Gravity Falls Review: "Society of the Blind Eye" (Season 2, Episode 7)

You see? Nobody suspect the quirk.

Airdate: October 27, 2014

Synopsis: After realigning any and all evidence found, Dipper deduces that Old Man McGucket might have wrote the journals about the mysteries in Gravity Falls. After meeting up with the man, McGucket claims amnesia before 1982. Deducing that his mind was wiped, the gang wind up in the innards of the Gravity Falls Museum of History, where they find a secret society dedicated to wiping the memories of the townsfolk.

Review (MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD! PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK): I could gush endlessly about this episode, to the point where the review would be just me squeeing for about a novella’s worth of words. Instead, I will just plow through the plot basics quickly, and review the more in-depth afterwards.

The plot? Fantastic. Fantastic buildup, fantastic twist, fantastic climax… fantastic all around.
OK, you want more? I’ll give you more.
The town of Gravity Falls, before this episode, relied on the guess that very few were exposed to the madness of the town, except on the rare occasion (Gideon’s fall from grace, the zombie apocalypse, etc). Even on those rare occasions, the town never really seemed to be fazed in the long-term- they went back to normal within days.
This episode brings a darker look into the madness of the town- the society interrogates the townspeople, and wipes their minds. Thus, they continue on their normal lives, until they encounter the next incident… and so on… and so forth. This town almost makes Twin Peaks, WA look like Pawnee, IN!

The mind eraser is pretty much power that could be uncontrollable. As I mention below, the use by the society may be well-intentioned, or it might be a coverup. It’s ambiguous enough to send chills. However, what if a less ambiguous character got ahold of that device? The hell that would occur in case the memories were erased.

Yet, behind that plot, lies character after character that is suddenly injected with at least an ounce of pathos.

Obviously, when discussing this episode and the tragedy of Gravity Falls, we must bring up Old Man McGucket. Once viewed by fandom as a nutter who just happened to have good technological skills, this episode unearths the man behind the madness. In lieu of him being a local kook, he was once a man of great intellect, a man in his prime. It was the madness brought on by the disasters in Gravity Falls that caused him to effectively become insane. He became addicted to the device he used to wipe his memory with, driving him into his current state of madness.

The leader of the Society of the Blind Eye, Blind Ivan, is as tragic a villain as this show has ever had. Believing that he’s doing a service to the townspeople by wiping their memories of the supernatural, he is instead leading a major coverup of the madness of the town. Are his motives genuine? Is he simply using that as a masquerade in order to justify his mass mind-erase, and really has more sinister motives? Being played by Peter Serafinowicz really helps.

Pathos is also extended to our main protagonists- namely, Dipper, Mabel, and Wendy.

  • Mabel was a character that was already pure id- but she seems to be happy-go-lucky and resilient. The impact of her failures has taken a toll on her: the engagement of Mermando, probably her most successful romance, has her questioning her summer-end goal- the epic summer romance. That’s just one disaster that has occurred in the past month for her- apparently, getting kidnapped, flung across time, and having her relationship with her brother threatened several times hasn’t proven too well for her. The confession of “loving some of her stuffed animals more than others” is merely a hint at the status of her mind- she can’t merely be the id to everything.
  • Wendy’s character at the start of the show was something of an anti-Dipper- while Dipper was high strung, a bit under-masculine, and overtly inquisitive, Wendy is much more laid back, and is shown to be a lazy slob. (Insert Red Dwarf jokes here.) We’ve seen that laid-back character slowly evolve into one who is more confrontational- first with her brutal rant to Dipper and Robbie in “Boyz Crazy”, then one who’s quick to investigate in “Into the Bunker”, and in this episode, with that stupid rap song. It’s here that we learn that her family, who practically define machismo, has stressed her out so much, she has forced herself to adopt this “mellow” masquerade. 
  • When we first met Dipper, he was something of a “precocious” kid- wise beyond their years. As time went on, we unearthed more and more of his negative qualities- his arrogance, his ego, his cynicism. At his worst, he could give Arnold Rimmer a run for his money… except once he realized the impact of the worst of his actions, he actually tried to right the wrong. His admission that he “uses large words incorrectly” is yet another example of his ego- he tries to downplay the fact that his arrogance has cost him dearly, yet recognizes deep down that he has made maneuvers that have almost killed him and his sister.
Hell, I think I’ve barely scratched the surface. The characters within the society are characters that have their own failings, their own holdbacks. Yet they go on as normal. Is this just one large circle of mind-erasure? Possibly.

