Relationship: Dex Parios and Grey McConnell
Fandom: Stumptown (TV series, 2019- )
Where to Watch: ABC, Hulu
Time Investment: 18 (one-hour) episodes so far
Recommended for: Friends-to-lovers connoisseurs and skeptics alike
Spoiler warning: This post contains minor spoilers for Season 1 of Stumptown, though I promise you won’t find many details about the actual plot, including the weekly cases and season-long mystery.
One of the most common complaints about my favorite trope, friends to lovers, is that it stretches the bounds of credulity. If the pair were truly interested in each other, the thinking goes, they’d have acted on it years ago. But what if they have? What if that’s not what’s holding them back? What if giving into the mutually acknowledged desire between them would be the easy part, the very least of their problems? That’s where we find Stumptown’s Dex Parios and Grey McConnell, whose one-night stand gave way to a deep and abiding platonic friendship. The desire between them isn’t unspoken, it’s repressed, simmering and ready to explode into full boil. This is a lovers-to-friends-to-lovers story.
(Note: I would like to state, for the record, that I’m a simple fangirl, with simple shipping needs. I don’t require anything more complicated in my friends-to-lovers stories than: “I was so afraid you didn’t return my feelings and that telling you would wreck our friendship forever.” Stumptown supplies this extra wrinkle anyway, though, and you won’t catch me complaining. Dex/Grey is friends to lovers for people who don’t normally care for friends to lovers.)
This may be counter-intuitive, but one of the biggest reasons I’ve decided I ship Dex/Grey, other than the exquisite chemistry between them, is that shipping Dex with anyone in the short-term is a recipe for heartbreak. The Army veteran turned private investigator is struggling with severe PTSD and survivor’s guilt after 5 tours in Afghanistan, the last of which left her first love dead. Dex is also the sole guardian of her brother, Ansel, who has Down Syndrome, since their parents abandoned them. It’s no exaggeration to say that he carries the weight of the world on her shoulders. What she needs right now is therapy and supportive friends, not a tempestuous love affair.
But a few years down the road? Once she’s begun to heal? Well, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t hope to see her get an HEA in Stumptown’s series finale. Not because Dex needs a partner to complete her or any of that bullshit, but because she deserves love and stability and whatever her generous heart desires. And I think Grey, a bartender and reformed bad boy, could be all of that for her (nay, WANTS to be that for her), when she’s ready.
Try telling my heart all this rational stuff, though. That was the logical part of my brain, the side that understands that a few seasons of torture is the price for a satisfying slow-burn romance. The impatient, illogical side of my brain will nevertheless be cataloging every single development between them, from running into danger for each other to hints of jealousy.
Whether you’re irrationally invested in Dex/Grey like me or you’re doing some ship recon before deciding to binge the show, join me in counting the not-so-subtle hints that they want to hook up (again) someday:
#1: Grey watches Dex with hungry eyes. Like, all the time.
It’s impossible to miss the way Grey looks at his BFF. His eyes linger when she walks away. They flicker tellingly when she goes on (not entirely convincingly) about how they “dodged a bullet” by not dating. They go unbelievably soft when he has a chance to consider her in silence. And when he knows she’s angry with him? Oh, the way his eyes beseech her to forgive him. Grey’s every emotion is written plainly on his face, if she’d only allow herself to see it.
#2: He remembers everything.
Fellow Dawson’s Creek obsessives may recall that a young Pacey Witter once stole Joey Potter’s breath (and ours) with the knee-weakingly romantic line “I remember everything.” Well, Grey hasn’t used his freakishly good memory for everything to do with Dex to use in a confession of love yet, but it’s definitely another indicator that the boy is kinda crazy about her and felt a deep connection to her the night they met. Guys simply looking to get into your pants definitely won’t think to ask the waitress to hold the water chestnuts in your Asian salad the next time you hang out.
#3: Dex is clear about why she can’t “cross the line” with him, and it ain’t for lack of wanting to.
There’s a scene toward the end of episode 2 (you know the one) where Grey shows up at Dex’s door to confront her about why she stood him up for their date. Instead of a combative, self-destructive version of his new friend he might’ve expected to find, he’s confronted with a resigned, vulnerable Dex, who has clearly decided she just doesn’t deserve to be happy. A Dex who is perfectly clear-eyed about her tendency to sabotage relationships yet unwilling to repeat that cycle with him. Once she’s spilled her guts about losing Benny in Afghanistan, something that we already know she’ll go to great lengths to avoid discussing, Dex clearly feels she’s justified her decision to nip things in the bud.
