Gravity Falls Review: "Weirdmageddon II – Escape From Reality" (Season 2, Episode 19)

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It may be better than perfection, but is it better than life?

Airdate: November 23rd, 2015

Synopsis: Dipper, Wendy, and Soos venture into Mabel’s bubble prison… the happy land of Mabeland. Pop music fills the air, 80s cartoon characters thrive, lawlessness rules, and waffles guard Mabel’s office. Thankfully… waffles guard Mabel’s office, so the trio are able to get in. There, Mabel all but bribes Soos and Wendy with their desires, leaving Dipper to try and avoid any sort of temptations brought on by the bubble.

Review (SPOILER-TASTIC): The announcement on the Friday before “Escape From Reality” aired that Gravity Falls was to reach it’s denouement after two seasons was, let’s face it, not that shocking. There had been speculation from the moment Season 2 was announced that the show wasn’t long for this world (DisneyXD’s scheduling made it seem longer than it was), and Alex Hirsch’s Tumblr post this past Friday simply served to put whatever speculation there was to rest. In fact, it’s actually a good thing at the end, because we don’t get to watch the show rot into a charade of guest stars and recurring “marriage trouble” episodes, nor do we get to see it smash a mirror, screaming “How’s Annie” with no word on what the hell is going on.

Kudos to Hirsch.

Anyway, before we go out, we get a second (and last) penultimate episode of the season that delves into the mentality of one of the central characters. Last season, it was Stan. This time, it’s Mabel.

The pressing question is this – how the hell do you dissect Mabel? Well, “Boyz Crazy”, “Sock Opera”, and “Dipper and Mabel Versus the Future” already took turns deconstructing her patterns of behavior. This time, we get it.

I’ve blasted the show in the past for seeming to think Mabel had the mentality of a six-year-old. It’s one of the few things I fee like the show seemed to slip on in its second season – the first season did show her as a preteen, but this season took it to levels that reminded me of Ned Flanders’ transformation from “nice next-door neighbor who happens to be religious” to “borderline fundie nutjob”. However, this season gave us a clear reason as to why Mabel shifted the way it did, for we finally got into Mabel’s mind.

My theory – she regressed as summer went on, and she did so as a defense mechanism.

She seemed to instinctively recognize as the summer went on that her innocence and her relationship with Dipper were going to dissolve sooner rather than later, and that Dipper was maybe a bit too gung-ho to embrace adulthood. Thus, she resorted to more childish and frankly immature patterns of behavior in a futile attempt to preserve the status quo.

Here, we see the surprisingly mortifying effects of this, encompassed in Mabeland.

Mabeland is, let’s face it, the definition of a crapsaccharine world. Sure, it’s sugar-coated, it’s judge is a kitten (played by the former unofficial chairman of the Democrats, Jon Stewart), it’s full of pop music, 80s cartoon icons, etc. But, let’s just remove the fact that Mabeland was the construct of an isosceles sociopath, which can fall apart at any time reality is mentioned. It still is pretty freaky. In a world where Mabel is given absolute authority, people are all but bribed with their desires, traffic laws (amongst others) are ignored, dissenters can be replaced with yes-men (Dippy Fresh can go to hell), the sixth amendment is all but voided, and cheesy pop music fills the air.

Anybody else vaguely reminded of the Doctor Who serial “The Happiness Patrol”? This episode was about as horrifying, with less stabs at Thatcherism. Or more. Whatever floats your boat. (C’mon, a leader that replaces dissenters in their cabinet with yes-men?)

In fact, the entire bubble is just a temptation zone. Soos gets to meet the ideal father… or at least, what Mabel/Bill believe Soos’s ideal father would be. Wendy, tempted by a lust for rebellion. Dipper, tempted by what appears to be Wendy.

…and that’s why, when you clicked on “6 score” on the side, this episode came up.

For “Escape from Reality” was an episode with a good idea, executed in a manner that makes me worry a little that the show won’t go out in a blaze of glory as much as it will sputter to its end.

There’s nothing necessarily new in this episode. (Sure, there was a brief joke about Bill and his various minions not being able to escape from the Gravity Falls area, which was funny at first, but honestly… I fear that could limit the scope of the final episode. I know that Bill’s pretty damn strong, but that still sorta limits the stakes.)

We’ve seen Mabel’s more self-occupied side before, in episodes like “Sock Opera”, and I think that “Sock Opera” handled that conflict between self-interest and family bonds in a more effective manner. Most damningly, I felt like at least “Sock Opera’s” resolution fit the tone of the episode very well. Here, it seemed far too rushed, too predictable. Granted, not putting Mabel in distress for all three parts was a bit of a quirky subversion of the cliche, but there are other ways they could’ve done it.

