Gravity Falls Review: Season 2 Wrap Up

(Note – the ranking of every episode will be out next post, but given that I did a wrap-up for Season 1, I may as well do one for Season 2. This is going to be brief, since I’m going to touch on more posts in a full requiem of Gravity Falls.)

Screenshot of this image, found on the Gravity Falls wiki.

Thirty long years, and it’s led up to this! My greatest achievement… probably should have worn pants. – Grunkle Stan, in his boxers, “Scary-oke”.

The first line of “Scary-oke” set the tone for Season 2 of Disney’s Gravity Falls – it was going to be more ambitious, more plot-driven, than the act of brilliance that was Season 1. The question is, did it meet my expectations?

Well, how can I put this?

YEAH!
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Gravity Falls Review: "Weirdmageddon III – Take Back The Falls" (Season 2, Episode 20)

Massive Inter-dimensional pyramid with bowtie used mega fist pound! It’s not very effective.

Airdate: February 15th, 2016

Synopsis: After going through the sugar-coated hell that was Mabeland, Dipper, Mabel, Soos, and Wendy team up with a group of refugees taking shelter in the Mystery Shack alongside Stan. There, they devise a plan to rescue Ford and bring down Bill. Thing is, Stan is remiss over rescuing somebody he feels screwed up purely on impulse. He begrudgingly goes along, but his feud with Ford almost brings the Pines family – and, on a larger scale, the entire town of Gravity Falls, Oregon – to the brink of death.

Review: First off, a personal note. I can’t believe that this is the last one of these new episode reviews that I’ll do for this show. Sure, I’ll re-review the show in the not-too-distant future, maybe set up a “tribute” site, but it won’t really feel the same. The waiting for every Gravity Falls episode will never be experienced again.

With that said…

“Ah, summer break. A time for leisure, recreation, and taking her easy… unless you’re me. My name is Dipper – the girl about to puke is my sister, Mabel. You may be wondering what we’re doing in a golf cart, fleeing from a creature of unimaginable horror.

Rest assured – there’s a perfectly logical explanation…

On June 15th, 2012, with those words, we were introduced to the world of Gravity Falls, thanks to the Disney Channel. Initially coming off as merely a quirky Disney cartoon, within 22 minutes, the show unveiled itself as something more complex and brilliant. What was Grunkle Stan doing at the end of that last episode? Who did write that journal? As it turns out, we were about to go on a beautiful journey.

Forty-four months later (to the day, no less), the long, long, long summer ended. So, how did this last episode close it all out?

Warning before we go further… spoilers are legion. Watch the episode before you go any further. I am dead. Serious.

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"Remember, Only The Good Die Young…" – The Gravity Falls Pre-Finale Post

Well, this is it.

Today marks the Series Finale of Gravity Falls. It airs at 7PM ET on DisneyXD. I anticipate that it will be an incredible end. Speculation is already running rampant that one of the characters will die, and chances are… that will happen. Not going to go further, but I could see Gravity Falls going out with a bit of a tragic aura.

Fun thing is, Hirsch has not ruled out the possibility of future specials or comics to continue the canon. However, I doubt we’ll see anything for quite a while – Hirsch has already signed a deal with FOX to create a new animated show. I suspect it will be taking up his time for the next couple of years, at least.

And, hey, if this is the end, consider this quote, said by Rimmer at the end of the Red Dwarf episode “Only The Good”.

“Remember, only the good die young.”

Oh, speaking of which…

Today marks the 28th Anniversary of the premiere of Red Dwarf – which is about to premiere its 11th series later this year. So, Gravity Falls fans, take solace in the fact that a show that premiered in 1988 got brought out of dormancy three times.

And besides, almost any ending to Gravity Falls will be far better than “Only The Good”.

So, one last time, let’s go north of normal, and west of weird.

Scullyfied Simpsons: "Viva Ned Flanders" (Season 10, Episode 10)

“Couldn’t we have gone to Branson instead? C’mon – you can’t hate Andy Williams.”

