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)

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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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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. Continue reading

Gravity Falls Review: "Dipper and Mabel Vs. The Future" (Season 2, Episode 17)

The truth is… surprisingly, not that far out there. (Small note, but building that bridge must’ve required some awesome engineering.)

Airdate: October 12th, 2015

Synopsis: Mabel is ecstatic – the end of August marks her and Dipper’s 13th birthday, and she’s planning a celebration to mark both the occasion and put a massive cap on the summer. Excited for everything, her happiness is slowly quashed as the world she once knew begins to fall apart. Wendy pops her bubble about high school, there can’t be a party at the shack itself, and her best friends can’t come to the party.

Meanwhile, Dipper and Ford go looking for a super-adhesive glue to try and seal a crack in the globe that holds the rift between the universes. To do this, they wind up going under Gravity Falls… a town founded over a UFO. (Arnold Rimmer has been vindicated.) After a series of strange events, Ford offers Dipper a proposal – stay in Gravity Falls after the summer ends, and become his apprentice in mystery solving.

When the two plots intersect… the end results are not good, to say the very least.

Review (WARNING, LONG REVIEW. ALSO, SPOILERS FOR VARIOUS PIECES OF MEDIA): Shortly before the premiere of “Roadside Attraction”, Alex Hirsch tweeted something to the effect that “RA” was a “breather episode” before the epic episode afterward. Reading that, I thought that this episode would change the show’s status quo on a scale unseen since “Not What He Seems.”

Well, it turns out, I was wrong.

For “Dipper and Mabel vs the Future” has less changed the status quo… and more curled the status quo in a ball, flung said ball out the window, and sent it barreling towards the sun at speeds so fast, the Millennium Falcon wouldn’t be able to catch up.

I’m not even sure how else to put it, other than this episode is undeniably the most stunning in the history of the show.
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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? Continue reading

Gravity Falls Review: "The Stanchurian Candidate" (Season 2, Episode 14)

 

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The GOP Election Debates were less insane than this!

 

Airdate: August 24th, 2015

Synopsis: With President Barack Obama being constitutionally prohibited from running for a third term, many people apply for the most powerful office in the Western World. These include a social democratic populist, the spouse of a controversial former president, an eccentric right-leaning populist billionaire, and the brother of a controversial former president, among many, many others. “Hilarity” ensues, especially concerning cloths, servers, and hairpieces.

Uh, I mean, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has Governor General David Johnston call elections so he can get a fourth consecutive mandate. However, he faces critiques from the public and his competitors, which include a bearded dude, a hippie, and the handsome son of a former politician, over his controversial justice legislation, his questionable handling of the economy, and his somewhat awkward management of the nation’s institutions and public services. Said handsome son, hippie, and bearded dude, meanwhile, face questions on their leadership and whether they’ll split the vote… again.

Uh, I REALLY mean, Stan decides to run for mayor of Gravity Falls, after the long-serving mayor dies. He does so because of insecurities that have surfaced after Ford came back. He runs against Bud Gleeful… whose son was locked up, thanks to Stan. Unfortunately, he’s more gaffe-prone than his poll numbers (starting at zero and bottoming out in negative numbers) will allow. To try and salvage Stan’s candidacy, they try and commit mind theft via a tie that Ford invented for “Reagan’s Masters”. Bud’s campaign manager, some dude that’s in prison, one-ups Stan by literally overtaking Bud’s mind with a spell.

Oh, that dude in prison? Gideon.

Review (SPOILERS): Politics! Is there a word more thrilling to the human soul? Since the dawn of time, decisions had to be made. One idea of governance is Democracy – allowing for more than just one person to decide. The Ancient Athenians laid the groundwork for (very limited) democracy. The Roman Republic established separate houses to (in theory) balance the wants and needs of the experienced versus those of the common man. The English Parliament (later the Parliament of Great Britain), the American Congress, and the Assembly of the First Republic kick-started the modern democracy we all know and love… even if the latter didn’t last long.

While the system is generally kind – let the average joe and jane send representatives to voice their interests – there are a lot of awkwardnesses in the campaign process, and within the after-effects of said elections. “The Stanchurian Candidate” exploits the idiosyncrasies that are found within the races and campaigns – this time, with the end goal to be the mayor of a small town. How does that go?

Unfortunately, as far as the writing for this episode goes… not the greatest. Continue reading

Gravity Falls Review: "Dungeons, Dungeons, and More Dungeons" (Season 2, Episode 13)

“You may have aced Dungeons, Dungeons, and More Dungeons, but can you handle Jeopardy????

Airdate: August 3rd, 2015

Synopsis: Dipper gets a board game in the mail – “Diggity Dungeons and All That” “Dungeons, Dungeons, and More Dungeons”. With Mabel and Stan refusing to play due to it’s complicated rules (and because the two are focused on the Duck-Tective season finale), Dipper winds up striking up a playing partner in Ford. Despite Ford’s somewhat wary attitude in letting him close to the secrets, the two become close confidantes in the Tabletop madness. They play such a good game, that when a dispute between Stan and Ford (surprise, surprise) unleashed Probilitor the Annoying, the wizard decides to eat Ford and Dipper’s brains to gain their smarts.

Review (SPOILERS AHEAD): Anything with Weird Al Yankovich is among the American National Treasures, alongside cheeseburgers, Taco Bell, and “Two Cathedrals”. This episode, while a small step below the likes of “A Tale of Two Stans”, is still a really great episode.

