Gravity Falls Review: "The Last Mabelcorn" (Season 2, Episode 15)

Warning: neither moment nor episode are as lighthearted as this picture makes them out to be.

Airdate: September 7th, 2015

Synopsis: Tortured by a nightmare of Bill Cipher, Ford asks that Mabel go and find a unicorn, so that he can use its locks to help build a force field. Alongside Wendy, Candy, and Grenda, Mabel actually manages to stumble across a unicorn village. The unicorn nearest the front gate declares that she will give her hair to the one “pure of heart”. Mabel doesn’t necessarily fit that, though. Cue emotional crisis!!!!

Meanwhile, Ford and Dipper use a machine to try and encrypt their minds, in an attempt to protect themselves from mindjacking via Bill. What happens is… weird, to say the very least.

Review (MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD – READ AT YOUR OWN DISCRETION)Always! I wanna be with you! And make believe with you! And live in harmony, harmony! Oh, yeah!

Uh, sorry about that. Curse you, Andy and Vince!

Anyway… unicorns. Those mystical magical horses are among the most used fictional animals in fantasy works. Their powers, their pointy horns, their hybrid of grace and power all contribute to the unicorn’s staying power in the fantasy canon. I believe that the unicorn itself gained it’s most recent spike in popularity with the use of Twilight Sparkle, one of the protagonists of the cult hit My Little Pony – Friendship is Magic. Many new “unicorns” have been used since then and have gained cult followings, such as recurring antagonist Pony Head from Star Vs. The Forces of Evil.

Naturally, Gravity Falls, being a part-fantasy show, needed to take it’s stab at it in one episode this season. And wow, was that a great episode. An awesome episode, in fact.

But how awesome was it?

One of my favorite episodes of Gravity Falls is the seriously underrated “Boyz Crazy”. I loved it partially because it deconstructed Mabel’s “zany” behavior – in “BC”, she went mad enough to commit kidnapping, treating Several Timez as her personal servants when they were basically trained as pets. The end result was that, at the end of that episode, it’s heavily implied that they are doomed to die in the forest of Gravity Falls. In my opinion, that episode exposed the dark underbelly of Mabel’s “boy crazy” character.

But does her behavior in those moments make her a bad person?

Let’s get this out of the way, since there’s been some controversy of late involving Mabel… no, I don’t believe that she’s a poorly written character. She has her own goals, her own flaws, and is complex enough to leave you yearning for more plots involving the character. I don’t even hate the character on an in-universe level – she has enough moments of affability and warmth to keep her likable. My concern, however, is that most (albeit not all) of Mabel’s “solo” plots have ben a reflection on her boy-crazy behavior, and that there hasn’t really been an episode that centered on Mabel getting involved in a mystery without Dipper’s help.

Even I’ve gotten a bit frustrated with this, albeit more so when the story still portrays her as completely in the right, even when her behavior is a bit questionable. For example, “Abaconings”, “The Time Travelers Pig”, and, to a small extent, “The Love God”.

This episode is an excellent step forward for the character – Mabel and her friends get involved, albeit in a relatively minor way, with the central arc by going out to protect the shack. While this task might seem like a mere snipe hunt from Ford to get Mabel out of the shack (her “alliance” with Stan in “DD&MD”, anybody) you have to remember that this is Gravity Falls – a town that has a living society of golf balls. A unicorn is not really that far outside the realm of believability in this show.

However, it’s not the unicorn that’s the focus of the main plot. Rather, it’s the utter shellshock that Mabel felt upon meeting Celestabellebethabelle. (Blogger’s note – that name was copy and pasted, so I’m just going to refer to her as C-Beth for the rest of ever.) C-Beth writes off Mabel as not being “pure” enough to make her not worthy of the hair. Thus, she goes on a mad dash/montage to do good deeds… and C-Beth still rejects Mabel, calling her out because her good deeds were not done for altruistic reasons. Thus, she’s not pure, and thus, the four are not worthy.

Some fans of the show have already taken note of the feminist theory in this episode – that people expect female characters (and females in general) to conform to perfection, and are vilified if they break from the chain. I’m not going to elaborate on that too much, since others have already taken note, but I will investigate the impact that being declared “un-pure” has on Mabel.

Obviously, Mabel hasn’t been a saint. She tried to rope her brother into helping her with her “crush of the week” on more than one occasion (notably the Sock Opera), had the aforementioned “boy band kidnap” incident, has often belittled her brother (in a sibling-esque way, yes, but Dipper doesn’t have the highest self-esteem), and has generally had a one-track mind, much to the detriment of a lot of other people. However, she hasn’t been a sinner, either – she’s pulled back from the brink, has saved her own arch-enemy, and helped rescue Ford from madness.

To see her own character get deconstructed, by one of the mystical creatures she loves most, has to be utterly shocking. While it’s not the first time Mabel has had to question her virtues and vices, this seems to be as serious as that particular conflict’s gotten… without involving the possible destruction of the universe, that is.

Will this provide some more long-term, long-lasting character development? Hopefully.

While the others do rally around Mabel – especially when C-Beth’s secret is exposed – we also have to remember that Wendy has only really seen the really really positive side of Mabel. Calling her a “saint” seems a bit much at first, but when you remember that Wendy and Mabel haven’t talked much so far (they had two “big” conversations – “The Hand That Rocks the Mabel” and “Society of the Blind Eye” – as well as several “minor” interactions), her idolization of the character enters a different light.

