to work with either man.
When teasers for the second half of the season teased more of the same, I let out many audible groans. However, when the show returned it was with a pleasant surprise that the love triangle seemed to have taken a back seat, and the show was better for it.
Please, Stumptown writers, if you are reading this, just let it die!
Biggest Twist: Ansel Bringing Mama Home
For a show based primarily around a "case of the week" format, you would think there would be more twists. Something that feels so unique about Stumptown, though, is that the cases always feel like they end up at a logical conclusion that you can figure out as you go.
Even Benny's death turning out to be more nefarious than what we initially were lead to believe didn't come as a huge shock. Instead, in the final moments of the season, we were left with Dex standing at her door, coming face to face with her long lost mother.
That alone isn't what brings the most shock. No, it is that Ansel is the one responsible for her ending up there. Throughout the finale, we were lead to believe Ansel was having a break up with his girlfriend. Some skillful viewers noticed that Ansel never actually said that was what was happening.
Instead, it all came from Tookie. After the finale aired it was confirmed that the secretive conversations Ansel was having was actually with his mom and he invited her to his and Dex's house for dinner.
After being abandoned by her and his and Dex's father, it is amazing that Ansel would want anything to do with her. However, Ansel has always been able to see the best in people. How is Dex going to react when she finds out Ansel brought her back into their lives? We need a second season so we can find out!
Character We Are Most Disappointed In: Lee
Lee was a great partner to Hoffman during Stumptown Season 1. All of that changed, though, over what we can't help but partially attribute to jealousy.
Lee and Hoffman were taking the next step in their relationship after they finally gave in to their attraction to each other. It was no wonder that Hoffman thought he could trust her with information about Dex.
Instead, she betrayed his trust and created a wrongful manhunt for Dex. Her actions also lead to Hoffman giving up his badge, at least for now.
If it felt like Lee did it because she felt like it was the right thing to do, then maybe it could be forgiven. Instead, it felt like she partially did it because she was jealous of Hoffman's feelings for Dex.
It is going to take a lot for her to make things right with Hoffman, and with the viewers.
Best Match For Dex: Scott
On a show with an already well-established love triangle, it is odd that there would be even more romantic options for our female lead. Cobie Smulders has chemistry with literally everyone, though, so it is inevitable.
One man, in particular, took the cake when he crossed paths with Dex -- Scott Thompson aka Zack Night. The sexy Irish tattoo artist was the man Dex was tasked with bringing down, but instead, she saved him from making the biggest mistake of his life.
During her time investigating him, Dex and Scott shared undeniable chemistry and also similar grief over the loss of the loves of their lives. They seemed like a match made in heaven.
Except it probably isn't the best time to start a new relationship when one of you is still not over the death of their ex, and the other one just almost married the person responsible for killing their's.
Maybe at another time, these two will find their way back to each other.
Storyline That Took Us on the Biggest Emotional Journey: Dex's PTSD
If you read my reviews of Stumptown, you know what a HUGE fan I am of the portrayal of Dex's PTSD.
Often times on shows, PTSD is brushed under the rug. A character starts to experience it, they have a breakdown, their friends and family help them, they get a couple of therapy sessions, and they are better. This all usually takes place over a couple of episodes.
Instead, we saw droplets of this scattered across the season. Dex's PTSD is not a storyline for her. It is part of her character. It is part of the essence of what makes Dex, Dex.
Watching Dex experience the emotionally raw flashbacks that tormented her throughout Stumptown Season 1 was heartbreaking.
With the mystery of Benny's death being solved on Stumptown Season 1 Episode 18, maybe Dex can finally start taking steps towards healing.
Most Interesting Case: Sue Lynn Being Threatened
When someone targets Sue Lynn, she enlists Dex to help her find the culprit.
This case not only gave us more of the Dex and Sue Lynn dynamic but it also gave us more insight into the inner workings of the reservation and introduced us to Benny's widow.
Up until this point in time, we had seen the loss of Benny almost solely from Dex's perspective. By meeting Naomi, we saw the full effect of his death. He had a family that was left shattered because Benny chased Dex across the world.
All of this made for a fascinating case for our favorite budding Private Investigator.
Favorite Guest Star: Donal Longue as Artie
Dex first met Artie when she was on the search for an apprenticeship so she could get her PI. license. They were a dynamic duo who worked together great. Until they didn't.
Artie wasn't exactly who he appeared to be and they soon found each other at odds.
Even though Artie wasn't a perfect angel, he still made for one of the most enjoyable characters on Stumptown. He also helped Dex to figure out exactly what kind of PI. she wants to be.
When he left, there was hope that they would cross paths again, but we have yet to see the return of Artie Banks.
Hopefully, Stumptown Season 2 will bring us a reunion for these two.
Character We Will Be Happy Never To See Again: Liz
Liz seemed to be too good to be true from the start. She quickly wormed her way into Grey's heart after she stumbled upon The Bad Alibi. Viewers weren't as quick to take a liking to her.
She seemed hell-bent on driving a wedge between Dex and Grey and if there is one thing that viewers aren't going to tolerate, it is Dex slander.
Dex and Grey may have a complicated relationship, but at the end of the day, they are family. If someone wants to be with one of them, they have to accept them as a package deal.
Liz couldn't manage to do that, even going as far as pretending that she slept with Dex to get Grey to cut Dex off.