Airdate: January 10th, 1999

Synopsis: Dust from the demolition of Burns’ casino sends the Simpsons to the car wash. There, Homer finds out that Ned uses the seniors card to get a discount. At church, Homer gets a confession out of Ned – he’s actually 60 years old. His youth comes from a rather clean lifestyle. However, Ned comes to think about his point in life – that he just might be a bit too predictable.

Upon seeing Homer act like an idiot, he tries to get advice from the man. Homer’s advice involves going to Burns’ Casino… which was blown up. Therefore, the two take a road trip to Las Vegas. Homer’s lifestyle eventually makes an impression on Ned, and the two wake up the next morning hungover, in a suite, and married to two cocktail waitresses.

Review: In the season 5 episode “$pringfield”, the town decided to legalize gambling, with Mr. Burns as the main investor in the initiative. With Burns’s Casino, “$pringfield” lampooned the entire casino establishment – the encouragement of gambling even towards addicts, the incompetence at trying to quell problem gamblers from their worst urges, and even the hidden vices that are found in the most unlikely of characters – in that case, it was Marge that turned out to be a gambling addict. It was a quirky episode, and a fun one at that.

In this episode, “Burns’s Casino” is blown up. And while it’s unintentional, I can’t help but feel the irony, as this episode does a damn good job spitting on the classic era.

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Scullyfied Simpsons: "Mayored To The Mob" (Season 10, Episode 9)

Airdate: December 20th, 1998

Those aren’t Idaho Potatoes!

Synopsis: A trip to the Bi-Mon-Sci-Fi-Con goes horribly wrong when Mark Hamill doesn’t talk about Star Wars at his panel. With a riot breaking out, and Mark and the Mayor’s lives threatened, Homer barges through the nerds and rescues the duo. Quimby promptly fires his old bodyguards and replaces them with Homer. This, however, leads to trouble when Homer winds up discovering that a deal with the Mafia to send low-quality milk to schoolchildren went too well (read, the Mafia was using rat’s milk.) With the ring busted, Fat Tony threatens Quimby’s life.

Review: OK… Homer gets another job. Over the previous eight episodes, he’s been a grease jockey, an inventor, a personal assistant, a hippie, and a coward on the Ship of Lost Souls (although that last one only lasted mere minutes before he got thrown out.) So, why did the writers give him another job? I think, in reality, Mark Hamill just walked by Ron Hauge at some restaurant in LA, Hauge thought of an episode where Homer and Mark met up, and before you know it, Homer’s a bodyguard.

Anyway, this episode was better than “Kidney Trouble”. Then again, a test pattern would’ve been better than “Kidney Trouble”.

In a bizarre way, I think that this episode could’ve worked better given the right circumstances. In fact, it did work better at one point – Season 6’s “The Springfield Connection”.

In “Springfield Connection”, Marge joins the Springfield Police Department after feeling a rush from bringing down a petty criminal. There, she gets a first hand look at the incompetence and corruption within Springfield’s Finest.

On the surface, these two plots are similar – a Simpson parent enters the public service. However, in “Springfield Connection”, there are many nuances that make it stand out – the episode features an analysis of corruption, incompetence, familial abuse of power, gender roles (to a certain extent), society’s perception of law enforcement – even the idea of reform vs punishment is brushed upon. That, and Marge’s desire to enter the force and actions within stemmed from her character – a personal repression of her more “adventurous” side that exploded when trying to capture a perp, yet also was nuanced with her refusal to participate in the abuses of power the other members of the department engage in.

Here, beyond the retracing of bribery and corruption, there’s no nuances here. It’s just a simple action-esque plot, beat by beat. Nothing new is seen, and it seems like the plot controls the characters, instead of vice-versa. For example, Homer’s reasoning for entering the force? Mayor Quimby pointed to him, and he accepted. Why? There’s nothing in his character that would indicate that this should work. But, he accepts, because that’s what Captain Wacky does. He also becomes way too focused on his job, because, again, Captain Wacky.

That’s our Captain Wacky, taking an unstable job and using a sleeperhold on his kids!