On a small note, Robbie actually wound up on the receiving end of a mind-wipe. Here’s the dialogue from that scene:

Robbie: “I was attacked by this magic kung-fu guy that was throwing, like, balls of fire at me. I kicked his butt, though!”

Society of the Blindeye: “Robbie, speak honestly!”

Robbie: “I was saved by a 12-year old.”

You see, Robbie has been a cynical, arrogant jerkass who’s activities ranged from “insensitive” to “borderline illegal”. The fight in “Fight Fighters” was spurred by his and Dipper’s relationships with Wendy. Seeing Dipper save him managed to wreck his ego, his sense of machismo. Thus, in order to try and prove his self worth to Wendy, he tries to lie about his feats, when in reality, he lacks the honour that Dipper has. Robbie is truly the most pathetic character in the show- a character that will do anything to appease his own ego.

The art is fantastic. The horror is fantastic. The comedy is fantastic. The tragedy is fantastic. The ending is fantastic, what with deconstructing the status quo…

This episode is Gravity Falls at it’s finest. Sorry, “Boyz Crazy”… but I think I have a new favourite episode. Don’t get me wrong- “Boyz Crazy” is still among the cream of the crop. This? This is pure platinum, wrapped in a 22-minute episode.

Tidbits:

  • The end of this episode features the transportation of a cup and a notepad through a portal. For those who don’t know, there’s a TV show out there called Rick and Morty, which I consider another one of my favourites. (Warning: show not recommended for kids.) In the episode “Close Rick-counters of the Rick Kind”, a mug and a notepad pop out of the portal. Dan Harmon, Justin Roiland, and Alex Hirsch are all geniuses.
  • “Straight Blanchin” might be the most brilliant send up to he “summer song” ever. A song about debauchery and attempts seduction? “Blurred Lines”. Utter glam? “Fancy”. Oh, and to take this further, Soos follows “Straight Blanchin” and eats his own trousers.
  • The scene where the crew wind up in the hall of memories is very similar to the Futurama episode “How Hermes Requisitioned His Groove Back”. Again, watch that show. You won’t regret it.
Favorite Scene: If forced to pick… I would have to say any and all of the “pathos” scenes, with the possible exception of…
Least Favorite Scene: Again, if forced to pick, it would be the reveal that Soos called Mabel “Maple” for a good chunk of the summer. Last I checked, that never happened. Still, I’m letting it slide. This episode is pure brilliance.
Score: 10. “Boyz Crazy”, you had a fantastic run. But all great rules must come to an end. This is just too brilliant of an episode.
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Red Dwarf Review: Series X, Episode 4: "Entangled"

Airdate: 25 October, 2012

SYMBOLISM!

Synopsis: Kryten and Cat wind up in sync due to an experiment with the quantum rod. The two are full of coincidence, say the same thing at the same time, etc. Lister, meanwhile, winds up on the wrong end of a poker game against Biologically Engineered Genetic Gobblers, losing both Starbug and Rimmer. Making matters worse? A bomb is attached to Lister’s pelvis. If he doesn’t turn over Rimmer within 24 hours, or tries to tamper with the bomb, he gets blown to bits… thus ending Rimmer’s life, as Lister’s lack of existence terminates Rimmer’s runtime. (We can also presume that the bomb could do decent damage to the ship, putting the lives of Kryten and Cat in jeopardy.)

With little hope, Lister has to go down and renegotiate a poker game. However, the Cat mentions that Lister has a tendency to choke. Thus, the BEGG’s choke to death. Literally. They eat power cords and choke on them. Kryten and Cat, thankfully, are able to use their newfound power to find the maker of the ship, a chimp who was once a forgetful scientist named Professor Edgington (Sydney Stevenson).

Review: It’s often said that “Pete” and “Back in the Red” are the worst ever Red Dwarf episodes. One of the (many) complaints against the episodes is that they had too much material for the originally planned timeslot (one for “Pete” and two for “Back in the Red”), so they were extended to an extra episode. Now, though, this gave them two much time, so they had to add tons of filler. Thus, we got the claymation crew, a wretched Kryten story, and tons and tons and tons of Rimmer and Lister walking into the damn captain’s office.

This episode shows that singular episodes with tons of material, while a bit rushed, can actually work… that is, if you pump in tons and tons of comedy, as well as a very quirky theme. Continue reading

Gravity Falls Review: "Little Gift Shop of Horrors" (Season 2, Episode 6)


Airdate: 4 October, 2014

Well, another year, another trilogy! This time, a tourist gets trapped in the clutches of Grunkle Stan and his salesman tactics. Trying to convince him to buy something at the shack, he tells three tales concerning the items he finds.

