Gravity Falls Review: Season 1, Episode 3: "Headhunters"

Three figures, only one with dignity
In fair Oregon, where we lay our scene.
From retro grudge to break a nouveaux peace
Where wax-made hands make wooden floors unclean.
From forth the fatal hands of Mabel Pines
A wax figure of Stan loses his head.
But Stanford’s wax head had no connection
To Archibald Cox and eighteen minute gaps.

Airdate: June 30, 2012

Synopsis: Dipper, Mabel, and Soos stumble across a hidden room in the Mystery Shack. Said room is full of wax figurines. Stan reveals that he once had a wax museum, but it didn’t bode too well for him financially. He decides to reopen it, and commissions Mabel to make a new figure. She makes one based off of Stan. The figure itself, plus the poorly-organized press conference announcing the relaunch, makes the wax museum fail once again.

The night after the press conference, the wax figure is decapitated. With the cops on other business, Dipper and Mabel set out to find the vandal. Who is the vandal? Well, let’s just say they were close to wax Stan… and far from regular Stan.

Review (SPOILERS): One of the many, many, many things that drives people to watch Gravity Falls is the relationships between the characters – especially between our protagonists. After all, many TV shows showcase something of a power struggle between siblings, or partners/bosses in detective-type shows.

What makes Gravity Falls unique in this regard is the relatively egalitarian relationship between Dipper and Mabel. This episode cements this idea. Neither of them are a “leader” or a “follower” – they both participate in the investigation, contributing equally, while adding their own quirks to make the characters relatable.

We got a glimpse of that at the end of “Tourist Trapped” and during parts of “Legend of the Gobblewonker”. However, in the latter, the two were buoyed by Soos, and the latter was more to introduce the characters, with the dynamics being secondary. Here, the focus is on Dipper and Mabel. The dynamic that they have is brilliantly played – whatever conflict there is between them comes not from a desire of power, but due to their contrasting personalities.

It really is refreshing to see a show without a battle in the balance of power. Granted, shows like that are not to be knocked: House of Cards (both versions) and Red Dwarf showcase an antagonistic relationship between the main character and another character or two or ten. However, not every show can be Lister v Rimmer, or Frank Underwood v the President. It’s nice to see a friendly relationship such as the one between Dipper and Mabel written so well.

Their plot is actually intriguing enough as it is – not only is the twist generally, uh, “twisty”, but the climax is actually pretty scary. It’s the first time the show actually went into a sense of terror, rather than just use peril for comedy.

One might wonder whether the wax figures were really nuts before their interactions with Stan, or whether being locked away drove them mad. That’s our moral dilemma for the episode – relatively small, but worth thinking about.

John Oliver (Last Week Tonight) does a brilliant job as Wax Sherlock Holmes – managing to convey a form of comedy and terrifying leadership in his character. Oh, and getting Coolio and Larry King to guest star? Ignore the hiatus – this really shows what Disney thinks of the show; they had so much faith in it, and were so impressed, that the third episode got high-end voice actors. Brilliant.

That’s not even getting into the rest of the characters. Sherrif Blubs, Deputy Durland, and Toby Determined, as far as gag and minor characters go, are all brilliantly written, multi-dimensional, and hysterical. Kevin Michael Richardson, Keith Ferguson, and Greg Turkington are all fantastic voice actors.

While not a “must watch” episode, it’s definitely a fun one, showing the show’s evolution in the three episodes alone.

Trivia:

  • While Stan’s reaction to losing his wax self might seem exaggerated, recent events do show a… darker side to this loss. Still, a bit egocentric, eh?
  • Come to think about it, Soos’s keyboard is a bit tragic, given that he got it on the day that he realised his dad was a damn deadbeat!
  • When I first did the review, I read on the Gravity Falls Wiki that one of the detectives on Duck-Tective was voiced by Gavin McTarvish, who voiced Warden Ackerman in Series VIII of Red Dwarf. Turns out that was just a rumour. Also, I said in that review something along the lines of “weak Dwarf is better than no Dwarf.In hindsight… not so much.
  • One thing I don’t like is that they gave Richard Nixon… nothing. C’mon. Nixon would’ve been awesome. Two words: Billy. West.
Favorite Scene: The botched exposure of Toby Determined, including… “Your little knees must be sore… from jumping to conclusions!” Yeah, it’s corny, but there’s also a hint of character in it. 
Least Favorite Scene: Take out the “Duck-tective” scenes – not because they’re not funny, mind you, but because they’re unnecessary – and you would get just a bit more wax figure lines and action. Thankfully, “Duck-tective” does help flesh out Dipper and Mabel’s character, so it’s not a total write off.
Score: 9
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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. Continue reading