As far as Candy and Grenda’s views of Mabel go, they were quick to forgive each other after the kidnapping and the Austrian baron, so I’m not surprised that they rushed to Mabel’s defense. (Speaking of which, I felt that the three others get some good character development, given their relative “sidekick” status – at the very least, their interactions with the gnomes was one of the most hysterical scenes in the episode.)

That doesn’t mean, however, that a future episode won’t show more lasting cracks in any of these bonds. Just because the plot is resolved for the episode doesn’t mean that it’s resolved for the entire series.

While C-Beth has a point – Mabel isn’t a saint, and doing good deeds to make one look like a saint is counterproductive – the message of this entire scenario is that having flaws doesn’t make you the devil. As an audience, we love characters with flaws, because we get to see them either work through them, minimize them, or let them take over their entire persona. In the case of Mabel, while I don’t believe that this episode tries to completely denounce her flaws, it also shows that, in spite of not being perfect, she is a good person – her actions would ultimately benefit the well-being of those in the Mystery Shack.

And isn’t that what the episode’s all about? Proving that Mabel, even with her flaws, is ultimately a good person, and a great character.

…oh, I almost forgot, there was that other incident. Uh, Ford and Dipper decide to use something of a mind-encrypter machine that Ford created, and…

…forget it – WAS FORD AND DIPPER’S PLOT EARTH-SHATTERING OR WHAT?

I mean, there was little “action” – a bit unusual for Dipper-centric plots. But the plot twists… damn, were they brilliant. We all knew Bill was coming back – the end of the last episode, as well as the cold opener, all but confirmed it – but the twist that was revealed with Ford was insane. If you didn’t find Ford a well-written character after “A Tale of Two Stans”, there’s no doubt now – he is outright tragic. He was lied to, believed that he failed, and now that he’s back, is trying his damnedest to make up for it.

But to see Dipper so disturbed by what has happened over the summer that he isn’t sure whether or not to trust Ford, and isn’t sure what to do with Bill’s supposed mind-jacking of Ford (ironic, innit) is utterly horrifying. In fact, a look at his mind (Wendy still taking up his mind, still remembering Tyrone) shows that everything that’s happened this summer is burned into his mind, and will be with him for a long time.

Remember one of the first things we saw in the journal? “In Gravity Falls, there is no one you can trust.” With what Dipper has learned this summer, we now know that is locked in his mind.

And Bill… this episode solidifies just how depraved he is. His actions to Ford set up the disaster dominoes that have lead to now – he betrayed Ford, destroyed McGucket’s sanity, and, although he didn’t get directly involved in this, trapped Ford into the mindscape. His true intentions are also clearer – he wants to control a world of madness, a nightmarish scenario. What’s in that? Nobody really knows yet, but based on McGucket’s reaction…

Let’s just say, Reality from Red Dwarf’s “Back to Reality”? That looks downright pleasant.

Fabulous Prizes To Be Won!
Pick your poison.

All I’m going to say is this – for the most part, the comedy that once was a major part of Bill’s character? Not only will we not see it nearly as much anymore, but this has probably sullied a lot of the earlier humor he had in the first place. (In my opinion, though, Bipper drinking human soda “like a person” is not one of those moments, dark as it was.)

Even the seemingly happy endings for Mabel and Dipper are completely undermined by not only what we know about Bill, but his quest to destroy those that cross him. Thus begins the guessing game – who will land in Bill’s crosshairs next?

I know I sound like a broken record, but honestly, I have to repeat what I’ve been saying for the past few episodes… this ain’t gonna be pretty.

But this episode was. Good character analysis, dark twists, and an utterly terrifying ending… it’s a top five of the season, and a definite top ten in the show.

Tidbits

  • By far, my favorite joke in this entire episode – possibly in the entire series, even – also happens to be among the single darkest jokes in the history of the series, if not the darkest, period. When Dipper and Mabel look for a board game, one of the games they find? “Shhhh… Don’t Wake Stalin!” Ignoring the fact that Josef Stalin’s leadership of the Soviet Union lead to an ungodly number of arrests and/or deaths via famine/gulag/show-trials, this is also a reference to a command that Stalin made that none of his guards were to disturb him in his sleeping quarters, an edict which helped kill him. No, seriously – he suffered a massive stroke in the morning of 1 March 1953, couldn’t yell for help, and apparently wasn’t discovered until 10 PM that night. By that time, he was well on his way out, and died on the 5th. (Worth noting that three years later, his successor, Nikita Khrushchev, gave Stalin quite the eulogy.)
  • Also incredible is the fact that Grenda helped participate in what was the gnome version of a drug bust. Complete with corruption and all that. Between that, and Stan’s “pug trafficking”, I’m starting to think that at some point, the censors resigned en masse.
  • Given the cult hit that My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is, I’m actually a bit amazed that they didn’t get one of the voice actors or writers to voice C-Beth.
  • I must admit, though, that I don’t have the highest hopes for the next episode. And I generally like “road trip” episodes. I’ll still watch it, and encourage you to watch it, but I have a feeling the review for that episode won’t be as positive.

Favorite Scene: Dipper threatening to mind-wipe Ford/Bill. To see him so desperate, so paranoid, is outright tragic, and really, really brilliant.

Least Favorite Scene: To be honest, I think the montage was more than a bit unnecessary. They could’ve gotten the same effect with one particular act of kindness on Mabel’s part.

Score: 9.

Now, if you’ll excuse me…

Oh, l’amour… broke my heart, and now I’m aching for you! Mon amour… what’s a boy in love supposed to do?

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