Gravity Falls Review: Season 2, Episode 4: "Sock Opera"

“WE HAVE A TITLE!”- Joel and the Bots, MST3K (“I Accuse My Parents”)

Airdate: September 8, 2014

Synopsis: Mabel’s “boyfriend of the week” is a puppet snob. Getting trapped in a lie, she needs to produce a decent puppet show. This interferes with Dipper’s goal to secure the password to the laptop they found a couple of episodes back. Running out of options and time, he manages to come across a certain isosceles monster, who is willing to make a deal… seemingly.

Review: While Gravity Falls normally has awesome character development, a sizable chunk of it has been centered on Dipper and Stan. Mabel seems to have been put behind as far as character development goes. This episode goes far in trying to flesh her out, and in doing so, continues a streak of fantastic episodes.

Mabel is really the most traditionally “romantic” of the Gravity Falls characters. Her emotions coincide with that of the “Id” in Freudian theory: she pines for romance, she’s campy, she’s over the top, and tries to have a “fun” personality, living life to the fullest. However, this is balanced out by negative side-effects to this: she can have a streak of insensitivity, her emotions distract her on a whim, and she remains largely callous to Dipper. Most of this is based on her personality being dominated by her emotions, yet it still presents obstacles to the development of the show’s plot… necessary obstacles, but still.

This episode largely serves as a deconstruction of the “id” of Mabel, much in the same vein that “Boyz Crazy” did. Her general dismissal of Dipper’s ideas is cranked up to a self-centered viewpoint: once Gabe appears, everything she does is in search of the “boy of the week”. (Even Captain Kirk had less love interests than Mabel!)

Her puppet show is a window into her own psyche (or at least her immature writing talent)- the rampant “center of the universe” behavior, the cheesy songs, the stereotypical fanfiction romance plot. Now, what is the impetus of all this? I mentioned in my review of “The Golf War” a possible lack of self-confidence in Mabel that she buries under campiness.

The damage this does almost kills her brother: the shock when she realizes just how self-absorbed she was, just to make out with a nutter, is intense- it offsets anything that she wanted to do, for the purpose of saving her brother.

Of course, Mabel is not the only person whose vices are exaggerated for the sake of character development. In his quest to find the writer of the journal, Dipper literally does severe damage to his body. I’m serious: by the day of Mabel’s concert, he’s exhausted, and not in the right frame of mind. His desperation exaggerated by his exhaustion, he resorts to extreme measures.

And on the note of desperation, Bill Cipher comes back again. Waste of time? Hell. No.

Cipher, in fact, comes back with such vigor in his character that it almost blows “Dreamscaperers” out of the water. While that episode presented himself as morally ambiguous, bending to the will of whoever summoned him, this episode took him in a more villainous path. He breaks all agreements made between him and Dipper, if only to get the journal.

But why?

Well, he was summoned by Gideon to get the journal, right? Even though Gideon seemed to dismiss him, I think (and this is my own fan theory here) there’s a code to undo the effects- they don’t wear off naturally. He still needs to get the journal- whether for himself or for others.

However, he also has a lack of knowledge of humanity. Apparently, he cites that Dipper’s body is better than his last, noting two working eyes, for one. While this is a shout out to his triangular form, it becomes apparent that he abuses the body he’s given. Thus, one has to wonder if he once had a human form and trashed his body. Is the isosceles monster really that smart? Does he fall victim to human impulse? These are legitimate questions!

Now, what about Gabe? It would appear that he is the prototypical “love interest of the week”- about as shallow as a kiddie pool. However, a closer look at this character reveals that, much like Dipper, Mabel, and Bill, he falls victim to an obsession- he has very strict standards for puppeteering, and is so in love with his profession, he makes out with his puppets! Nutter.

I won’t say this episode’s perfect, or even worthy of a 9. For one, I feel that they could’ve waited a bit more before bringing back Bill. Also, there are some minor plot holes that just seemed to bug me. Why does Mabel possess a pop-up book? How the hell was Mabel able to get a full-blown theater for her puppet show? How was she able to get consumer-grade fireworks for her performance, especially those that are a bit “nutty”? (Eh, Stan must’ve gotten them.) Why am I whining about this stuff?

Again, if the only flaws about this episode come from my own neurotic nitpicking, you have a quality episode.

Tidbits:

  • I need to mention again- the animation and soundtrack in this episode is fantastic.
  • This is the first episode written by Shion Takeuchi. Great intro episode, ma’am.
  • The scene with the screaming head… damn, that’s creepy. Did Alex Hirsch bribe the censors at the mouse?
  • I’ve noticed that Joe Pitt’s episodes tended to focus on the development of the relationships between the characters. This episode is no exception. Sadly, it appears that Pitt resigned from the Gravity Falls staff last year. Thanks for the awesome episodes, Mr. Pitt.
  • The end credits with the puppets… simply hysterical.
  • One last note: sorry for the long hiatus. School started last week, and it’s been eating a bit into my time. I’m going to try and put out one review a week, rotating between GF and The Simpsons. No guarantees, though.

Favorite Scene: Damn, it’s hard to pick. I’m just going to say that every single moment with Bill in Dipper’s body is hysterically creepy.

Least Favorite Scene: Again, hard to pick. Why does Mabel have a pop-up book, though?

Score: 8.75

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