Note Ahead of Time: For the purposes of this review, I am considering everything encompassing this episode not even remotely close to canon. However, I will analyze the segments, first on their own merits, and how they fit into the overall scheme of the episode.
Continue reading

Red Dwarf Review: Series X, Episode 3: "Lemons"

Airdate: 18 October, 2012

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“Oh, Jesus!” “Yes?”

Synopsis: The crew of Red Dwarf manage to acquire a Swedish rejuvenation shower. Being the Red Dwarf crew, they assemble it… haphazardly, to say the least. End result? They wind up in Britain in the year 23AD. The remote that can transport them back? Lister tossed the battery, thinking it was used up. Rimmer suggests making a potato battery to power the remote.

Kryten: Britain in 23AD, sir, doesn’t have any potatoes and won’t get them until the 16th century.

Rimmer’s backup plan- lemons.

Kryten: Britain in 23AD, sir, doesn’t have any lemons, either. They won’t get those until the 14th century.

Cat: He’s getting closer!

The nearest lemon source is India… 4000 miles away. At a local lemon market, they manage to procure lemons. Whilst talking about how primitive 23AD is, they manage to attract the attention of a certain fellow. He calls himself Jesus.

Review: No matter what your thoughts on Christianity (or organized religion) might be, it’s pretty much a fact that The Bible is the most quoted and referenced book/anthology in the history of modern media. It’s influence extended beyond typical media, and has created numerous tropes- forbidden fruit, the Judas archetype, the house divided, etc. Name a trope, it probably originated in The Bible.

Red Dwarf has routinely referenced the book, both via jokes and as plots. Rimmer’s middle name? Judas. The religion of Mr. Rimmer? Based on a misprint in 1 Cor 13. “The Last Day”? Total send up to the idea of puritanism and the afterlife. Red Dwarf, when dealing with religion, leans heavily to the “atheist” side of the spectrum- bashing organized religion as a means of controlling the masses, as seen in “The Last Day”. (Robert Llewellyn is a self-described atheist.) The show also seemed to encourage people, however, to not use their “one life” and completely waste it- “The Inquisitor” was proof of this, with the titular character erasing those whose lives were spent totally slobbing around, unlike Lister.

Most of the brutal critiques of religion were done in the vein of “silicon heaven”- the afterlife for robots.  So, how could Red Dwarf take on the figurehead of arguably the largest religious belief in the West?

Amazingly, he’s treated pretty well, and yet they were still able to write a damn good script surrounding the character. Continue reading

Red Dwarf Review: Series X, Episode 2: "Fathers and Suns"

Airdate: 11 October, 2012

 

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AHHH!!! DATA DOCTOR FLASHBACKS! GET EM OFF! GET EM OFF!

Synopsis: Every year, Lister sends a Fathers Day card to himself, then proceeds to get wasted so that, when he sees the card on Fathers Day, he has no recollection on what he put in it. With Rimmer telling Lister that he’s a pathetic father, and with the help of the Medi-Bot, Lister decides to give himself tough love. Meanwhile, Rimmer and Kryten install a new computer, Pree. Compared to Holly, Pree has extreme intelligence, yet with a twist: her mission is entirely tied to the crew, such as repair standards and final destinations. This proves problematic when, in Lister’s act of tough love to himself, he resigns his position on the ship.

 

Oh, and Kryten is also wondering… is a table game that he played with various vending machines the night before offensive?

Review: This was a bit of a strange episode to organize my thoughts about. While the episode had a plot (two, even) that could’ve fit solidly in the first two series, the end result felt a bit more awkward than it should have been. Continue reading

Red Dwarf Review: Series X, Episode 1: "Trojan"

Airdate: 8 October, 2012

Synopsis: The scouters aboard Red Dwarf pick up a derelict ship, the Trojan. Despite the derelict being unworthy of flight, this ship fascinates the crew, who are still stuck on a ship “slower than the speed of dark”. After Rimmer fiddles around with a quantum rod, the Trojan comes in close contact with the Columbus III. The hologram on that ship is Howard Rimmer. Yes. Rimmer’s brother. Already dejected from failing the Astro-Navs again, Rimmer’s resentment fills up his hard drive, causing him to suffer a crash. After being cleared of some of the “malware”, he realizes he has two options- fess up to his failures, or lie to his brother.

No prizes for guessing what he chooses.

Review (SPOILER-ISH): One of the central tenants of Rimmer’s character has always been the conflict between the guy and his family. It’s strongly implied that, as much as he uses them as a crutch for his aloof and insensitive behavior, that his strained relationship really did mess his psyche up. His father physically abused him, mentally abused him, his brothers tortured him beyond typical “brotherly” fights, and his mother was aloof to the whole situation, sleeping around to avoid the situation. Bringing Rimmer’s supposedly more successful brother to the center of an episode- the premiere of the first “regular” Red Dwarf episode in 13 years, mind you- was, in hindsight, a bit of a daring maneuver. Does it work?

