Gravity Falls Review: "The Love God" (Season 2, Episode 9)

 

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Romance – the sweetest and the cruelest of all emotions.

 

Airdate: November 26, 2014.

Synopsis: Dipper, Mabel, Wendy, and the rest of the teens find Robbie in a graveyard, mourning his love life (or lack thereof). Imagining herself as a matchmaker, Mabel decides to examine the psyche of Robbie and get him into a love life. Her attempts to match Robbie up with mobilephile Tambry seem to fail, until she manages to procure (read: steal) a potion from a rocker who claims to be a Love God (voiced by John DiMaggio). The two fall in love, but their romance causes a row within the circle of teenagers.

Review (SPOILERS AHOY): Let’s cut to the chase – this episode is among the weakest in the short history of this show, mainly because of the ending. But, let’s save why for a bit later on.

This is the first episode written by Simpsons showrunner Josh Weinstein. He, alongside Bill Oakley, ran the last two “classic” seasons of The Simpsons, with episodes taking on a somewhat more “domestic” role, exploring the emotions of the characters and how they interact in the unit of Springfield. This is compared to the episodes run by David Mirkin previously, which tended to use the characters to place themselves in wacky situations that showed the problems of society, and Mike Scully thereafter, which tended more towards campy plots with characters (like Homer, Bart, Homer, Lisa, and Homer) inserted because celebrities are cool. This episode is indicative of Weinstein’s run – it’s by far the most “down to earth” episode this season, showing an exploration of the characters within the town.

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Gravity Falls Review: "Blendin’s Game" (Season 2, Episode 8)

Airdate: November 10th, 2014

Back and louder than ever! (Image shamelessly taken from Gravity Falls Wiki)

Synopsis: In the year 207012, escaped convict Blendin Blandin manages to temporarily evade remanding into custody by declaring GLOBNAR!!!! on the people he argues ruined his life- Dipper and Mabel Pines, in the year 2012. There, Dipper and Mabel try to get to the centre of Soos’s birthday blues. Winding up back with the Time Tape Machine (which is like Red Dwarf‘s Time Drive), the two morons wind up in the year 2002, where they examine a typical birthday for Soos… while being chased by Blendin and fellow guards to partake in GLOBNAR!!!!!!!

GLOBNAR!!!!, for those wondering, is basically The Hunger Games meets Laser Tag meets koon-ut-kal-if-fee. Winner gets to determine loser’s fate, and gets a wish.

Review (SPOILERS AHEAD!): Last time we met Blendin Blandin, we saw him in “The Time Travelers Pig”. At that point, I considered “Time Travellers Pig” my least favorite episode of Gravity Falls, due to the many slips in logic prevalent. To recap:
  • Why does Dipper give up a chance of a stronger bond between him and Wendy just so Mabel can have a damn pig? I know, Dipper’s a kind kid, but that’s still a bit too latent.
  • Why did we view Blendin as the antagonist when the only bad thing he did was set down his time drive?
  • Why does Mabel get off free from learning about sacrifice, when her desires were stupider than Dippers?
  • Why set up the Mabel/Dipper/Wendy triangle?
  • Why Robbie?

Admittedly, the episode grew on me a little bit. I no longer have the deep loathing that I had from it before – I appreciate it addressing the negative effects of causality (stupid as the example given may be), and in hindsight, maybe it wasn’t the best idea to have Dipper get the stuffed animal for Wendy, given that he, up to that point, just wanted to sleep with her because he had the hots for her.

I mentioned that because this episode is a sequel to “Time Travellers Pig”. Here, while there are a few slips in logic, these are far easier to forgive, mainly because they don’t distract from this episode’s raison d’être.

This episode concentrates on extending some Pathos for Soos. For a long time, Soos sort of fit as the “comic relief character”. While there were many hints that he was wise, he just seemed to be the go-to-guy for a quick joke or two. This episode is the first one to really peel away at his background – that, as happy-go-lucky as he appears to be, his “unorthodox” family situation has altered him. It has, however, encouraged him to become what his father wasn’t – he tries to be a good, if childish, parental figure to anybody and everybody, often being a paragon of wisdom. Again, this is balanced out by his lack of maturity.

