Gravity Falls Review: Season 1, Episode 2: “The Legend of the Gobblewonker”

Airdate: June 29th, 2012

Synopsis: It’s the opening of fishing season in Gravity Falls. In order to spend some time bonding with the twins in a more… legal way (“The county jail was so cold!”), Stan takes them out to Gravity Falls lake. On cue, a crazy old man, last name McGucket, screams about a monster in the lake. That, plus Soos having a boat that doesn’t have holes or creepy fishing lures, causes the twins to high-tail it to the “SS Cool Dude” in search for the mysterious Gobblewonker.

Review (SPOILERS): Smashing sophomore episode. Smashing.

Ah, you want more in this post. That’s why I’m posting these “remastered” reviews, right? Alright, ya got it! Spoilers ahead, though – I’d recommend watching the episode before going on.

So,  the second episode- in my opinion, tighter than the first, yet still a bit of a stranger experience than later episodes. There’s no narration, but the show still has a “serialized Family Guy” feel that it had during the first episode, what with cutaways, meta comedy, etc. This largely falls to the wayside as the show goes on – imagine the “counterfeit currency” gag during “Northwest Mansion Noir/Mystery/Shindig” or “Into the Bunker”.

This episode’s tone is reminiscent of speculative fiction mystery – found in such series such as “Goosebumps” and the various tales around “The Loch Ness Monster”. As such, the animation through the second and third act represents the mysterious tale of three people, removed from contact on a mysterious island.

Obviously, though, the fans (by which I mean us) all reflect on one big thing – CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT!!!

And, boy, is the character development pretty awesome – especially in light of… um… recent events concerning the Pines family and the town of Gravity Falls.

Stan, for one, is revealed to be far more than a curmudgeonly shopkeep. Sure, we saw some depth at the end of “Tourist Trapped”, but this episode really exposes just how lonely Stan really is. Again, given recent events, this is much more tragic. Still, even without that knowledge, there’s a sense of regret- whether due to his own aloofness, or due to not connecting with others unintentionally, he’s alienated and continues to alienate himself from everybody.

On the flip-side of the coin, this is really the first episode to feature Soos. Sure, he made small appearances in “Tourist Trapped”, but that was just to build the type of crewmembers that Stan would hire. Here, we get to see him fleshed out – something of a meta-type eccentric who recognizes the cliches in various mediums, or is there primarily, but not exclusively, for comic relief. Sometimes this character type can get annoying, but to my recollection, I have not once been annoyed by Soos – in fact, his goofiness seems to stand alongside a deeper, more somber character.

Dipper himself is placed in the center of the show’s mockery of movie cliches – the dreaded “lost camera” trope. He brings 17 cameras to capture the Gobblewonker. No prizes for guessing what happens to the cameras. It’s less the end result and more the journey to that makes this twist worthwhile – it carries on long enough for it to be funny, and the payoff is not just funny, but adds the emotional core that other shows lack.

Here, though, we get a taste of Dipper’s ego – he feels that capturing the Gobblewonker will get him an appearance on The Charlie Rose Show, and where he will be praised for leaving his great-uncle in the dirt. What makes that work is that, despite Dipper being a brilliant kid, he still has childlike tendencies, somewhat of a self-centred world view. This works when it’s done in limited quantities, balanced out by noble or sympathetic traits, or the character develops from this… as Dipper does in this episode.

That wasn’t really applied to Mabel, though – her character development here resides more on the coat-tails of Dipper’s development. Still, we do get a look of her relatively simple mindset, which adds to the tragedy when she on track to become “the god of destruction” during “Not What He Seems”.

But what of the Gobblewonker? What is the source of this mysterious, threatening creature that stalks the lake of Gravity Falls?

Ladies and gentlemen… (spoilers)…

Mr. Fiddleford McGucket.

In just one episode – in the two scenes that feature him, he is not only given more than one dimension to his character, but is also complex enough to construct machinery. His reasons in this episode are ambiguous – was he driven to madness by the societal rejection, or vice-versa? “Society of the Blindeye” adds a bit more light and a lot more tragedy onto this episode.

In hindsight, the parallels between the twin’s relationship with Stan and McGucket’s relationship with his soon seem creepy. I would imagine that there might be a bit of fleshing out of the latter relationship when the show comes back. With DisneyXD’s scheduling pattern, that should be around the time the Magic win the NBA Finals!

On a technical note, the animation is beautiful. The use of smog here adds that extra “oomph” that other shows don’t really have. There’s also the little details, such as Stan’s boat leaking, which add to the overall character of the show.

Overall, an episode with cool character development, aided by future episodes. Newer episodes have definitely made this a must-watch, even if future episodes have blown it away.

Tidbits

  • This episode was co-written by Michael Rianda, who also does small voice roles (Lee, Mr. Valentino). As far as his episodes go, Rianda has a generally positive track record: while he did write “Summerween”, one of the weaker episodes of the show, he also wrote “The Inconveniencing”, “Bottomless Pit”, and “Gideon Rises”. He left the writing staff, and now works as a consultant for the show.
  • This episode was also directed by John Aoshima. As I mentioned in my “Land Before Swine” review, his episodes tended to comedy-drama and character study. Whether that was a coincidence, or he chose to take on episodes with dramatic themes, is unclear. He hasn’t directed an episode so far in Season 2, however.
  • Take note of Stan’s car registration code. Watch “Not What He Seems”. Go into a long state of reflection,
  • Also, note the two 80s style dudes in Mabel’s imagination.
Favorite Scene: Thanks to the magic of hindsight, I love the scenes involving Mr. McGucket – ah, the character development he’ll get.
Least Favorite Scene: The “co-captain” scene goes on too long for it to be funny… to me, at least. It also wasn’t as “deep” as the camera gag; although it did show Soos’s relationship with the kids, other scenes in this episode showed it just as well. This one particular scene just felt more like filler.
Score: 8.75.
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