It’s no secret that television has made a huge comeback in the last few years and shows such as The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, and The Flash have become household names.
However an unlikely candidate has been growing in popularity right alongside these other shows and earned its place as one of the highest rated television shows: the Disney Channel’s original cartoon, Gravity Falls.
The show, which is currently wrapping up its second season, follows the adventures of twelve-year-old twins Dipper (voiced by Jason Ritter) and Mabel Pines (voiced by Kristen Schaal) on their summer vacation at their great-uncle (or Grunkle) Stan’s (voiced by creator Alex Hirsch) tourist trap, The Mystery Shack, in the mysterious town of Gravity Falls, Oregon. Dipper and Mabel use a mysterious journal full of secrets and codes they find to solve the mysteries of Gravity Falls, including the biggest one of all: Who wrote the journal?
[one_third]Gravity Falls Season Two went above and beyond all expectations, and has quickly became one of my favorite television shows. [/one_third]
Season Two had a lot riding on it since the first season introduced many questions and had fans hooked on the mystery behind Gravity Falls. In my opinion, Gravity Falls Season Two went above and beyond all expectations, and has quickly became one of my favorite television shows. It is a huge improvement from the first season, which is a huge accomplishment seeing how enjoyable the first season was.
BEWARB! There be spoilers ahead!
The season premiered to over two million viewers with the episode Scary-oke. The episode left off right after the events of the last episode of Season One, in which Gideon Gleeful, the season’s main villain, was sent to jail after he took over the Mystery Shack, and viewers found out that Grunkle Stan was hiding a mysterious high-tech portal in the basement and had all three journals, including Dipper’s. The premiere pulled no punches as the episode aired with an upgrade in animation, amazing lighting, hilarious jokes, a zombie invasion, and a spectacular and surprisingly catchy musical karaoke performance by the three main characters. The episode also revealed that Grunkle Stan did indeed know that supernatural events happen in Gravity Falls, a claim that he had previously debunked, and that Dipper’s journal contains new content that was hidden with invisible ink that could only be seen in blacklight. These reveals served as great plot devices to advance new storylines and include Grunkle Stan in them.
The next two episodes went on to uncover new clues on who the author of the journals may be, and pit Mabel and her rival, Pacifica Northwest (voiced by Jackie Buscarino), against each other in a game of mini golf. These episodes gave side characters Wendy Corduroy (voiced by Linda Cardellini) and Pacifica Northwest a little more character development that would be further explored later in the season. Episode Into The Bunker put an end to Dipper’s crush on Wendy for the most part, which was a weak plot device from Season One. By ending his one-sided relationship, Dipper was able to become more mature as a character, which would be important later in the season.
The fourth episode, Sock Opera, proved to be another big episode. Bill Cipher (voiced by creator Alex Hirsch), the powerful triangular dream demon that had a villain role in a previous episode, returns to make a deal with Dipper and instead takes over the boy’s body for most of the episode. In this episode, viewers find out that Bill can not only enter the minds of any character, but he can take control of their bodies if they make a deal with him. The fact that any character could potentially be an all powerful demon added tension to the series as fans truly began to take heed of the show’s catchphrase, “Trust no one.”
The rest of the episodes mostly developed the side characters of Gravity Falls. Dipper, Mabel, and Stan already had most of their character development in Season One, so it was only natural for Gravity Falls to focus on the people of town of Gravity Falls. Soos (voiced by Alex Hirsch), the lovable man-child who works as a handyman at the Mystery Shack, is given two episodes which delved into his life problems. Episode Soos and the Real Girl not only hilariously parodies dating simulation games, but also reveals Soos’ love life troubles. Blendin’s Game is mostly a reintroduction of the time traveler—Blendin Blandin—from Season One, who is voiced by Justin Roiland, the creator and voice actor of the hit show, Rick and Morty.