It was a beautiful day when Grey finally kicked Liz to the curb.
Most Magical Music Moments: "Adore" by Amy Shark and "I Melt With You" by Modern English
Stumptown has one the best soundtracks on TV, so it is almost impossible to pick the best moments, but there are two that stayed with me throughout the season.
When Violet and Dex give in to their attraction to each other with "Adore" by Amy Shark playing, it was such a great moment. Amy Shark is an extremely underrated artist and hearing her songs playing in such a beautiful moment really set the tone.
Stumptown typically uses music that is more classic and well known, and this was one of the few deviations, and it made an impact.
During Stumptown Season 1 Episode 14 we were treated to not one but two different versions of "I Melt With You." Starting initially with the orchestra version of the song when we see the series of events initially and then switching to the original version was great.
The music of Stumptown is a character of its own, and the music department deserves so much praise for their work!
Best Pairing: Tookie and Ansel
Every time you pair two characters up on Stumptown, it is inevitable that it is going to be great. The cast has amazing chemistry that we see in every single scene.
One of the most surprising pairs that ended up being one of the best is Tookie and Ansel. Tookie has become a mentor to Ansel since he partnered up with Grey and began working out of The Bad Alibi.
While Grey and Ansel's friendship is fantastic, they have more of a father/son type of relationship, whereas Tookie can be more of a friend to him which is something that Ansel needs in his life.
Storyline That Deserved Better: Benny's Death
When we first heard about Benny and his death, we were lead to believe it was an accident. On Stumptown Season 1 Episode 16, Dex learned that there was more to what happened than meets the eye.
While watching Dex go on a journey to solve the mystery of what happened to Benny was emotional and devastating, the actual pay off was a little lackluster.
If the revelation that Benny's death was not an accident had come earlier in the season, there would have been more time for it to play out naturally and slowly introduce us to the players involved. Instead, they leave us with an answer that had minimal emotional impact.
Benny's killer was someone we had only just met, so it was hard to care about the fact that he did it.
One TV Fanatic reader had suggested that maybe it was Jeremy, a vet Dex had met earlier in the season and formed a friendship with, which would have been a much better option. In a season that was so strong, this felt like one of the rare weak points.
Flashback That Pulled At Our Heart Strings: Benny Steps Up and Defends Ansel and Dex
We knew that Benny had to be a great guy for Dex to still be as in love with him a she is. During Stumptown Season 1, though, we weren't given much to go on except that he left his wife and kid to follow her into the military. It didn't paint him in the best light.
On Stumptown Season 1 Episode 17 we finally got a glimpse at the man that we had heard so much about.
All of the flashbacks of Benny and Dex's relationship were fantastic, but one, in particular, stood out and showed us why Dex fell in love with him.
When a parent of a kid on Ansel's soccer team insulted Ansel and Dex was about to lose it, Benny stepped in calm cool and collected and defended Ansel in a respectful way that had the man complimenting Ansel by the end.
Knowing how important Ansel is to Dex, it is clear why moments like this made such a big impact on her. Even as a viewer I found myself loving Benny and wishing that they could miraculously resurrect him!
Worst Episode: "At All Costs: The Conrad Costas Chronicles"
This was coincidentally the only episode of Stumptown I did not review, but after watching it I was almost glad.
Stumptown Season 1 Episode 15 wound up setting up two of the biggest moments from the finale, but it still ended up feeling like a throwaway episode.
In a season full of strong episode after strong episode, this one felt by far to be the weakest.
Like the music, the setting of Stumptown feels like a character in itself. Moving the show to sunny California changed the tone of the show in a way that it didn't feel like the Stumptown we had all come to love.
Even the case didn't hit the notes that Stumptown's usual cases hit.
It is good for shows to try to shake things up every now and then, but the writers can write this one off as a failed experiment.
Best Episode: "The Dex Files"
It is difficult to choose the best episode out of a freshman season that was so strong, but "The Dex Files" takes the cake.
Stumptown has utilized flashbacks throughout the show to help portray Dex's PTSD. On "The Dex Files" they switched it up and helped to show us some of the best moments of Dex's past.
Dex's strong emotional reaction to such positive memories was heartbreaking, to say the least, and showed us a lot about where she is mentally. It is difficult to remember the good times when you know how things ended.
Not only did it showcase Cobie's raw emotional performances it also brought us a new side to Tookie we hadn't seen before.
Tookie has always been the comedic relief of the show, so watching him suffering after finding out his wife was cheating on him, that was a blow.
The best kind of episodes of TV are the ones that make us feel something, and "The Dex Files" did just that, which is why it gets the top spot!
Overal Season Grade: A
It takes a lot for a new show to settle into itself fully, but Stumptown managed to do that right out of the gate.
With emotional storylines, exciting cases of the week, a stellar cast, and a dream soundtrack, Stumptown has delivered everything you could ask for out of a freshman season.
Stumptown deserves a second season and a move to a better time slot to increase its audience.
Over to you Fanatics!
Did you love the first season of Stumptown as much as I did?
What were some of the highlights for you?
Do you think it deserves another season?
Hit up the comments below to share your thoughts! Also a huge thank you for helping to create a great community to discuss this stellar show with!
Meaghan Frey was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She retired in September 2020.