Gravity Falls Review: "Society of the Blind Eye" (Season 2, Episode 7)

You see? Nobody suspect the quirk.

Airdate: October 27, 2014

Synopsis: After realigning any and all evidence found, Dipper deduces that Old Man McGucket might have wrote the journals about the mysteries in Gravity Falls. After meeting up with the man, McGucket claims amnesia before 1982. Deducing that his mind was wiped, the gang wind up in the innards of the Gravity Falls Museum of History, where they find a secret society dedicated to wiping the memories of the townsfolk.

Review (MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD! PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK): I could gush endlessly about this episode, to the point where the review would be just me squeeing for about a novella’s worth of words. Instead, I will just plow through the plot basics quickly, and review the more in-depth afterwards.

The plot? Fantastic. Fantastic buildup, fantastic twist, fantastic climax… fantastic all around.
OK, you want more? I’ll give you more.
The town of Gravity Falls, before this episode, relied on the guess that very few were exposed to the madness of the town, except on the rare occasion (Gideon’s fall from grace, the zombie apocalypse, etc). Even on those rare occasions, the town never really seemed to be fazed in the long-term- they went back to normal within days.
This episode brings a darker look into the madness of the town- the society interrogates the townspeople, and wipes their minds. Thus, they continue on their normal lives, until they encounter the next incident… and so on… and so forth. This town almost makes Twin Peaks, WA look like Pawnee, IN!

The mind eraser is pretty much power that could be uncontrollable. As I mention below, the use by the society may be well-intentioned, or it might be a coverup. It’s ambiguous enough to send chills. However, what if a less ambiguous character got ahold of that device? The hell that would occur in case the memories were erased.

Yet, behind that plot, lies character after character that is suddenly injected with at least an ounce of pathos.

Obviously, when discussing this episode and the tragedy of Gravity Falls, we must bring up Old Man McGucket. Once viewed by fandom as a nutter who just happened to have good technological skills, this episode unearths the man behind the madness. In lieu of him being a local kook, he was once a man of great intellect, a man in his prime. It was the madness brought on by the disasters in Gravity Falls that caused him to effectively become insane. He became addicted to the device he used to wipe his memory with, driving him into his current state of madness.

The leader of the Society of the Blind Eye, Blind Ivan, is as tragic a villain as this show has ever had. Believing that he’s doing a service to the townspeople by wiping their memories of the supernatural, he is instead leading a major coverup of the madness of the town. Are his motives genuine? Is he simply using that as a masquerade in order to justify his mass mind-erase, and really has more sinister motives? Being played by Peter Serafinowicz really helps.

Pathos is also extended to our main protagonists- namely, Dipper, Mabel, and Wendy.

  • Mabel was a character that was already pure id- but she seems to be happy-go-lucky and resilient. The impact of her failures has taken a toll on her: the engagement of Mermando, probably her most successful romance, has her questioning her summer-end goal- the epic summer romance. That’s just one disaster that has occurred in the past month for her- apparently, getting kidnapped, flung across time, and having her relationship with her brother threatened several times hasn’t proven too well for her. The confession of “loving some of her stuffed animals more than others” is merely a hint at the status of her mind- she can’t merely be the id to everything.
  • Wendy’s character at the start of the show was something of an anti-Dipper- while Dipper was high strung, a bit under-masculine, and overtly inquisitive, Wendy is much more laid back, and is shown to be a lazy slob. (Insert Red Dwarf jokes here.) We’ve seen that laid-back character slowly evolve into one who is more confrontational- first with her brutal rant to Dipper and Robbie in “Boyz Crazy”, then one who’s quick to investigate in “Into the Bunker”, and in this episode, with that stupid rap song. It’s here that we learn that her family, who practically define machismo, has stressed her out so much, she has forced herself to adopt this “mellow” masquerade. 
  • When we first met Dipper, he was something of a “precocious” kid- wise beyond their years. As time went on, we unearthed more and more of his negative qualities- his arrogance, his ego, his cynicism. At his worst, he could give Arnold Rimmer a run for his money… except once he realized the impact of the worst of his actions, he actually tried to right the wrong. His admission that he “uses large words incorrectly” is yet another example of his ego- he tries to downplay the fact that his arrogance has cost him dearly, yet recognizes deep down that he has made maneuvers that have almost killed him and his sister.
Hell, I think I’ve barely scratched the surface. The characters within the society are characters that have their own failings, their own holdbacks. Yet they go on as normal. Is this just one large circle of mind-erasure? Possibly.

On a small note, Robbie actually wound up on the receiving end of a mind-wipe. Here’s the dialogue from that scene:

Robbie: “I was attacked by this magic kung-fu guy that was throwing, like, balls of fire at me. I kicked his butt, though!”