[one_third]In a matter of a few seconds, Gravity Falls took one of its most unlikeable and annoying characters, Pacifica Northwest, and turned her into one of the best and most sympathetic characters on the show without using any dialogue. [/one_third]
The episode Society of the Blind Eye revealed the backstory of local kook, Fiddleford ‘Old Man’ McGucket (voiced by Alex Hirsch). It was a sobering origin story that completely flipped how viewers perceived the silly and deranged hillbilly of Gravity Falls.
The episode before the mid-season event, Northwest Mansion Mystery, has become one of my favorite episodes of the series, and one of my favorite character development episodes in all of television. In a matter of a few seconds, Gravity Falls took one of its most unlikeable and annoying characters, Pacifica Northwest, and turned her into one of the best and most sympathetic characters on the show without using any dialogue. This short scene revealed so much about Pacifica, her childhood, and her family life while still leaving room for viewers to have their own interpretation. The episode didn’t stop with that. It went on to show a developing friendship, and a possible romantic relationship, between Dipper and Pacifica, which was the last thing anyone expected. The fan feedback to the episode and the character was so overwhelmingly positive that creator Alex Hirsch hilariously mimicked the fans’ reaction to the episode at his panel at New York Comic Con 2015 by joking that the show was now “Pacifica Falls starring Pacifica.”
Not What He Seems is probably the most well written episode of the series as it perfectly balances some of the best comedy in the show as will as the most gripping drama. Grunkle Stan is arrested for hiding a doomsday device, the twins find out that his name isn’t Stanford Pines, and Mabel takes a leap of faith by trusting Stan and letting his portal open. The final scene finally answers the biggest question in the show when a mysterious figure emerges from the portal. Grunkle Stan then reveals the person’s identity with the iconic line: “It’s the author of the journals, my brother.”
In my opinion this is one of the most beautifully animated episodes. To help build the tension, the entire last half of the episode takes place during a sunset, and the sky is completely red. The red sky and the red shadows it creates comes off as very ominous and helps each scene seem twice as intense.
Of course, the twist ending was extremely well handled as well. As the portal was opening, it was a huge shock to see Soos attacking Stan because up until this point, Soos was the most loyal person to the Pines family. Because he never had a father, he viewed Stan as a father figure and so it was heartbreaking to see Soos’ trust being betrayed by the old man. I also like the choice of having Mabel, and not Dipper, being the one to let the portal open. Dipper is written as the everyman, a character that the viewers identify more with, so in most shows, he would be the one making the huge decision. However, Dipper thinks with his head, and Mabel thinks with her heart, so it’s more in character for her to be the one to trust Grunkle Stan.
And finally, the reveal of Grunkle Stan’s twin brother being the author of the journals blew my mind. But that wasn’t the only reason it was a good twist. The amazing thing was that loyal fans of the show had already predicted the twist a year before the episode aired. Gravity Falls has proven to be a very meticulously crafted show that contains hidden clues and codes within each episode, and the fans had found enough clues to figure out that Stanford Pines had a secret twin brother and that the brother must be the author. Fans took little clues such as a Stan look-alike in a flashback and the Mystery Shack’s extra bedroom and worked together to create a theory that eventually was proven to be true. Even at the end of the credits in every episode, secret codes are shown and can be decoded into either a throwaway joke or a legitimate clue. It takes extra effort to create a show in which viewers can actually interact with the mystery and solve it before the characters do, and I truly commend Alex Hirsch for caring enough to add all those little details into the show. It’s a genius way to heighten the viewing experience and add re-watch value. I have never seen any other show that has done that to such an extent.
Even though the final twist may not have been much of a surprise to some, the episode still did well in answering most of the questions it presented in Season One while also introducing more. We now know about the author’s identity but, why was he in the portal? How did he get there? What is Stanford Pines’ real name? How will this affect the town and the Pines family? How will they deal with the government agents?
All of those questions and more would be answered in the next episode, A Tale of Two Stans, which premiered four months after the episode before it. Fans were furious that they had to wait that long.
Seeing that the show took a break at this point, I feel that it’s right to put this review on hiatus, so keep an eye out for a review of the rest of Gravity Falls Season Two, which shouldn’t take four months.