Even the ending shows a stark difference in how to wrap up plots. “Springfield Connection” had Marge examine the hypocrisy (or at least incompetence) of the SPD, and gave her a personal reason to resign – the man that attacked her family was being let off the hook, and she felt like there was too little hope for reform. It’s a brilliant ending, having Marge reinforce the values she lives her life by.

In another “Homer Gets A Job” plot, “Colonel Homer”, Homer leaves his job as country musician manager after a close analysis of his relationship with Marge, which was strained for a good chunk of that episode.

Come the end of “Mayored”, Homer leaves his bodyguard job because… he’s an idiot. It’s a bit funny, but there’s little to get from his character besides “Homer is an idiot.” Real creative and deep.

Now, it seems like I’m harping on this episode a lot. Thankfully, there are a few positives.

For example, I loved Mark Hamill’s performance here – it practically saved the episode. Unlike the Basinger/Baldwin debacle of a couple of episodes ago, not only does it not overtake the plot, but there are actual jokes regarding the man – how he’s now reduced to selling cell phone plans, doing community theatre, etc. Hamill’s character even comes off as a bit egotistical and callous – a fine bit of self deprecation. Read, Mark Hamill has a personality.

Also notable is that, well, there wasn’t any awkward mistreatment of death to sully the comedy. Thus, I laughed quite a bit, such as…

  • Roger Corman’s Titanic.
  • Quimby’s old bodyguards just looking at the blue skies outside as a riot breaks out at Bi-Mon-Sci-Fi-Con.
  • Seargent Leavelle singing “I Will Always Love You”. He ain’t Whitney, that’s for sure.
  • “Rats? I’m outraged! You promised me dog or higher!”
  • Cruel as it was, Homer’s dismissal of Milhouse’s safety (or at least sense of taste) was a decent bit of dark comedy. Poor kid.
  • “Luke, Be a Jedi Tonight!”
So, is this episode worth a watch? Maybe once, if only for Mark Hamill’s performance. Otherwise, not much to recommend here, other than if you have to choose between this and “Kidney Trouble”.
Tidbits:
  • The Bi-Mon-Sci-Fi-Con is a pretty interesting gag – mainly, it seems to indicate that this small town is some sort of midpoint for science fiction.
  • Some fans were critical of the fact that various secondary characters (Willie, Lenny) were at the Mark Hamill panel. I am willing to play devils advocate, and think that the writers were going to symbolize the wide appeal that Star Wars Episode I had at the time of release, that is broke into the mainstream. But, yeah, it does dilute the secondary characters into more of a mass than as individuals. Springfield is the quintessential American town, but in the past, the characters were identifiable by their likes and dislikes. Not so much here.
  • I figure I should bring up the mafia aspect of the episode. It’s rather stupid, and even playing around with a few cliches didn’t help this episode much. Word to the wise – watch “Homie the Clown”. In fact, “Mayored” is that, but less clever.
Zaniness Factor: 3. Stupid Mafia plot is stupid, Captain Wacky is Captain Wacky. 
Jerkass Homer Meter: 3. No less than four times does Homer use the sleeperhold on his own family. That, and his rather casual dismissal of Maggie during the Bi-Mon-Sci-Fi-Con riot was pretty cruel. Try watching this episode after “Lisa’s First Word”. You’ll weep… at how far the writing has shifted.
Favorite Scene: Strange as it seems, I did like the Bodyguard Boot Camp. That, and c’mon, “Luke, Be A Jedi Tonight” is brilliant.
Least Favorite Scene: I’m going with the sleeperhold scenes. All of them tie for scenes that amused me the least.
Score: 5. Thank you, Mark Hamill.

A Brief Note About February and March 2016

Just letting you know ahead of time, almost all of the posts on this blog this month will be dedicated to the Gravity Falls finale, which will air on the 15th. (Please watch it live and on DisneyXD/the app – let’s have GF go out with a bang.)

I might be able to get out my review of “Mayored to the Mob” (and, less likely, either “So Many Birthdays” or “Viva Ned Flanders”) before the 15th, but after that, the rest of the posts this month will be dedicated to the end of Gravity Falls.

On a side note, I foresee March being a rather busy month for me, so blog updates may or may not be relatively rare during March. Just an advance warning.