“Blendin’s Game” is also a total inverse of “Time Travellers” in the motives of Dipper and Mabel. In that episode, both characters were wondering how they could improve their own self-interests. Their goals, however, were so irrational (Mabel’s even more so) that, not only was logic skipped, but it made almost nobody likable. Sure, Dipper wanted irrational romance (i.e. to make out with Wendy). Mabel wanted a pig. Granted, hindsight proved that romance was never going to work out. That, and it did expose flaws within the characters, which is not really a bad thing. But a pig? A freaking pig?

OK, back on track. This episode has Dipper and Mabel acting purely in the interests of other people – they wanted Soos to have a reunion with his dad, showing a level of innocent selflessness on both ends. They give their wish, which could’ve been used any which way, to Soos. That, my friends, is friendship!

And what is the wish used for?

Well, let’s just say it shows a great sense of maturity from the immature. Soos, as childish as he might seem, is really the most grounded, well-adjusted character in the show.

Oh, by the way, Blendin’s back! This is probably the largest issue I took with this particular episode. In “The Time Travelers Pig”, Blendin was way too sympathetic to have received the punishment he got. This episode, he’s made as annoying as possible, almost wanting to see Dipper and Mabel die. Whatever little logic he had is chucked out the window in favor of a near-murderous rage. Dipper and Mabel don’t reciprocate the feelings – they let him go scot-free, and with a new head of hair to boot! Again, this shows a level of idealism on Mabel’s part- it’s hard for her to hold a grudge. Still, you would think they went a bit far with rewarding Blendin for wanting the twins dead.

Will I say it’s perfect? Probably not. Is it an improvement over “Time Travellers Pig”? Hell yes.

Tidbits:

  • Remember a couple of weeks ago, when I declared Justin Rolland a genius for his work on Rick and Morty? He voices Blendin Bladin. They actually do a bit of a send-up to the voice acting found in Rick and Morty, what with Blendin stuttering to get words out.
  • Take notice of the various backgrounds found in 2002. Once you notice them, it really is a depressing look at the screwed up nature of the town. What, was everybody having their mind wiped?
  • I wasn’t a fan of the development between Mabel and Candy in this episode. It really does seem like they’re using Candy and Grenda for joke fodder now. Mabel seemed out of character in that particular scene.
  • Nothing like cake-flavoured pizza and pizza-flavoured cake!
Favorite Scene: The scenes that involve GLOBNAR!!!!!!!!
Least Favorite Scene: Back in 2002, Robbie shows up, squirts Dipper and Mabel with a water gun, and then says “Young Robbie!” I’m sorry – this is not how kids speak. Hopefully, future episodes expand on Robbie’s character.
Score: 8.5.

Scullyfied Simpsons: Season 9, Episode 19: "Simpson Tide"

Airdate: 29 March, 1998.

Synopsis: Fired by the Nuclear (“nuc-u-lar”) Power Plant again, Homer sees an ad for the US Navy reserve, and promptly signs up. His friends are convinced enough to sign up, as well. During the “war games” scenario, he is placed on a Nuclear (“nuc-u-lar”) sub. This can only end well… by which, I mean can only end in a Cold War revival, complete with the Soviet Union.

“I thought you guys broke up!”

“Yes, that’s what we wanted you to think!” 

Cue the Berlin Wall and the threat of nuclear (“nuc-u-lar”) disaster!

Oh, and Bart gets an earring to try and be cool. Apparently, The Bartman is “so 1991”. Homer is not pleased.

Review: This episode is an unusual one, indeed. It’s one of those episodes that I should loathe, but can’t bring myself to hate.

Let’s face it: it has several traits that would become cliches of the Mike Scully era of The Simpsons. Homer gets a new job, becomes supremely respected by his boss (more than he should), has to take charge because his boss is an idiot, his friends join into his “scheme of the week” for no reason, the plot goes from “relatively grounded” to “street-rat crazy” at the flick of a switch, the progression barely makes any sense, and Homer gets off with a slap on the wrist for almost plunging the world into chaos. Oh, and the show dabbles in meta humor.

Sounds like a trainwreck, eh?

Actually, it’s pretty entertaining- one of my favorites from this (so far) otherwise mediocre season. As I implied in my “Principal and the Pauper” review, I am willing to reduce the weight of an episode’s flaws in my views if the episode is hilarious enough. Now, there are exceptions, but this episode is not one of them.

