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

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.

This episode is something of a send-up of both dating sims, primarily popular over in the east, while also providing something of a light commentary on abusive relationships. Yes. Gravity Falls had the chutzpa to take on an abusive relationship.

And I thank them for it!

You see, Giffany, if taken as a sentient humanoid and not as a pre-programmed psycho, displays some fairly disturbing traits of a typical abusive partner. Sure, there’s the honeymoon period at the beginning, when Giffany and Soos have an idyllic relationship. Once other people (12-year olds, mind you) enter the picture, though… that’s when Giffany begins stalking Soos, showing her true colors (she killed her developers), manipulating whatever she can to try and eliminate Mel, tries to steal Soos’s brain… yeah. What’s even more chilling is her speech at the end:

Real girls are unpredictable. They judge you. You really think Melody is going to take you back after this awful date?

Sure, that line takes it’s cues from the science-fiction aspect of this episode. Still, analysis of abusive relationships by psychologists show a tendency for the abuser to try and convince the victim that nobody will reciprocate love the way they “will”.

If this episode is a commentary on abusive relationships (and not just analyzed as such by some leftist geek), then I have to give three shout-outs.

  • One, this episode took on the tragically under-reported scenarios of abuse of men by their female partners… even if this particular partner was a computer simulation. Awesome job, writers.
  • Two, the writers didn’t hit us over the head with the commentary (instead weaving it into a quirky sci-fi plot).
  • Three, props to DisneyXD, for putting this episode out at the perfect time. For those unaware, this episode aired just two weeks after a video surfaced of American Football player Ray Rice striking his fiancee in an elevator. Said incident led to calls for an investigation into domestic abuse in the NFL, and led to a national debate on abusive relationships (and, to an extent, misogyny).

Given Gravity Falls’s good track record with character, it was no surprise just how awesome this episode is. First off, it’s our first real “Soos” episode. As underused as Wendy has been, there have been several episodes dedicated to her character. Not so much with Soos- he’s largely been the show’s center for “comic relief”. This episode expands on his character; he has traits of the “basement dweller”- he lives with a close family member and enjoys things that are relatively childish, as well as having something of a social awkwardness due to his immaturity. However, he’s also keen enough to notice certain tragedies involving Giffany. Genre savvy? Hell, yes.

For the short screen time she got, Melody is pretty well rounded. With little exposure to the supernatural elements of the town, she’s able to hold her own, at least temporarily. She’s barely even phased by the insanity. Her own quirky behavior, which would initially point to her being simply a female version of Soos, is rounded out by a sense of maturity (“Soos, these are children!”). However, it seems like they just put her in simply to provide a contrast between her and Giffany. Maybe they could’ve developed her a bit more if they cut out the subplot. Still, for the time she got, she got some pretty damn good development.

Strangely, despite her abusive-esque behavior, there is something of an ambiguity to Giffany. Did the programmers design her to be obsessive, and they just went way too far? Or is she a sentiment being, a “virus” that’s really mad? Both options work and the character is freaky either way.

Unlike others, I wasn’t too huge a fan of the subplot. It seemed like it was just treading old ground- Stan needs a new animatronic, wants money, commits theft, and after getting saved by his old animatronic, goes on holiday with the thing. Eh, at least the end montage is funny. That, and every one of Wendy’s lines. I really hope Disney is cutting Linda Cardellini massive cheques for her performance.

Now, you might be wondering… why is this review out so late? Totally my fault. First off, I wanted to get out the Red Dwarf review first. Second off, the night I first watched the episode, I got the wrong airtime- I thought the episode was airing at 9, rather than 8:30. I wound up watching the episode again during the DisneyXD omnibus on Disney Channel, to formulate my thoughts on the episode. So, what do I think?

It was pretty damn good. Not “awesome”, like the past few episodes, but good.

Tidbits

  • The actress who plays Giffany is Jessica DiCicco, who is well known for her portrayal of Flame Princess in Adventure Time. I’ll say this right off the bat- I love Adventure Time. Shame I don’t watch it more often.
  • Melody, meanwhile, is played by Jillian Bell… never heard of her. Apparently, she’s some comedian, with a role on a Comedy Central program called Workaholics.
  • “Soos’s life is my soap opera.” So, I take it Soos’s grandmother is going to be a spiritual version of the audience?
  • OK. Uh, oh yes! One, uh minor note here… Neil DeGrasse Tyson will be on Monday’s Gravity Falls as Waddles.
Favorite Scene: I’ll just bring up that, once Giffany takes over the animatronics, the episode gets more and more awesome.
Least Favorite Scene: Did we really need a subplot? We could’ve fleshed out Melody and Giffany a bit more, eh?
Score: 8.5.
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