To his credit, Grey doesn’t try to convince her otherwise or even suggest that he doesn’t want anything serious with her anyway, that a fling is fine with him. In fact, he backs COMPLETELY off, to the point where he friend-zones himself. It’s a move he likely second-guesses in the days after (’cause he likes her so much), but it goes to show how selfless he can be for her. If I had concerns he’d turn out to be a Nice Guy™, his reaction in this moment dispelled them.
#4: Dex refuses to risk messing things up with Grey, even when she’s desperate for distraction.
Notice that even at her lowest point, when she has called everyone and anyone who might help her drown out her demons for a night, Dex doesn’t call the one person who would never turn her down. The only explanation for that is that she knows, deep down, that he means more to her than anyone in her life, other than her brother.
Dex and Grey are fiercely loyal to each other, and show their vulnerable bellies only to each other. That means that when Dex stumbles into the bar really late to pick up Ansel, Grey is there for her—but not without a suggestion to talk to someone about her PTSD. And toward the end of Season 1, when Dex has torn up her house and doesn’t want anyone to see it, Grey can tell there’s something wrong and invites himself in anyway.
When they do get together again, it’ll be about way more than a FWB situation. They can’t go backward and that scares them, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
#5: They celebrate their friendship anniversary with an annual detox like a coupla old marrieds.
Dex doesn’t do serious. In fact, she avoids it like the plague. Yet she allows Grey to talk her into an annual detox and happily toasts to their friendiversary. How curious! It’s almost like they’re more committed to each other than to any of their other love interests and plan to keep it that way.
#6: Dex detests Grey’s girlfriend Liz on sight.
What more is there to say about that? Friends don’t guilt friends for dating and they certainly don’t treat them abominably at their annual Friendsgiving. Of course, Dex is proven correct about Liz, which becomes abundantly clear after the woman tries to turn the longtime friends against each other, but that’s beside the point.
#7: When Dex goes home, it’s to Grey’s bar.
Even when she’s furious with Grey, you’ll still find her flipping through a magazine on a bar stool at the Bad Alibi rather than sulking in her own house like a normal person. That’s telling. Moreover, when Grey requests that she run his bar while he’s “visiting a sick relative,” Dex does this for him with minimal complaining. He loves the bar, and she loves him (plus, sure, the free drinks).
#8: They had that UST-laden “just one bed” moment!!!!
Straight outta fanfic, that scene, right down to a nonplussed Grey noting, out loud: “There’s only one bed.” And to think, that’s only the beginning! They also raid the minibar and turn on the TV to see some anatomically questionable porn playing out. What really gets me, though, is the awkwardness emanating from them as they try to sleep side-by-side, each clearly thinking about how tempted they were to stress-test the bed springs of their seedy motel room. I need ALL the missing-scene fic, please and thanks.
#9: Tookie ships it.
Tookie is a national treasure always, but especially when he’s giving his friends serious side-eye for how conspicuously they clam up at his innocuous question about how they fared on the drive back from L.A. Still thinking about their night in bed together? Them? Naaaahhhh.
Sensing he’s onto something good, Tookie doesn’t let the topic of Dex/Grey drop. In fact, he pretty much declares himself captain of the ship, dropping a comment about Grey’s “terrible taste in women, except Dex, of course, though he messed that up too” and pressing for more info while the two are chaperoning Ansel’s first date. His persistence pays off when he gets the bar owner to confess a few juicy facts: 1) He didn’t “blow things” with Dex because they mutually decided “not to go there,” 2) Grey hasn’t ruled out the idea that they “might happen someday,” and 3) He recognizes “Dex is hung up on a ghost and [he] can’t take that on, and [he’s] all over the place.”
Now let’s all say, “Thank you, Tookie!”
#10: Dex is ~more than a friend~ to Grey.
In the season 1 finale, Grey doesn’t even blink when Tookie tells him that Dex just called and is heading over. “Dex is always on her way over,” he says, exasperated. Later on, he goes on to state that she’s “more than a friend; she’s family.” Since we know he’s still hella attracted to her, we can safely assume he means more like a wife than a sister.
Fact: The only thing holding Grey back (and this is CANON!) is the knowledge that he’s not what Dex needs…for now. Eventually, guys, they’re gonna get on the same page at the same time. It’s inevitable.
P.S. For some reason I can’t fathom, this fandom is tiny. There aren’t a ton of fanworks out there to recommend yet. Perhaps that fact explains why I’ve watched this one vid an untold number of times already. Let’s go with that.
If you liked this post, can I interest you in the 7 Reasons to Ship C.B. Strike’s Cormoran/Robin?