Airdate: April 19th, 2013.
Synopsis (SPOILERS AHEAD: PROCEED AT YOUR OWN CAUTION): Mabel, Candy, and Grenda try to land tickets to a concert by their favorite “decade-behind” boy band, Several Timez. However, tickets quickly sell out. They decide to break into the back of the concert, where they realize that the boy band is all genetically engineered. Several Timez (whose leader is played by N-Sync star Lance Bass) are broken out and hidden inside the Mystery Shack. Initially thrilled by having their own boy band, Candy and Grenda quickly realize that Mabel will keep them as slaves, no matter what the cost. Her insanity almost overtakes her, before she comes to her senses about the fact that she’s, you know, breaking the 13th amendment, and decides to let them go.
As of this writing, this is my all-time favorite Gravity Falls episode. Ever. I’m serious. I don’t care if I’m reinforcing a trope. This is one hell of an episode!
The main reason why this episode is fantastic is the same as why the previous episode worked: the well-rounded characters. This episode shows a darker side to both of our main protagonists, delving in on their tragic flaws. In Mabel’s case, it’s obsession. Her passion for life turns her into an insane dictator to a bunch of genetically engineered boy band members. Showing the “strange” Candy and Grenda presented as the rational ones compared to a mentally unstable Mabel is one of the great areas of the show: the dynamic allows for each character to be a foil to each other. She is only brought back to her senses by the fact that these people are helpless. They only know two areas: the stage and the Shack. It is this that shows that Mabel has a heart of platinum; she can salvage herself, even after her lowest moments.
For Dipper, it is a combo of both lust and pride. He feels so ready to maneuver in on Wendy so soon after she dumped a gigantic liar, that when he is rejected by Wendy in a manner that is gut-wrenching and a SERIOUS wake-up call. His lust drove his sensitivity, one of those things that made him “cool” to Wendy to begin with (the dude sacrificed his own self-respect to save a bunch of teenagers) out the window, and possibly wrecked whatever chances he had of getting Wendy to notice him as a romantic interest.
What also sets this episode apart is, if you look deep enough, this episode has a stunningly creepy underbelly behind the boy band and the rom-com plots. Sure, at first glance, this episode works as a comedic romp (as mentioned below, it still works). But take a closer look at the Several Timez plot. Imagine being genetically engineered to be a pop star, with no other knowledge of the outside world. You are forced to follow the rules of whoever leads you, be it an abusive manager or an obsessive tween. You slave over them. When you are let free, you can not even function. Puts chills down your spine, right? Who knows what that manager could’ve done.
To add more petrol to the fire, there’s the B-Plot. The climax takes place at the top of your typical lookout point. Not going to mince words here; if the cliches of the “lookout point” are true, Robbie was going to sleep with Wendy at lookout point. (Yes, it’s a kids show, but this show has slipped in a good amount of innuendo in the past, so this is nothing). At the end of the episode, Robbie denies knowing about the backmasking. If true, this just means that he is a big fat moron. However, beforehand, he says the following, which I consider the smoking gun.
“Later, dorks! Catch ya on the rewind! Ha! Made that up.”
This COULD have been just a stupid joke, interpreted too literally (and luckily) by a lustful pre-teen. However, with the reveal at the end, and Robbie lying about producing the record in the first place, this could also indicate that Robbie knew about the backmasking. That, plus the fact that they were on the lookout point, and with implications that Robbie was going to finally sleep with Wendy… again, not going to mince words here. There are VERY strong rape-ish undertones here. For those who don’t know, hypnotizing somebody to sleep with you is a felony, punishable in Oregon by a 20-year jail sentence. An attempt at this is at least 5 years in the state pen. That’s far more horrifying than a lot of stuff in this show. Robbie is officially the least likable character in the show. Anybody that would hypnotize their significant other, just to sleep with them, should be locked up for life. Add to that that he was neglecting Wendy in the first place, and you hope that he has an insane fate in season 2.
Even if he DIDN’T want to hypnotize Wendy into sleeping with him, and/or had no knowledge of backmasking, this just raises further questions into who produced the record, who the record was targeted to, etc. Was Robbie connected and trying to eliminate Wendy via hypnosis? Who was behind this in the first place? God knows how many questions this brings up.
Maybe I’m looking far too deep into this plot, though.
Anyway, this episode brings Grunkle Stan and Wendy quite a lot of character development. The bond between Stan and Mabel was built on in previous episodes, so it’s time that Stan and Dipper get some time together. We see his prior relationship with Carla, which might have had an impact on his current days. It would not be surprising if he launched the Shack just to start anew. The end really shows Stan at his nicest, and adds to the potential of future bonding exercises between the two (something that began budding in “Carpet Diem”). And Wendy… that rant at the end is one of the most powerful scenes in the show. It really elevates this episode into something that would not be out of place in a Shakespeare tragedy… except with less death. The normally even-tempered Wendy finally falls over the edge, pushed too far by another fallen relationship and an attempt to be scored on the rebound by a 12-year old. The emotion in the animation and the acting seals the deal. Cardellini deserved the cheque she got for this episode.
Yet, within this dramatic episode, we have to take a look at the selling point of this show. That is, of course, the comedy. And boy, is it fantastic. Examples?
- Braid Train!
- “Several Timez? That 90’s themed boy band?”
- Upon failing to get tickets, Candy just falls over. “I welcome you, death!”
- “What’s in that bag?” “Uhh, money! Money we stole!” “We are criminals! We will cut you!”
- Anything involving Stan. Especially: “Road safety laws, prepare to be ignored!”
- Don’t forget his advice to a (rightfully) broken Robbie. “If it makes you feel any better, the apocalypse is coming. Bury your gold! You do have gold, right?”
- The concert itself. Worth noting that Ariel Hirsch plays one of the pre-teens fighting at the concert.
That’s just the start.
Overall, one of the more complex episodes of the show, aided by fantastic performances by every actor from A to Z, brilliant character and plot development, excellent humor and horror… this is just fantastic. This is the best episode of the series, and one of the best television episodes of the year. Matt Chapman, Alex Hirsch… bravo.