Gravity Falls Review: Season 1, Episode 1: "Tourist Trapped"

(Given that Gravity Falls won’t be back until June, I figured that I may as well follow up on a promise I made last year and re-watch pretty much the entire first season. What else do I have to do, anyway?)


Airdate: June 15th, 2012

Synopsis: Twins Dipper and Mabel Pines are shipped off one summer from their home in Piedmont, California, to the center of nowhere- Gravity Falls, Oregon. There, they are to assist their great uncle, Stan, in working at his gift shop. While running an errand for Stan, Dipper locates a mysterious book, labelled “3”, which contains many secrets to the town. “Remember, in Gravity Falls, there’s no one you can trust.” Meanwhile, Mabel has a goal: find an epic summer romance. She finds a moody dude, and the two hit it off.

Ne’er the twain shall meet? Dipper suspects something’s off instantly.

Review: First episodes are always going to be off- characters have yet to be fleshed out, plots may still need to be ironed out, and in the case of animated shows, the animation may look a bit… cheap at first.

This show doesn’t really have that problem.

Our main characters are introduced in such an eccentric manner- running from a massive gnome. Sad to say, their summer gets more insane from there. Establishing the characters comes after the opening theme- Dipper’s stern-ness and Mabel’s eccentric behavior are set up in such a way that doesn’t seem expository in the slightest.

Stan’s introduction is as bombastic as it is brilliant- scaring his own great-nephew. Even before the end of the first act, however, he says a quote about his fellow employees- “I’d fire you all if I could”- that seems to hint at possible demons inside of him, a secret that he might be hiding. Of course, he masks this by denying that anything in the town is strange through the entire episode- a precursor to the very last scene in the episode.

Same with Soos and Wendy- their introductions showcase the quirks in their character, yet also shows how close they seem to these two kids that they’ve never met before. It really is a bit of a feel-good moment when they assist the twins, yet still do so in ways that establish their characters. “Try not to hit any pedestrians”, indeed.

Mabel is quickly shaped up to be a three-dimensional character- moments of brilliance shine through her eccentricities. In fact, she formulates a plan that only she could know about- one involving a good old piece of lawn maintenance machinery. And at the end, she acquires something that showcases a small level of foresight and rationality inside her id-controlled brain.

Norman- the setup, the exposure, the aftermath- really is the first showcase of the twists that Gravity Falls will take. The hints at Norman’s true identity seem like such minute details, but when revealed, showcase that Gravity Falls is not a show that goes for the blindingly obvious details. (At least, except for the end of the season.)

The theme of this episode is the concept of trust- a concept re-explored in “Not What He Seems”. “Tourist Trapped”, in hindsight, contains many a scene that is cringeworthy in hindsight. It makes some sort of sense that Dipper trusts Mabel with the secrets of the journal, yet is reluctant to let her go out with her mysterious boyfriend without some sort of inspection. Whether it’s a brotherly instinct, or a neurosis that’s proven correct, is all up to viewer interpretation.

One thing that threw me was the use of narration- in a style similar to that of “How I Met Your Mother”. It seems like it was just there for basic exposition. The concept, so far, has not been revisited- the closest to a copy is “Little Gift Shop of Horrors”, with Stan’s links. Another aspect that threw me is the use of Family Guy style cutaway gags. Granted, these actually tied into the plot and character development. Still, the style of gags seen here will not be used in later episodes, if I recall correctly

Ending on a positive note, though… the voice acting here is already fantastic. Ritter, Schaal, Hirsch, Cardellini… all of the main cast give brilliant performances.

What else can I say? It’s a damn good pilot episode, with a cliffhanger that… well, let’s just say it really sets up the Myth Arc.

Watch it.