Even Mabeland could’ve been better. Based on her wish in “Dipper and Mabel Vs The Future”, Mabel wanted summer to continue. If we got a more accurate representation on how Mabel perceived summer to be, we could’ve had a more thought provoking episode. Instead, we got “Dreamscaperers” meets Lisa Frank Products meets “Eye in the Sky”. Good enough, but I expected more from the setting. It’s not like we didn’t know ahead of time that Mabel had the mentality of a sugar bowl – have you seen her behavior in “Sock Opera”, writers?

There have been a couple of controversies involving the episode that I do want to address, however. The first of these being the aforementioned “yes-man”, Dippy Fresh, or as I like to call him, a Burger King Kids Club Kid come to life.

Callous as it may have been for Mabel to openly admit in front of Dipper that she replaced him with a counterpart that seemed to walk straight out of The Quack Pack, on one hand, it does represent Mabel’s idea that things can be quickly taped over with concepts that she does like… such as a “super-cool” Dipper. Kids do stupid things in stupid situations, and “Dippy Fresh” sorta works. (I still think he can go to hell, though.) On the other hand, the end of this episode also had Dipper quickly fix the situation between him and Mabel. Hypocrisy, much?

Speaking of which, the ultimate resolution of the plot – Dipper deciding to reject Ford’s apprenticeship – also raised eyebrows in some elements of the fandom. Those elements decried it as yet another example of Dipper giving up his happiness in favor of Mabel, who many in that aspect of that fandom loathe with a passion unseen since Wesley Crusher. However, I’m going to dissent a little with those arguments.The central theme of Gravity Falls Season 2 is the topic of a familial bond, and Dipper deciding not to take up the apprenticeship after everything went pear shaped fits in with those themes pretty well.

However, I do think there was a missed opportunity for Mabel to confess that she took the deal with Blendin. Something like that really could’ve put a strain on the relationship that could’ve carried through the third and final part. Instead, it’s not addressed. Therefore, I do have to concur with the fans who felt that Mabel got off relatively easily, and also believe that this particular conflict appears to be too easily wrapped up. (You could argue that becoming prepared to let go of your innocence isn’t easy, though. That’s a good counterargument. That, and maybe the conflict will resurface during Part III, but I doubt it.)

In many ways, “Weirdmageddon” feels like a bit of a letdown. You have this attempt to create this grand finale, and the end result of “Escape From Reality” is largely… a good episode. Finales, though, are supposed to be epic, grand, all that jazz. This… wasn’t.

I hope part three carries through. Because if my fears are confirmed, we’re facing a rather disappointing ending.

Tidbits:

  • Honestly, the entire concept of Mabeland reminds me of Cloudcuckooland from The Lego Movie.
  • I was going to complain more about the rather basic temptations that Dipper, Soos, and Wendy face, but given that they came from the mentality of Mabel, it might be that Mabel has somewhat simplified views of every character that passes her mind. Soos is defined by his relationship with his father, and Wendy, her teenaged rebellion.
  • Props to Jon Stewart as the Kitten Judge. It’s worth noting that, sometime in 2014, Stewart all but admitted to being a Gravity Falls fan.
  • Also loved the scene that revealed that Stan prepped a coalition to bring down Bill and his Posse. Nice to know that he’s not a back scratcher, or part of a chair.
  • Xyler and Craz take note of Sartre’s belief in reality. Ironically, my Philosophy class before this one studied Sartre’s own beliefs.
  • I was going to put a quote from Alphaville’s “Forever Young” at the top of the review proper, but I figured it would be too corny for now. Might do it for the final episode.
  • What is it with animators and waffles? I mean, you have a waffle breakfast attacking the Crystal Gems, and now you have waffle guards threatening to kill Dipper, Wendy, and Soos. Are waffles the root of all evil?

Favorite Scene: The reveal of Grunkle Stan’s aforementioned coalition, up to and including the Multi-bear and the Manotaur. Yeah, it got me hyped up for part III. Don’t laugh.

Least Favorite Scene: The resolution to the end of Mabel’s conflict was underwhelming. They could’ve done more.

Score: 6.5. It would’ve gotten another point if it wasn’t part of the series finale. Therefore, this episode gets a demerit.

I can’t believe it. Only one of these new Gravity Falls reviews left. Sure, I can do the re-reviews, but it’s not gonna be the same.

Compounding everything (or easing it, whatever floats your boat), is the fact that the Mouse won’t be airing it until early 2016, which, as far as I know, means anywhere from New Years Day to Tax Day. So, we might be in for a Winter of Discontent, fandom.

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