Society of the Blindeye: “Robbie, speak honestly!”

Robbie: “I was saved by a 12-year old.”

You see, Robbie has been a cynical, arrogant jerkass who’s activities ranged from “insensitive” to “borderline illegal”. The fight in “Fight Fighters” was spurred by his and Dipper’s relationships with Wendy. Seeing Dipper save him managed to wreck his ego, his sense of machismo. Thus, in order to try and prove his self worth to Wendy, he tries to lie about his feats, when in reality, he lacks the honour that Dipper has. Robbie is truly the most pathetic character in the show- a character that will do anything to appease his own ego.

The art is fantastic. The horror is fantastic. The comedy is fantastic. The tragedy is fantastic. The ending is fantastic, what with deconstructing the status quo…

This episode is Gravity Falls at it’s finest. Sorry, “Boyz Crazy”… but I think I have a new favourite episode. Don’t get me wrong- “Boyz Crazy” is still among the cream of the crop. This? This is pure platinum, wrapped in a 22-minute episode.

Tidbits:

  • The end of this episode features the transportation of a cup and a notepad through a portal. For those who don’t know, there’s a TV show out there called Rick and Morty, which I consider another one of my favourites. (Warning: show not recommended for kids.) In the episode “Close Rick-counters of the Rick Kind”, a mug and a notepad pop out of the portal. Dan Harmon, Justin Roiland, and Alex Hirsch are all geniuses.
  • “Straight Blanchin” might be the most brilliant send up to he “summer song” ever. A song about debauchery and attempts seduction? “Blurred Lines”. Utter glam? “Fancy”. Oh, and to take this further, Soos follows “Straight Blanchin” and eats his own trousers.
  • The scene where the crew wind up in the hall of memories is very similar to the Futurama episode “How Hermes Requisitioned His Groove Back”. Again, watch that show. You won’t regret it.
Favorite Scene: If forced to pick… I would have to say any and all of the “pathos” scenes, with the possible exception of…
Least Favorite Scene: Again, if forced to pick, it would be the reveal that Soos called Mabel “Maple” for a good chunk of the summer. Last I checked, that never happened. Still, I’m letting it slide. This episode is pure brilliance.
Score: 10. “Boyz Crazy”, you had a fantastic run. But all great rules must come to an end. This is just too brilliant of an episode.

Movie Review: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Image stolen from Google Images, as well as being a screencap from Futurama. Don’t sue me, FOX!

Wow. My 100th official post. A pointless milestone that will be forgotten in a few years time. Better enjoy it while it lasts.

I started this blog (when it was called “Geek Zone”) as a class project in High School. I was to post some of my assignments to this blog. In the meantime, the class was also given free reign to post whatever else they wanted to this blog. I went with episodic reviews. After the class ended, I… kept reviewing TV shows. First Red Dwarf, then Gravity Falls, then certain episodes of The Simpsons. Then the blog got renamed, because, well, I wanted a new name.

So, what could I possibly do for my 100th post? What thing could I review for my 100th official post? It has to be monumentus, brilliant, epic… and other synonyms for “great” that I can’t think of.

Ladies and Gentlemen… after the jump…. Continue reading

Red Dwarf Review: Series V, Episode 6: "Back to Reality"

Airdate: 26 March, 1992

Synopsis: Starbug is investigating the wreck of the SS Esperanto, which was conducting seeding experiments at the bottom of an ocean-covered moon. Apparently, despite the success of the ship, all the members committed suicide, apparently as a result of a toxin. Suddenly, Starbug (whose members suddenly become depressed) has to evade a giant squid. They crash…

…and thus, ends the Total Immersion Videogame Red Dwarf. Final score? 4%.

The people playing the game wake up, and slowly not only realize that they outright played the game wrong, they also get oriented to who they once were. Kryten was played by half-human cyber-cop Jake Bullet, who was a mere traffic officer. Lister was played by Sebastian Doyle, the voter colonel of a fascist state who headed a secret police to take people away. Rimmer was played by Billy Doyle, a miserable failure and the half-brother of Sebastian. And the Cat? Horror of all horrors, he was played by Duane Dibbley, a geek with no sense of fashion nor grace. Despair sets in, especially once Jake Bullet kills somebody that reveals the pure horror of the world they exist in.

Review (SOME SPOILERS MAY BE AHEAD): This was the first episode written for Series V, which was thought to be the last series due to cast issues (for one, Robert Llewellyn was going to do Red Dwarf USA, and Chris Barrie was to work on The Brittas Empire. Thus, the episode was pushed back to the last one, in case it was truly the end for the Boys from the Dwarf. Juliet May, who directed this, had trouble confining to the sci-fi atmosphere of the show and resigned midway through the series.