Tidbits

  • This episode actually got two nods at the Annie Awards- Ian Worrel for Best Production Design, and Kristen Schaal for Best Voice Acting.
  • Three more days. If Disney had waited three more days, the first episode would’ve premiered on June 18th.
  • I forgot to mention the comedy here- it’s pretty excellent. The “Rock that Looks Like A Face” gag is really the world-building that Gravity Falls needs- it’s brilliantly cynical.
  • Nikki Yang did storyboards for the pilot. She would go on (and has gone on) to voice Candy.
  • One more thing I feel like questioning is the scene where Wendy tosses the keys of the Golf Cart to Dipper. (“Try not to hit any pedestrians!”) Not that it was a bad scene- hell, no. In fact, it was brilliant. However, it makes the relative lack of development for Wendy all the more awkward- the two don’t necessarily have to always been in a status of romantic tension. I expected that Wendy and Dipper would settle into a role of two advisors to each other in the discovery of the town’s secrets, similar to Picard and Riker from Star Trek: TNG. Ah, a geek can dream.
Favorite Scene: Mabel’s gambit at the end of the episode shows a brilliance in the character that you would never expect.
Least Favorite Scene: Did we need to see a gnome puke up a rainbow? I know, the target audience would probably like that type of humor. Me… not so much. More personal tastes factor into this decision, though. 
Score: 8.75.

Not Another Top (X) List: Ranking Gravity Falls Season 1

Told ya I had a New Years trick up my sleeve, didn’t I?

Greetings, everyone! We’re celebrating the new year by doing a bit of a countdown of every episode of one of the greatest TV shows of all time, Gravity Falls! I’m counting down all 20 episodes of Season One. Essentially, this is similar to what I did back in April, with the worst and best episodes of the season. However, this encompasses all of the episodes from Season 1. They go from my least favorite to my, well, favorite. As well, I’ll be giving a one-or-two sentence review on these episodes.

I must stress that there are no “bad” Gravity Falls episodes- just weak Gravity Falls episodes.

Alright, Fallers! Let’s not waste any time! Continue reading

Show Wars: Bodyswapping: "Bodyswap" vs. "Carpet Diem"

Welcome to SHOW WARS!

show-wars
Special thanks to the Logo Design tool for, y’know, existing.

In this new segment, I will be comparing two episodes from two different shows (or maybe two different seasons of the same show) with a similar theme or plot device, and seeing who executes it better. What better way to introduce the segment by comparing two episodes from (what I consider) the two greatest TV shows of all time?

It has to be a huge, strange coincidence that I discovered Red Dwarf and Gravity Falls around the same time. I first began watching YouTube clips of Red Dwarf around June of 2012, although I didn’t declare it a potential “favorite show” until Christmas (“Better Than Life” and it’s cruelly hysterical ending sealed the deal for me). Gravity Falls caught my eye in July of that year; “The Inconveniencing” was running for the first time. I was instantly hooked.

As such, these two shows get the first installment of “Show Wars”, with a rather conventional sci-fi plot being our first example.

The concept of Body-swapping is nothing new. Star Trek: The Original Series did it in its series finale, “The Turnabout Intruder”. (Said episode is considered one of the worst of the original series). It’s just that Red Dwarf and Gravity Falls add their own twists and humor to it to make it funny, relatable, or both.

Therefore, after the jump, in the ring today… it’s “Bodyswap” and “Carpet Diem”! Continue reading

Gravity Falls Review: Season 1 Wrap Up

Remember: in Gravity Falls, there is no one you can trust.

So, you have a show airing on the teeny bopper vehicle Disney Channel. Alright, some skepticism is always expected.

It’s a cartoon. OK, Disney is known for its good cartoons.

First season, most Disney Cartoons (hell, most shows in general) are trying to find their footing, gain some depth, etc.

Well, Gravity Falls has just finished it’s first season… and it has already established itself (at least in my insane mind) as not only a fantastic show, but quite possibly, the best show on American TV. Continue reading

Not Another Top (X) List: Top 6 Best Episodes of Gravity Falls Season 1

Well, yesterday, we looked at the top 5 worst episodes of season 1 of Gravity Falls. It was hard to pick the 5 worst, simply because the season was so good.

