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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Falling for Gravity Falls


I've been aware of the existence of Gravity Falls for, I wanna say, a few years now. The show often comes up in conversation along with Steven Universe for being one of the greatest shows in western animation. Considering both shows are still on their second season and have such a strong, devoted fanbase, that speaks volume for each show's quality. But where as I've been along for the ride of Steven Universe since the show premiered, I didn't hop on the Gravity Falls train until a few weeks ago.

The first full episode of Gravity Falls that I had seen was Fight Fighters, the 10th episode of the first season. One of my good friends was in town and like old times, we hung out, watching anime and cartoons. He was pretty adamant that I get into Gravity Falls but rather than start at the beginning, he started me off with this episode. It's chalk full of video game references like beat 'em ups, Donkey Kong and especially Street Fighter. It was a laugh riot and was enough to convince me to give Gravity Falls a serious look.

Just another day in the life of mystery twins
Dipper and Mabel Pines. 

Sure, Fight Fighters was an episode you could jump into right away, but having now watched the entire first season and being caught up like most fans are, this is definitely one of those shows that I recommended starting from episode one. Yes, there are loads and loads of laughs to be had in this series but there's also mystery and in great abundance. What's up with those journals? Why are some of the townsfolk so screwy? What gives with those codes at the end of each episode? And why are there so many freaky triangles all over the place? Those are but a few of the mysteries that litter the town known as Gravity Falls.

The mystery aspect of the show is unquestionably it's biggest draw. The intro alone gives one the impression that there is lots to uncover in this series. I really wasn't expecting it to play such a large role in the show, since, prior to sitting down and watching all of the episodes, I hadn't done any research on this series, which, in hindsight, I'm really glad I didn't. It was quite refreshing to find out all of these things first hand. Of course, since so much is shrouded in mystery, there's still much I don't know. Watching clips on YouTube and re-watching episodes, I've noticed things I didn't see upon the first viewing. This huge emphasis on mystery and attention to detail make Gravity Falls so much more than "just another Disney cartoon."

Old Man McGucket may seem like just another
crazy old man, but there is much more to him
than meets the eye.

If I may, I'd like to take a few moments to talk about another one of my favorite animated shows, Steven Universe. The first time fusion was talked about in universe in Steven Universe was Giant Woman, the 12th episode of the first season. Here, we learn that the gems can fuse into a much more powerful warrior. But before this, we were given hints that one of the three Crystal Gems was a fusion. Garnet, the tallest, strongest of the gems has two gems, while Pearl and Amethyst only have a single gem. In the episode Alone Together, Amethyst says fusing is difficult for herself and Pearl, but Garnet says it isn't hard for her to pull off, and this is due to the fact that she herself is a fusion, but she doesn't share this information with Steven. Those are just a few hints that were dropped for viewers to put the pieces together that this super tall, super strong gem has been the combination of two gems this whole time. Rather than keep the audience in the dark about it, clues were sprinkled all throughout the first season, leading up to the big reveal in the season finale Jail Break, that yes, Garnet is a fusion. To drive the point home even further, Steven finds this out after he helps get Garnet's two halves, Ruby and Sapphire, back together. There were fans that already knew Garnet was a fusion since they connected the dots, but there were still plenty out there that watched the show religiously that had no idea she was two gems, making that bombshell reveal that much more powerful.

And what about the Homeworld Gem invasion on Earth? We were given some hints of this in some of the earliest episodes like Serious Steven. The opening location is a strawberry field, littered with weapons because it was once a gem battlefield. Inside the pyramid we see some rather interesting murals on the wall that show Rose Quartz facing, what is more than likely one of the Homeworld Gem invaders. And speaking of the Homeworld Gems, why aren't there more of them on Earth? At the start of the show, we're almost lead to believe Pearl, Garnet and Amethyst are the last of their kind until Mirror Gem/Ocean Gem where we meet Lapis Lazuli and find out there are more gems out there. Not only that, but there is a whole planet full of gems that the Crystal Gems want nothing to do with since their previous invasion on Earth caused much harm to the planet. The Crystal Gems may defend humanity, but the Homeworld Gems certainly don't feel the same way about our species. All of this was stuff the viewer could pick up on upon close observation before the show had the characters state it.

The ever vigilant Bill Cipher is bad news. He
also knows things. LOTS of things. 

OK, so what does Steven Universe's wonderful way of allowing the viewer to piece things together have anything to do with Gravity Falls? The shows are very similar in this respect, that's what. While it is true that many mysteries and questions have yet to be answered in Gravity Falls, this show, much like Steven Universe, allows many watchful eyed viewers to pick up on on-going plot threads. Like Steven Universe, Gravity Falls excels at foreshadowing.

Dipper spends much of the series trying to solve mysteries and unlock the secrets of Gravity Falls much like the Author of the journals did, but unbeknownst to him, there was a huge mystery right under his own roof that he never noticed, his Gruncle Stan. Throughout the first season we get hints that there is much more to Stan Pines than his shady businessman nature would have you believe. I actually thought something wasn't right in the intro the way the S always falls off the "Shack," as if to allude to him being a fraud in some way other than his questionable business practices. I suppose this was just to show that much of the stuff he tries to goad customers into buying is being fake. But then he sneakily goes down a hidden passage behind the vending machine in the Mystery Shack. As funny as his amoral businessman persona is, what he was hiding from Dipper and Mabel make him a far more interesting character.

Ghosts, monsters, paranormal activity are all
great for attracting tourists. In Gravity Falls, however, all
of those things are very real threats.

And man, is Stan hiding things. The mid season two finale, Not What He Seems, turned out to be everything everyone said it was. What fans long suspected from the clues left up until this point, turned out to be true: Stan has a twin brother, who turned out to be the one who made the journals. The episode went much further than though. Stan may not even be Stan and could just be impersonating the real Stanford Pines as a news article found by Dipper and Mabel says that Stan died in a car crash. We still don't know the full specifics on this one but since Stan kept this from the twins and the universal portal that Stan used to bring his brother back from that other dimension could have destroyed the world, you better believe we're in for more mysteries and some strained relationships. On the other hand, the title Not What He Seems could have another meaning. Dipper assumes the worst of Stan since he hid the journals and had so many fake ids. But maybe the the title was alluding to the twins assumptions about Stan being this terrible person being completely wrong. After all, if you had a loved one that was taken from you for thirty years, you'd probably do everything you could to get them back.

Of course you can't have a good show without interesting characters and Gravity Falls has quite the cast. I've already went into some detail about Stan so I'd like to mention some of the other main characters and even the supporting cast. Dipper is a smart, mature for his age preteen that still shows his childish side. He's the brains to Mabel's brawn. Well perhaps brawn isn't the best word to describe Mabel. She's one cute, hyperactive kid that is the queen of adorkable. Her over the top silliness is just so endearing to me that she quickly become my favorite character.

Dipper, Mabel and Stan may be the central cast but the supporting characters get time in the spotlight as well. We find out that Soos looks up to Stan because he gave him a job and he's around way more than his actual father ever was. Pacifica Northwest, who was originally intended to exist in the show just to annoy Mabel was hit with huge character development in the second season where she went form snobby bully girl to a distraught girl that fears she's just like her screwed up family. With some help from Dipper her snoddy persona begins to fade and it kinda looks like she could actually start crushing on him.

So now that I've taken the plunge and seen what the hype is all about I can't wait for new episodes in July. Why was the Author in that other dimension? Why is Bill planning? Will Mabel find true love? Ugh, hurry up and get here, July.

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