I think that most of the reasoning behind this episode’s “funniness” would have to be rooted in the showrunners for this episode- Al Jean and Mike Reiss. While their era was not as zany as, say, the David Mirkin Era, they did distance the show somewhat from it’s domestic origins, allowing for wider swaths of characters to engage in a plot, as well as characters engaging in less “home-based”/more community-based plots. This episode just happens to take it to the extreme end of the spectrum, dwarfing Mirkin’s era in terms of zaniness.

If anything, I’m a bit disappointed that this episode didn’t try harder with the jokes about the USSR- a sign of things to come. They could’ve made jokes about the fall of the union, the failures of central planning, etc. Instead, they chose to color by numbers- the Berlin Wall, Lenin, the tanks in Moscow, etc. Still funny, but a bit of a low-ball.

Also, while Homer does progress quite far up the command for an “average joe”, this episode doesn’t exactly use him as a “pain magnet”- a trend in Modern Simpsons episode where Homer would suffer injuries, and walk away unscathed, going on to act like a Macho Sue idiot all the way. Plus, he does give up some of his hubris- he realizes that Bart getting the earring may have saved him in the long run.

That, and it does make note of the influence of the media on modern conflict, what with the Channel 6 News Report pretty much calling Homer a traitor and a communist, followed by the USSR coming back. Or maybe it was just coincidence. Eh, still interesting.

Oh, and character? A little bit mixed. I mentioned Homer and his dubious promotion to captain already. Captain Tenille? Funny, and pretty well developed, what with the relatively small amount of time given to the character. Bart? His rebellion by getting an ear piercing seems to harken back to his rebellious character, yet here, he seems desperate to “follow the leader” of Milhouse… yet failing epically. Maybe it’s a sign that his “rebel” character would be phased out in favor of a more “desperate” character. Sad. Still, the other characters did seem to be more than pawns in the adventures of “Captain Wacky”, as some have called post-classic Homer.

Let’s see- if there were a few changes to the plot, if maybe some of Homer’s “progression up the ziggurat” was toned down, if maybe the flow was a bit better, if maybe characters didn’t materialise out of thin air (Smithers, anybody), this episode would fit pretty damn well in the Mirkin Era. Instead, I have to take it for what it is- a Scully-era episode (not a Scully episode) that worked pretty damn well, given that I laughed through it. A rare breed, indeed.

Tidbits:

  • OK, there was one clever reference to the USSR. When talking about his experience in the Navy, Abe references JFK, and a comment that made his sailors think that he was disloyal to the Allied Forces. Who else was president when tensions between the USSR and the US reached a fever pitch?
  • “I’d like to get my ear pierced?” “Well, better make it quick, kiddo. In five minutes, this place is becoming a Starbucks!” That is all.
  • Admittedly, I can excuse some of Homer’s promotion by a line that indicates that Captain Tenille has some Navy-related trauma.
  • One last note: due to personal matters, the review for “Blendin’s Game” might not go out until next weekend. I apologize in advance for the long delay.
Favorite Scene: OK, I’ll bite: the scene with Tenille getting shot out of the torpedo tubes was a brilliant piece of dark comedy.
Least Favorite Scene: I still can’t buy the Village People actually singing “In The Navy” while on a submarine, plus Smithers, plus the sub going underwater while they’re all still outside. That was a tad too dark for me.
Score: 7. Again, given mainly for the comedy.

Red Dwarf Review: Series X, Episode 6: "The Beginning"

Airdate: 8 November, 2012

Synopsis: In the year 2200-ish, at IO Tech, Rimmer’s teacher, Mr. Rimmer, uses Rimmer as a guinea pig to make him unsure of his decisions through life… as punishment for being late to class.

Three million years later, a rogue droid named Hogey wants apparently another duel across time and space with the Dwarfers. They aren’t even fazed. Making matters stranger this time around is that Hogey stole a map of the various black holes through the universe from a Simulant Death Ship. Said simulants weren’t too pleased, and begin attacking Red Dwarf. The crew escape in Blue Midget, where they fear death. Rimmer, in particular, fears death so much he brings a holo-lamp that his father gave him to play the day he became an officer. With his father on his mind, he is unable to concentrate on a plan of action. Thus, he decides to take the ultimate dive, and play the holo-lamp early, proving that he doesn’t care about his father’s opinion anymore. There, Rimmer’s father reveals something stunning about Rimmer’s lineage.