Now, onto another hard task; the top 6 episodes of Gravity Falls season 1. This was hard merely because the season was so fantastic, it produced god-knows-how-many candidates for the title of “best episode”. Narrowing it down to 6 was a hard task.

So, without further ado, here are…

THE TOP 6 BEST GRAVITY FALLS EPISODES OF SEASON 1!

Continue reading

Not Another Top (X) List: Top 5 Worst Gravity Falls Episodes of Season 1

Remind me to add graphics to this image. (Image taken from Google Images. I apologize.)

Well, I’ve done it. I have covered 10 hours of television. The first season of Gravity Falls was fantastic. From the plot, to the characters, to the drama, to the humor, everything was close to (if not outright) well done.

However, I don’t believe in perfection. Between that belief, and the fact that as an internet reviewer, I must produce a decent output of “negative” content, I have decided to look back and see what 5 episodes were the weakest this season. I might say something different compared to what I said in the review; I apologise for that. Again, these episodes are not necessarily bad. Flawed? Yes. Bad? Not really. This season was, by TV standards, excellent; these are just subpar compared to the high standards of this awesome show.

So here we are, back at another segment of “Not Another Top (X) List!” This week, X=5, and we’re looking at the…

Top 5 Worst Gravity Falls Episodes of Season 1!
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Gravity Falls Review: "Gideon Rises" (Season 1, Episode 20)

Airdate: August 2nd, 2013

Took a page out of Duloc, eh?

Synopsis: With Gideon now in control of the Mystery Shack- uh, I mean Gideonland– the Pines Family (and Soos) have to crash at Soos’s Grandmother’s house. The world seems to be falling apart; Gideon has Waddles, the kids have nowhere to go, Stan’s store is gone, and Wendy will be shipped off to her cousin’s logging camp if she can’t hold a job in Gravity Falls. (In this economy? Enjoy the logging camp!) Threatened with being sent back to Piedmont, CA for the rest of Summer, the twins have to resort to drastic measures to try and take down the shack.

As this is happening, Gideon reveals the reason de jure for his takeover of the shack… as the last traces of his sanity evaporate. Stan, meanwhile, is trying to get used to the fact that his life is all but trashed… when he notices something fishy with the Gideonland buttons

Review (SPOILERS MIGHT BE AHEAD): Let’s get this out of the way; the ending. I can’t say I enjoyed the basics of it that much, given that everybody and their mother expected it. In a show that twists and turns every other day of the week, this just seems like a weak end. Still, can’t fault the excellent music and the creative visuals.

Hell, you can’t fault the episode that much. It really is pretty damn good. Continue reading

Gravity Falls Review: Season 1, Episode 19: "Dreamscaperers"

Airdate: July 12, 2013

Ah, Bill! Keep on laughing, you morally ambiguous wacko.

Synopsis: Back for revenge against the Mystery Shack… again… Gideon is driven over the edge. Taking out book #2, he summons Bill Cypher, a mind demon with the power to enter and control the subconscious, so that Gideon can gain control of the safe and steal the deed. Bill goes into Stan’s mind. Dipper has to summon himself into the mind of Grunkle Stan… just as relations between the two seem to have hit an all time low. As the gang crosses the mindscape to try and hunt Bill Cypher, the way Stan’s mind works is slowly unveiled, as Dipper realizes how Stan treats the kid, and why he does the things he does.

Review (SPOILERS MAY BE AND ARE AHEAD): In February of 2014, I reviewed “Boyz Crazy” and declared it to be my favorite episode of the series thus far, due to its use of Shakespearian tragicomedy and questionable motives amongst every single character. It really was the closest thing Gravity Falls ever came to nihilism.

However, remember: just because it’s my favorite does not mean it was the most well-produced episode. That honor goes to “Dreamscaperers”. I swear to you, the survey on the Gravity Falls Wiki shows “Dreamscaperers” in a commanding lead for “Best Episode”, and it seems to be there for at least the next few months. (The new season premieres over Summer).

Strangely enough, some of the features of “Dreamscaperers” oppose those of “Boyz Crazy”. “Boyz Crazy” focused on the darker underbelly of our main characters, and the connections between them being threatened; “Dreamscaperers” focuses on the development of the supernatural features and a more positive side to the characters, especially Stan.

