Review by C.J. Bunce
Cobie Smulders has enough street cred playing badass leads, including co-starring opposite Tom Cruise in Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, serving as the most powerful non-superheroine of the Marvel movies as Maria Hill, and she’s the perfect Wonder Woman, although we only hear her voice as the character in The Lego Movie series. So why head back to television? Maybe after 200 episodes of being part of a hit ensemble cast on How I Met Your Mother, she wanted her own series? Whatever the reason, it’s a win for TV viewers. Her new project is Stumptown, and the first episode aired this week on ABC.
Smulders is promising as Dex Parios, an army vet with PTSD, who takes care of her brother and has a gambling problem. Happily for her, everyone, including the head of the gambling house, seems to be on her side. In her first case, she’s trying to locate the missing daughter of her deceased college boyfriend, in exchange for having a five-figure tab written off at the local Portland casino (yes, evidently Portland has had casinos since 1988). Initially she fails, but before she’s totally written off by everyone except her brother (played by the engaging Cole Sibus), the writers skillfully show viewers why she might be a character to return to each week. Dex is a fighter, while also a mess and a bit snarky, but hopefully that’s not all she is. Her old red Ford Mustang and its broken cassette tape deck that offers up the right song at the right time is a nice throwback to Philip Glenister and his red Audi Quattro on the classic detective series Ashes to Ashes.
Along with good writing in its opener, Stumptown boasts a supporting cast that brings plenty to the show. Jake Johnson (New Girl, Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse, Jurassic World) as bartender pal Grey demonstrates again why he’s the best at playing the best friend. If you missed Michael Ealy as a great cop on Almost Human (or as Slap Jack in 2 Fast 2 Furious) you’ll appreciate him back with a badge on this series. Even better, it looks like Donal Logue (Gotham, Vikings, Life, Zodiac, Sneakers) will join the cast in next week’s episode. The only thing the series could benefit from is tapping all those local Portland actors like NBC’s Grimm did so well. Unfortunately, other than some establishing shots, it doesn’t look like the series will be filmed there.
The show is based on a same-titled group of mini-series comic books by Greg Rucka and artist Matthew Southworth. Rucka wrote his “bi-sexual P.I. with a gambling problem” detective story inspired by his appreciation of Simon and Simon, The Rockford Files, and Magnum, p.i.–which the TV adaptation will now compete against for viewers. The title “Stumptown” comes from a 19th century nickname for Portland, based on excessive timber removal leaving stumps behind.
Why does the pilot for Stumptown seem to be more promising than the pilot for the similar new 2019 series Reef Break (reviewed here at borg)? The writing for the pilot is certainly crisper, and the comfort of the cast in their roles at the gate stands out as possible reasons.
Promising, and worth getting viewers back for a second episode, Stumptown airs Wednesdays on ABC.