Review (SPOILERS): There are three absolutes in life: death, taxes, and Red Dwarf episodes being constructed as “last episodes ever”.

Ever since Series V’s epic “Back to Reality”, every series of Red Dwarf (bar VII) ended with an episode ambiguous to the future of the series. Ironically, the even numbered series since V have ended with Rimmer called upon to save the ship. “Out of Time” was an epic ending for Rimmer. “Only the Good”, eh, not so much.

Thankfully, this is quite the improvement over “Only the Good”, by giving us actual character development for Rimmer. Continue reading

Red Dwarf Review: Series X, Episode 5: "Dear Dave"

Airdate: 1 November, 2012

Synopsis: Lister’s having one of those days where he mopes around about being the last human alive. To interrupt his sadness, he realizes that two vending machines are fighting for his affections. Making matters worse? He gets a letter from the past, telling him that he may have sired a kid. Meanwhile, Rimmer is threatened with demotion by the ship’s on-board computer (not Holly, sadly) for failure to perform duties, putting him on par with Lister. He realizes that he’ll be able to avoid being put on equal footing if he can convince the computer that Lister’s nuts, thus giving him an excuse as to why he didn’t perform.

Review: Let’s get this off the bat – this is the weakest episode of Red Dwarf X. The reason? It seems like they wanted to siphon elements from Series I and II, yet forgot what made those series… quirky in the first place.

Here’s the deal- Lister has been the victim of both cheating accusations from vending machines, while realizing that his ex-girlfriend cheated on him, yet he still might have sired the kid inside of her. Remove the vending machines for a second. That is as stock a sitcom plot as you can possibly get. Engaging? Not in the slightest.

What’s worse is that the “remembering the ex-girlfriend” plot was used in Series II’s “Thanks for the Memory”. “TFTM” is one of my all-time favorite Red Dwarf episodes, because it gave some insight into the characters of Lister and Rimmer, the tragedies the two faced. That, and we actually saw Lister’s former girlfriend, giving us an emotional connection. It’s brilliant. Seeing elements of that episode used in a stock sitcom plot? Tragic.

That’s just the largest of the ways this episode apes from the earlier series. Let’s have a list!

  • Rimmer tries to maintain his position of power over Lister? Inverse of “Balance of Power”.
  • Post arrives alerting a character of bad news? “Better Than Life”. (Oh, and also “The Last Day”.)
  • Lister moping over the fact that he’s the last human alive? “Timeslides”.
  • Rimmer has no idea about women? “Parallel Universe”.
  • Lister mistaken for robosexual by Rimmer? “Polymorph”.
  • Lister needs to know about his children? “Ouroboros”. Yes, that failure of an episode.
    • Lister realizes that he might have a child? Again, “Parallel Universe”.
  • Ambiguous ending? “Out of Time”.
What made those episodes work was the soul, the creativity in those plots. Even “Ouroboros”, as bad as it was, was at least an attempt to shake up the status quo. It failed miserably, but still. There, they tried. This episode? Doug could’ve removed the vending machine, and shipped it as a spec script for Two and a Half Men. Nobody would’ve noticed the smegging difference.
Is there anything good I can say about this episode? Well, the gags worked, for the most part. They petered out by the time Lister takes one of the vending machines around the corner. Still, even the chrades scene was decent. While it did give off some Series VII vibes, it at least was funny. Curse thee, giant worms!
What a shame. After a solid, if not overly spectacular, first four episodes, we get this mediocre mess. I’ll pass it, if only because this episode didn’t really infuriate me as much as “Krytie TV” and “Pete” did. That, and it actually made me laugh more than thrice. Oh, and it was made in a week, pretty much, so I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt.
Tidbits:
  • Speaking of Series VII, this episode was a replacement for a two-parter that would’ve seen Kochanski re-enter the picture. Ah, at least “The Beginning” looks promising.
  • The toilet paper joke? Damn, that ran on just a bit too long.
  • Oh, and one more positive? The acting is pretty damn good. I still question the french accent used for one of the vending machines. Why?
Favorite Scene: The chrades scene. Like a Series VII gag, but better.
Least Favorite Scene: The mail scene. Too similar to “Better Than Life”.
Score: 5.5