Hell, I think it works because, compared to “Not What He Seems” and “A Tale of Two Stans”, the comedy is the focus of the episode, rather than the drama. That’s not to say there’s no drama or character development – it’s just that they chose to use a lot of comedy to both mock and celebrate this episode’s target – RPGs.

If “Blendin’s Game” sent up gladiatorial sports and Olympiads, and “Northwest Mansion Disco” spit on the power of the elite, this episode does both with tabletop RPGs.

Full disclosure – I don’t play RPGs. The reasons are cited in this episode – they’ve always seem complicated, which seems a bit intimidating to me. There’s the various rules, the strangeness, the etc. I personally like playing games with a form of structure – stuff like “Dungeons and Dragons’ is not really up my alley. Therefore, I might get a few things off in my analysis – I apologize in advance. (If I do get something wrong, bring it up in the comments section.) Still, this episode has me interested, mainly because it’s use of RPG tropes (I assume) is beautiful.

Every aspect of it is parodied, analyzed, or both. The marketing, the complex rules, the long game times, the mathematical aspects, the eccentric game pieces, the seemingly unlimited power given to the player, and the plots that take you to another world are all put under a lens, or through the looking glass.

Probabilitor the Annoying, in particular, is (again, probably) a pretty good sendup of the antagonists of these games, as well as a stab at the fans of the. He is a stereotype of the typical antagonist in the RPG and the player – a nerd who wants to rule the world, uses ridiculous math to prove or disprove his power, and wants to eat Dipper and Stan’s brains. The use of these stereotypes is mixed up enough to make him a fun character, rather than be derivative or offensive. That, and he’s voiced by one of the geek gods, “Weird Al”.

Surprisingly enough, what also makes this episode even better is it’s use of character parallels – Mabel and Stan, and Dipper and Ford.

I mentioned these parallels in my review of “A Tale of Two Stans”, how there seemed to be some parallels between the Pines Twins and the Uncle Pines Twins. This episode takes it further – Ford entrusts Dipper with one of the greater secrets that he picked up in his dimension-hopping days – the multi-sided dice. While the tabletop game play does humanize Ford, it also shows just how foolish he can be – he has kept aspects of the supernatural in somewhat flimsy cupboards.

Ironically, Dipper himself has made some decisions or opinions that almost destroyed the town or his relationships this season. Trying to contact the feds? Temporary zombie invasion. Failing to confess to Wendy? Almost got her and the crew killed. Trying to convince Mabel to stop the portal? Almost left Ford trapped in limbo. At this rate, the end of the season could probably see him make a mistake that forever alters the course of the series.

Mabel and Stan, meanwhile, are both paired together through the course of the episode. It makes a bit of sense – Mabel did trust Stan the most at the end of “Not What He Seems”. However, this episode shows these two opposites (the somewhat cold Stan and the warm and affable Mabel) bond over Duck-Tective. The two ride on the simpler pleasures in life – TV, junk food, and lowbrow comedy revolving around puns. There’s also a lot of impulse in between them, often setting up short-term and long-term disasters.

One thing that is awesome is the two teaming up in their attempts to defeat Probabilitor. It not only shows just how close the two have gotten over the season, but it also showcases that, as silly and/or callous as they might be, they both have the capacity to save the day, even if Stan’s methods and Mabel’s concepts are… unorthodox. However, the two are also prone to mistakes – their impulses have also created “monsters of the week”, or set up longer arcs. While this episode chose to focus on their virtues rather than their vices, that doesn’t mean that the two will be getting off easy for the rest of the season.

The divide that is forming between the twins, and the consequences thereof, is also prominent in this episode. It was Stan’s bickering with Ford that sent Probabilitor out in the first place. Through no fault of their own, it was Mabel’s love of (seemingly) cheesy TV and Dipper’s love of mathematical tabletop RPGs that set the stage for the episode, and the Grunkles that the twin’s befriended. This was even noted in a scene that is eerily reminiscent of the last scene in “A Tale of Two Stans”.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it in probably every other Gravity Falls review until the end of the season – the season finale is going to be dark for the Mystery Twins.

Honestly, the big – if not the only – problem with this episode is that it wasn’t as memorable as it’s two predecessors. Which is fine – those two shook the foundation of the show. If anything, this episode might be remembered for it’s odd bits of comedy – and Weird Al – rather than the plot.

I can’t complain too much, though. Honestly, if your episode has Weird Al, it’s hard to fail it. If it has send-ups to tabletop RPGs, decent character development, and several great jokes, it’s easy to see why this is a good episode of a great show… if not the best of a great season.

Tidbits:

  • The “Diggity Dungeons and All That” commercial is something of a throwback to the first few episodes of Gravity Falls – it marks one of the first times since then that GF used a Family Guy style cutaway gag, especially one that had little impact on character development. It does, however, provide a great satire on marketing strategies.
  • There’s a lot I like about the Duck-Tective gags – mainly because they send up the tropes seen in Gravity Falls, with the execution in Duck-Tective seeming more hackneyed than the execution in Gravity Falls – probably because of it’s status as a parody. It reminds me of Crying Breakfast Friends in Steven Universe, especially in the episode “Cry for Help”.
    • Seriously, I would like to see a full-length episode of Duck-tective – just as an April Fools episode, or a breather during a really dramatic series of episodes.
Favorite Scene: A few to choose from, but just for the marketing comedy alone, “Diggity Dungeons and All That” was brilliant. Those 90s really were dark times.
Least Favorite Scene: I can’t really choose – not one scene stood out as weaker than the others. Overall, I think this episode, while pretty good, is not one of the more memorable of the show.
Score: 8.25

(Edit 3:45: emphasized some of my points.)