We get a peek in Stan’s memories, which literally gives him the most complete backstory of the main characters so far. I used to compare Dipper to Red Dwarf’s Arnold Rimmer, due to Dipper’s own neurosis, organizational tendencies, and pride. However, as I rewatched the episodes, I slowly realized that the comparison, while justified, was not the best matchup. The reason? Dipper, past his moments of selfishness, neurosis, and pride, is actually one to practice self-improvement, selflessness, and will always come to the defense of other characters.

I now have to give the comparison to Stan, due to the tragic backstory the two had, as well as their cynical, self-serving actions. Yet, whereas Rimmer’s childhood was played for comedy and was not used as an excuse for his behaviour, Stan’s childhood was played in a much more tragic light, and used to show just why he became the man he is today; he’s a jaded man, cynical because of the cards life dealt him. He doesn’t want Dipper to turn into him; a weak man who is beaten into cynicism and selfishness.

We also see Mabel really take on a leadership role in the episode. Whereas Dipper has normally taken on the role of team leader, he’s too derailed by his own self-interests and cynicism for much of the episode. It’s Mabel who sends the crew into action against Bill Cypher. Yet she still keeps her eccentric behavior and quirks.

And may we also give Bill Cypher a hand here? Sure, the first time you watch, he’s a perfectly affable guy, who is merely a slave to the journal holder. Yet, we get to see a darker side to the “Isosceles Monster”, as he has the power to manipulate the human mind, connect with people who are outright cruel (Gideon), and tortures the crew by bringing their worst nightmares to life. To go off on a tangent, that last part reminds me of the Red Dwarf episode “Back to Reality”, an episode which is not only one I will review in the coming weeks, but an episode considered the zenith of its franchise. Bringing the worst nightmares of people to life is, again, nothing new, but it also plays into the characters: Soos, despite bouts of maturity, still has the mind of a child, and Mabel also has the level of self-awareness that makes her quirkiness just awesome enough to work.

Sorry for the tangent; back to Bill. He really is ambiguous; is he looking out for his own power and out to cause mischief, or is he only forced to do what people command him to do? Is he a wise being, or is he just using scare tactics? Is he the product of a Gravity Falls figurehead? What could be behind this character?

Last but not least on the Character chart, Gideon. We already know from “The Hand That Rocks the Mabel” that he owns #2, and that he wants the Shack (thank you, “Little Dipper”), but here, we see him finally execute 15 episodes worth of development. I won’t spoil the ending, except for the fact that dynamite and personal connections get involved. Really, that last scene shows that he is craftier than we thought he was even in recent episodes: he knows his science.

We also must mention that, while the art in Gravity Falls has always been fantastic, it is the art in this episode (especially the credits sequence and the scenes with Bill) that convince me to say this: in terms of animation, Gravity Falls is the best-animated TV show in recent years… possibly ever.

I don’t even have to say anything else, really. The conflict is awesome, the humor is fantastic, the plot twists are pretty damn good… this is simply an episode that anybody and everybody should watch. Is it my favourite? It’s close. A 10 score is given to my favorite episode of the entire show, and I think “Boyz Crazy” is still my favorite because it gave development to otherwise underrated characters… but still. This is damn near perfect. This is to Gravity Falls what “Back to Reality” was to Red Dwarf: it sent the show from fantastic to a show that will hopefully stand the test of time. Alex Hirsch, Tim McKeon, Matt Chapman, Joe Pitt, and John Aoshima, you should all be proud of yourselves. (And that’s not even getting into the actors!)

Favorite Scene: If I HAVE to narrow it down… anything and everything with Bill Cypher. The character is just well crafted enough to work.

Least Favorite Scene: One of my most frequent complaints this season has to be the underuse of Wendy. She gets one line (“One time, I caught Gideon stealing my moisturizer”), and it just does not connect as well as others in the episode, or others that the character has delivered. It just seems like they keep her in simply to give Dipper a love interest and personal flaws, or to try to avert “The Smurfette Principle”. Come on guys, give her some sense of development. (Still an otherwise fantastic scene.)

Score: 9.5.