So, how low could this go? Well, let’s just take a look at a review or two or four of this episode.

“If there is one show to watch again (and again and again), then this is most certainly it.”  – Stacy Kidd, Den of Geek’s “Top 10 Red Dwarf Episodes”.

“And so, one of the immutable laws of the universe asserts itself – poll Red Dwarf fans on their favourite episode, and ‘Back to Reality’ will win.” – Fan site Ganymede and Titan, on the episode placing 1st in the 20th anniversary survey.

“Well, this is it – the pinnacle of human endeavour. The videotape containing this one should be behind bullet-proof glass in a museum. It’s no less than perfect, with an inspired mix of ingenious plotting, brilliant writing, and stunning performances. This video could cure cancer.” Reviews by Gavrielle, taking a look at Series V. 

“It’s just shy of 1000 points ahead of it’s rival – by far the biggest margin – and it’s the favourite episode of 18% of Red Dwarf fans. It won the “Smegzine” poll in 1992, the Better Than Life poll in 1999, the G&T poll in 2008, and it’s our second non-mover. Back To Reality is quite simply a remarkable piece of television.” – Ganymede and Titan, on the episode placing 1st (again) in the Silver Survey in 2013.

(Apologies to those whose quotes I used. Shoot me an email if you want them removed.)

So, all those quotes indicate that this episode is quite popular. And you know what?

They are right.

I don’t believe that things can achieve pure perfection. However, “Back to Reality” comes pretty damn close to breaking that threshold. It is one of the most well-constructed TV episodes ever.

The reason de jure of Red Dwarf’s popularity are the well-crafted characters and the humor that revolves around them. “Back to Reality” takes this to the hilt, all while adding plenty of drama surrounding the characters.

First, there’s Jake Bullet. The centerpiece of Kryten’s character is that, no matter how much of a superego he is, he is simply unable to bring himself to kill humans; it’s in his programming. Jake Bullet has the option to stun a human with a weapon he uses. He instead kills. Thus, he is driven to the emotional brink, contemplating terminating himself (i.e. suicide).

We then have Sebastian Doyle. As much as Lister is an unambitious slob, he is also a firm believer in the goodness of the average man, as well as independence and a skepticism of authority. He is quite clearly the most moral character of the core four. To see him in an absolute dictatorship, overseeing a secret police out to kill dissenters of a fascist state, goes against every single one of his principles.

Now, Billy Doyle. Rimmer and Billy are both pathetic lowlifes who have quite clearly failed in their life. However, Rimmer has tried to justify this by blaming other people. To an extent, Rimmer has a good excuse; his upbringing was pathetic. Now that Billy and Sebastian had similar upbringings, with Sebastian being more successful in theory, he could no longer blame his past for his failures. He puts it best:

“This is a nightmare! I’m on the run from the Fascist Police with a murderer, a mass murderer, and a man in a Bri-Nylon shirt!”

On the subject of the Bri-Nylon shirt, we now go to Duane Dibbley.

Duane Dibbley?

This episode pretty much states what we have long known/feared; the Cat’s personality is as thin as a New York Pizza (relatively speaking, of course). The Cat’s focus is on his self-image and grace, as well as being the most action-oriented of the three. Duane has none of that; he wears suspenders, has an overbite, and a bowl cut. He has no sense of action or grace. With the one outstanding trait of the Cat nullified, Duane has no sense of self-worth.

Beyond character, the writing is brilliant. There is little unnecessary exposition; even Andy’s “Welcome Back to the Real World” sets the tone for the “We really suck” attitude that encompasses the characters over the next 15 minutes. The twists and turns add to the humor and character development.

Production-wise, this episode really stretches it. The acting of everybody is fantastic. The cop, played by Lenny Von Dohlen (Harold Smith from Twin Peaks), is shown with a borderline lust for his cruel job… and it is fantastic. Nothing is overt; emotions are first seen in the faces. When Sebastian realizes what his job his, his face quickly becomes pained.

It’s a very small detail, but look closely at Sebastian’s face. you can tell that he is truly shaken by the reveal that he was only a mass murderer.

The car chase that follows, well, is unique. Let’s just say it really helped with the budget. It really is fantastic and helps bring the episode to its final twist.
This episode has it all; fantastic characterisation, superb humor, sublime drama, effective special effects, awesome acting. In short, this is…

…the best Red Dwarf ever.

Favorite Scene: I should really just provide a link to the episode on iTunes. It really is that fantastic. However, since I have to pick, I will simply say that the car chase is sublime.

Least Favorite Scene: Saying this has a least favorite scene would be an insult to this episode. It’s simply fantastic.

Score: 10.