Gravity Falls Review: "Northwest Mansion Noir/Mystery/Whatever-the-Hell-It’s-Called" (Season 2, Episode 10)

Pacifica and Dipper hiding from a ghost.
A ghost that can directly affect it’s settings in this universe. In Red Dwarf, the default is soft-light. Science fiction and fantasy are strange, indeed.

Airdate: February 16th, 2015.

Synopsis: The Northwest family is preparing for its annual shindig. After an incident involving the china, Pacifica is tasked with getting Dipper to de-haunt the mansion within 24 hours. Given that Dipper’s relationship with Pacifica is poor, he only agrees as long as Mabel, Candy, and Grenda get free access to the party. While there, Dipper and Pacifica find out disturbing things about the Northwest heritage… up to and including why the house is haunted.

Meanwhile, Mabel, Candy, and Grenda get a subplot. It involves the potential of romance with a baron.

Review: AUSTRIA IS A REPUBLIC! THERE IS NO ROYALTY THERE! WORST EPISODE OF TELEVISION EVER! WERNER FAYMANN AND HEINZ FISCHER SHOULD SUE THE DAYLIGHTS OUT OF-

Sorry. Political scientist in me got a bit wild – and somewhat inaccurate – for a second. Ahem- now to the real review… after the break. Spoilers from the break/here on out.

Given that Gravity Falls has a borderline obsession with hiatuses, it was clear from moment one that the buildup to this episode would be incredible. We’ve gone just under three months since the last episode, “The Love God”. That episode, on further reflection, might be my least favorite of the show- “Time Travelers Pig” was inventive and seemed to try. (Honestly, that episode isn’t as bad as when I first reviewed it – still far from my favorite, but no longer dead last of the season.)

One of the great untapped plot resources was Pacifica and her role in the Northwest family. We saw the Northwests exposed as frauds in “Irrational Treasure”, and Pacifica receives rather callous encouragement from her family in “The Golf War’. (“You’re a Northwest. Don’t. Lose.“) This episode expands on that to the most disturbing extent possible. The Northwests weren’t just frauds- they were callous, wicked, cowardly, and, to paraphrase Smashie and Nicey, backstab-trocious. Stretching back to Nathaniel Northwest’s betrayal of the common man, it just kept going.

Preston Northwest is just another link in the chain of evil started by Nathaniel. Not mincing words here: Preston might be the most vicious antagonist in the history of the show, or at least tied with Gideon. Some might argue Bill for that role, but his actions are still relatively ambiguous (albeit insane), and he might not have a complete comprehension of humanity and it’s morals and mores.

Preston does. He sold everybody, the working man, the native, down the river. He outright calls to eat the butler. He ignores his wife. Leaves people to die in fires while he hides. Treats his daughter like a god damn pet. It’s not even darkly funny as it would’ve been with Bill. He’s deadly serious about every action, every statement, every maneuver. If Alex Hirsch set out to create a character that made Jeremy Clarkson look warm and affable, he succeeded with flying colors.

Yet, why were there crowds waiting outside Northwest Manor, trying to get into this party, if these jackasses did all these cruel things?

Simply put- money. Money can make your PR awesome, even if you are a complete and utter asshat. Even if it can’t hide misdeeds, it can make them meaningless. Why? We live in an aspirational society – one where we want to have all the goods, all the power, the lifestyle we don’t have, to live in the next class up. To paraphrase British actress and MP Glenda Jackson, however…

“It aspires for things… people know the price of everything and the value of nothing!”

That’s how Preston and the Northwests managed to hold power all these years- the desire for the next level up, the media coverage of the good and rich, the ignorance of the bad done against the common man.

OK, pseudo-socialistic rant over, now to more character analysis.

Thankfully, Pacifica appears to be the one to break the chain of evil- she recognizes the hurt that the Northwest family has done. However, thanks to Preston’s constant abuse, she fears that she will turn into the creature that she doesn’t want to be.

If I may, meeting Dipper and Mabel might have saved Pacifica from the darkness. Dipper and Mabel are a window to a different world- despite their relative lack of wealth or power, they grew up in a house that was at least decent, if not quirky. Even Stan, as ambivalent to the law as he is, is actually a pretty decent parental figure… we think.

Building onto the mystery of the town, this episode might have shown the beginning of the haunting of the town. It’s unknown what exactly turned the town into Area 51, but Nathaniel Northwest might have had something to do with it. Either that, or he just got lucky and stumbled across a town that is basically Fox Mulder’s dream come true.

The end of the episode was a complete shock. McGucket comes back and reveals he fixed the computer… which is tuned to a countdown clock. Thing is- what is it counting down to? Some say the apocalypse. It’s implied that Bill will come back. While something Earth-shattering might happen, there are 10 episodes left in the season. Some rumors point to a few “flashback” or “meanwhile” episodes. Possible, but still rumors.

Now, this seems like a fine episode. Nothing wrong with it, eh? Yeah… this episode had some faults which will probably keep it out of my “favorite episodes” slot.

For one, Dipper’s decision at the end to leave McGucket high and dry with the computer. The git literally sold his soul for the password to the thing, and he’s not even going to take notice that McGucket fixed the damn computer? I’ll give it that even the best characters have lapses in judgment, but still.

And the subplot. Oh, god, the subplot.

Look, I get it. Pre-teens are romantics, interested in love. I get that Mabel’s goal is to have “an epic summer romance” This does not mean that every plot involving Mabel has to revolve around her latest crush which will go nowhere. This time, Candy and Grenda are thrown into the mix for a sort of love quadrangle with some Baron from Austria. The plot is stupid and pointless. The best thing is that it did sorta alleviate from the darkness of the rest of the episode. That, and the ending was a good sorta twist. Doesn’t say much, though.

Now, I know what you’re all thinking… am I a Dipcifica shipper? Did this episode convert me, like it converted half of the Tumblr fandom?

Eh… not really.

I saw the tensions between them, the ship tease, the development. I saw it, I liked it. It was pretty interesting. Thing is, I just don’t actively ship the two. It’s cool if they get together, it’s fine if they don’t. Again, as long as it’s well written, I am absolutely fine with whatever path the writers take.

So, an awesome A-plot, character development for Pacifica, an epic cliffhanger… March 9th can not come soon enough.

Tidbits:

  • About my sorta… loud rant on the Austrian baronhood above… it was a bit simplistic. Technically, Austria did abolish titles of nobility in 1919. However, noble families still exist, albeit without the privileges of the pre-1919 nobility. It’s more of a socioeconomic class than anything, though. I guess the bigger question is why I flipped out over minor political curiosities in a cartoon?
  • The opening theme for the episode was cut in half, from 30 seconds to 15. This opening theme is too awesome to cut down. Who authorized it to be hacked like that, and where was the decision made? I want names, I want places, I want dates.
Arnold Rimmer His Locker This Morning Red Dwarf
  • This is the very first episode to lack both Stan and Soos. What, did Alex Hirsch want to give his vocal cords a rest?
  • Dipper’s last form before the ghost’s attack was actually foretold in “Into the Bunker”. Good luck sleeping tonight, indeed.

Favorite Scene: The last minute or two of the episode… one of the more shocking endings this show has had thus far.

Least Favorite Scene: Anything involving Baron von Fundshauser.

Score: 8.

(Edit 21/7/15: Originally 8.5. Adjusted down slightly.)

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