Gravity Falls Review: "Roadside Attraction" (Season 2, Episode 16)

Airdate: September 21st, 2015

Synopsis: The Mystery Shack gang (bar Wendy, plus Candy and Grenda) go on an RV trip to sabotage competing tourist traps. While on the trip, Dipper tries to get over Wendy by “honing his craft” on other girls. (And no, he doesn’t use the “mesmer-stare”, thankfully.) This does not bode well when Candy confesses that she’s developed a crush on the geek… and only gets worse when Stan gets kidnapped by a giant spider who led him on… that he tried to lead on.

Review (SPOILERS): Back in February, “Northwest Mansion Novella” aired. Given that there was something resembling ample notice regarding the controversy (i.e. the promo containing the two relatively close together), I was able to post an editorial regarding the somewhat controversial ship, and comment on the episode’s effectiveness as a launcher afterward. In the former, I made a comment regarding the fact that Candy and Dipper (or CanDip) had no traction, and didn’t seem to have chemistry… mainly because none of the writers really put the two together outside of quick gags.

Here, CanDip is set sail… in an episode that, in deep contrast to “Northwest Mansion Whozawhatzit”, is a deeply lighthearted episode… and far less consequential to the overall plot. In fact, I think it’s the episode most separable from canon since “Boss Mabel”.

The main plot is kicked off by Dipper still lusting after Wendy. (Between “Last Mabelcorn” and this… I’m sorry; I thought we dropped the WenDip subplot like a hot potato!) Thankfully, he actually tries to move past this crush… by taking Stan’s advice. That’s never a good sign.

The “Dipper leads girls on” plot has been done time and time again, and the effects are not too dissimilar here – Dipper gets found out, and it taints a relationship that might have been genuinely developing. So, not a whole lot of points for originality here, although the ending was pretty cool. That, and being Gravity Falls, it also backfired for Stan in hilarious, creepy ways. I am also willing to justify its use given the target audience for the show – an age where people get their first real looks at morality.

Leading people on gives off the impression that those that are being led on are commodities – just tools to trade off rapidly. In Dipper’s case, this sorta applied – he was “honing his craft” by leading girls on, and it backfired on them because… they’re people. People who get little development, though, since the plot moved at breakneck speed, but still.

Bizarrely enough, I think the CanDip plot of this episode reminds me of an episode of my other favorite TV show. Two words – “Parallel Universe”.

While not often cited as the “best” Red Dwarf episode, “Parallel Universe” is among the more memorable episodes of the series – it’s twist on the “mirror universe” plot ending with one of the most hilarious endings to a Red Dwarf episode ever. That episode actually started with Rimmer chiding the Cat on his attitude to relationships – a very casual view, to say the very least. Lister proceeds to blast Rimmer on his own attempts to pick up women – via hypnosis, for starters.

Lister: “You’re a sad weasel of a man, y’know that, Rimmer?”

Rimmer: “No – I’m just ill at ease with the opposite sex.”

Lister: “It’s because you see them as some alien species that need to be conquered with trickery. They’re not – they’re people! You don’t need your books on hypnosis!”

Given that Red Dwarf’s target audience is different than Gravity Falls, there, Rimmer pays by having a female version of himself sexually harass – even grope – him. He still doesn’t relent with his chauvinism. Obviously, what Arlene Rimmer did can’t be done on Gravity Falls – although the fact that they got “Don’t Wake Stalin” on the air makes me wonder if they could – but they keep the effect with Stan getting his retribution via a female spider. Darlene lures men in and literally feeds on them. In such, she literally uses men as commodities.

Using a bit of hyperbole, it’s a far more sci-fi version of what Dipper was doing with Stan’s advice. People of the opposite (or, in some cases, the same) gender are more than just their bodies – they have emotions, personalities, and the like. Leading them on just to practice the craft of romance isn’t right.

Thankfully, even if Dipper became more “experienced”, he’s still recognized as in the wrong. And Stan was wrong, as well – his relationships with women have failed. Oh, and so was Darlene, because, c’mon, she’s a spider.

Now, to the other main character of the episode. Candy Chiu has gotten relatively little development through the earlier part of the series – she was mainly chained to Grenda and Mabel, involved in bit plots. She didn’t do much by herself, and even this episode fits the mold a bit. However, I do appreciate the character development she had in this episode. Let’s just say, the most mundane things can create the great heroes of the episode.

As for the state of CanDip – yeah, chances are, that ship is in dry dock. I mean, besides the ending, I don’t think the writers are going to do too much with the two beyond this episode. Frankly, I don’t mind either way. If they do launch this ship, as long as it’s well done, I’ll be satisfied.

Speaking of Stan, mentioned above, the note that he was divorced just makes him that much more tragic a character. The episode doesn’t intentionally try and place the blame on him, but he does blame himself for the divorce. Whether Stan is at fault or not, it still reinforces that insecurity that this once-arrogant Barnum-type had.

I’m not going to pretend the episode is perfect, though. The pacing made it so that we didn’t learn much about the girls Dipper was leading on (thus dampening the impact of the message slightly), and it sorta is a shocking break from the pacing set up in the previous few episodes (although the latter is more of a personal complaint – some might like a break from Ford and Bill and stuff.) That, and when we’re looking back on the show, I doubt much will register high on the “most memorable moments” lists… at least, my “most memorable moments” list.

Thus, while it’s almost impossible to call this a “bad” episode, it’s among the most disposable of the show – and, if you consider that the worst thing a Gravity Falls episode can be, it’s among the weakest. It has a good message, though, and it’s relative “quietness” is a bit refreshing. If you love it, fine. I just merely liked it.

Tidbits:

  • This episode was actually a holdover from the first half of the season, hence why the WenDip aspect was relaunched the way it was. I think they pushed it back to try and even off the two halves of the season. That and Alex Hirsch has promised that the next episode will be earth-shattering. That episode, “Dipper and Mabel vs the Future”, will air October 12th.
    • Speaking of which, I think this episode is supposed to be aired around “The Love God”, given that episode was centered around somebody else still obsessed over Wendy. Honestly, it would’ve made a great parallel if this aired before or after that particular episode… even if both of them are the weaker episodes of the season.
  • One thing I didn’t like about the episode? How the three girls managed to meet up with him in the mummy gallery. That coincidence stretches my suspension of disbelief. And believe me, in this show, that’s saying a flipping lot. I know that the writers were trying the “it comes back to bite you in the end” message, but still.
  • As for why Ford didn’t chase the other tourist trap owners off the Mystery Shack property, two reasons.
    • A) He’s probably still livid at Stan, and probably still wants his house back. This is pure cathartic punishment, in his eye.
    • He was probably in his basement, unaware of the damage that was being inflicted to the shack.
Favorite Scene: One word – SkyTram. How hilarious.
Least Favorite Scene: The mummy exhibit scene. Too cliche by half.
Score: 7.5
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