Mostly. Continue reading

Red Dwarf X Preview

No matter what the critical response to Red Dwarf: Back to Earth was, the ratings were deemed to be extraordinary. Gaining the highest ever ratings for the Dave network, speculation was rampant and immediate concerning a tenth series. The first word came out in June 2010, when the actors stated that more Red Dwarf would be made. However, nothing was confirmed then. It wasn’t until April 2011 when UKTV finally confirmed that Red Dwarf would be back for a full series.

The reaction was cautiously optimistic. TV series have been revived before due to strong interest. Doctor Who was brought back in March 2005, Family Guy was brought back two months later, Futurama was revived twice, etc. However, the quality of these revivals has been debated time and time again. While Doctor Who came back to rave reviews for it’s more character-focused plots, Family Guy and (to a lesser extent) Futurama got a more lukewarm reaction, accused of lacking the magic the original seasons had, or going in a more crass direction. On top of that, the past three installments of Red Dwarf have been blasted as being far weaker compared to the original six series. (You saw me getting more frustrated with the show as we ended the eighth series!)

So, would Red Dwarf get the same critique as other shows? Or would it be a return to form?

Well, before we dive in, let’s just see how the production went. This will be quick, because the fact of the matter is that it all depended on the budget… which was, yet again, barely there. Doug Naylor had to fight just to get a studio audience. Once the sets were dismantled, any extra scene had to be shot in front of a green screen- any episode containing these were aired to a studio audience, not taped like the other episodes.

However, this series did go “back to basics”. The Red Dwarf models were brought back (thank smeg), the sets gained vibrant colors again, Howard Goodall was brought back to do the music, Howard Burden was back to do the costumes… it really felt like the show was being returned to the “tried and true”. Granted, budget limitations constrained the episodes. Ambitious projects such as “Back to Reality”, “Gunmen of the Apocalypse”, and “Dimension Jump”? Not done this time around. This was more like Series II- back to basics.

So, what was the end result? Was the show back to form? Or was it proof that Red Dwarf should’ve ended with Rimmer blowing the Time Drive out of the sky?

Well, here’s the episodes!

  • Trojan: Rimmer gets an SOS call from a ship… where his brother is the ship’s hologram. He realizes that he needs to beat his brother at his own game, and pass the astro-nav exam… the one that he failed several times.
  • Fathers and Suns: Lister decides to help himself on Fathers Day, by trying to be a better father to himself. Makes sense. Oh, and Rimmer installs a new computer, Pree.
  • Lemons: After a time-travel incident involving flat-pack furniture, the gang are sent back to 23AD England. They have to travel to India to get some potatoes to get a battery to go back to Red Dwarf.
  • Entangled: A game of poker goes deadly when Lister loses Rimmer. He is given 24 hours to turn over Rimmer, or have a bomb that’s attached to his pelvis blown up. Oh, and Kryten and Cat become quantum entangled.
  • Dear Dave: Lister gets in a love triangle with an old girlfriend and two snack dispensers.
  • The Beginning: Simulants finally begin playing war games with the Dwarfers. This seems like the end for the gang… even Rimmer, who never accomplished any of his goals.

Gravity Falls Review: "Soos and the Real Girl" (Season 2, Episode 5)

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Airdate: September 22nd, 2014

Synopsis: When Soos gets an invitation to his cousin’s engagement party, he realizes (with help from his grandmother) that he needs to find a date. After initial attempts prove fruitless, he winds up buying a Japanese dating simulator (against the game store’s warnings). Said simulator involves the player interacting with Giffany, a “schoolgirl” at “School University”. However, Giffany is more than just a character in the game- through the magic of electricity, she becomes possessive of Soos, especially once Soos meets a real woman, the quirky Melody. Once Soos decides to send the disc back to the game store, Giffany snaps, realizing that she must destroy Melody and trap Soos.

Meanwhile, in yet another quest for money, Stan realizes that he needs to steal an animatronic from Hoo-Haw’s Jamboree Pizza Time to replace his old animatronic. It’s so stupid, not even Wendy will dignify his insanity.

Review (SPOILERS): After a string of generally awesome episodes, Gravity Falls took something of a retreat back into merely “great” territory. Strangely, the past four episodes were more focused on the fantasy and mystery elements in the town, while this episode seemed to embrace the sci-fi wing of speculative fiction. Continue reading