ABC's new comic-book adaptation 'Stumptown' is breezy, witty fun
Written by Mikey Sutton
Reach a certain age, and you've probably met a girl like Dex Parios.
Played with spunk and charm by Cobie Smulders, Parios is a military vet who is now a rookie P.I. in Portland, Oregon, otherwise known as Stumptown. Based on the comic book from Greg Rucka, Matthew Southworth, and Justin Greenwood, Stumptown blows cool fresh air in an otherwise stagnating field of crime dramas. Much of the show's success is its humor. The series' intros -- the pilot had one of the all-time funniest -- have an indie quirkiness that is uncommon to ABC. In fact, Stumptown is more like a show produced for a streaming channel than a major TV network.
Parios is a flawed protagonist. She makes serious mistakes such as trusting a shady private detective, played with that perfect undertow of sleaze by Donal Logue, who ends up betraying her. Parios is terminally broke, drives a trash car, and is unwilling to commit to anyone, consequently ending up with a series of men, one of which, Jake Johnson as ex-con Grey McConnell. becomes her best friend. The faulty tape deck in her car suddenly bursts out a barrage of '70s and '80s tunes that echo her mood or situation.
There's an undertow of sadness in Stumptown as Parios suffers from PTSD due to her traumatic experiences as a Marine fighting in Afghanistan. She's also still reeling from a lost love, a former boyfriend who was followed her into the military who was killed in the same explosion that injured her. That experience toughened Parios but it built a wall around her as well. To her, sex is meaningless, no attachments; it's how she protects her heart but in the end it leaves her empty.
Parios has echoes of Jessica Jones with her rebellious, independent streak but Smulders invests a sweetness to Parios buried beneath a facade of stone. Michael Ealy, so winning in the late, lamented science-fiction TV series Almost Human, is the moral center of this group of renegades as Detective Mike Hoffman. Smart and analytical, he could be the key to unlocking her soul.
Stumptown is breezy fun, and Smulders makes it snap, crackle, and pop. Recommended.