A pig, a janitor, two rowdy twins, and a criminal uncle have managed to capture the hearts of millions of viewers in the course of two short seasons. In season two the reveal of a new character brings with him an old enemy whose quest for personal revenge nearly destroys the universe. Old wounds reopen, new quarrels begin, but in the end, it comes down to the power of family to save the day.
With the recent release of the newest Gravity Falls episode, creator Alex Hirsch’s breakout series comes to a close. The final season has been a roller coaster ride of suspense, reveals, and conclusions making for a satisfying season for the Pines family and their paranormal adventures in Gravity Falls, Oregon.
Everything is not what it seems
Season 2 starts out with a very similar tone to the proceeding season. For example, the opening episode, “Scary-oke,” while goofy, has elements of horror scattered throughout. Mabel simply wants to have a karaoke party, but due to the powerful forces of a magical journal, a horde of flesh-eating zombies is awakened and the twins must save the day through the power of annoying pop songs. This set up is typical for many of the episodes in Gravity Falls: small elements of horror thrown into an otherwise comical setting.
This format stays static through much of the first half of the season. Dipper and Mabel meet magical creatures and Dipper must use his journal to face them, all while trying to uncover the secrets of Gravity Falls and find the author of the journals. While this may seem formulaic, the series takes a major emotional turn half way through the season in the episode, “Not What He Seems."
Hirsch reveals major details about the mysterious life of “Gruncle” Stan alluded to in multiple episodes. The entire set up is spectacular, forcing the viewer to question the motives of Stan throughout the entire show, and sympathize with Dipper and Mabel as they confront the lies that have been thrown their way. After much build up, the secret that Stan has been hiding comes to light: his twin brother Stanford (Ford).
Two pairs of twins, twice the drama
The appearance of Ford gives Gravity Falls a refreshing new style. Ford adds not only a new character, but the emergence of Sci-Fi in the series. Before Ford is revealed, the show can be categorized as comedy with a twist of surprisingly mature horror. Small elements of sci-fi can be seen (such as stopping time or shrink rays), but these are not fully explored or explained and are often used as a plot device. Because Ford’s character is capable of creating otherwise impossible devices, a new genre can be explored in greater detail with a more practical explanation of the supernatural elements in Gravity Falls. More important than his expansion of sci-fi in the show, Ford creates friction for the other prominent characters.
While the relationship between Dipper and Ford grows, Mabel feels betrayed by her brother’s distance and Stan has several unresolved conflicts with his brother. Most important is the pain felt by Mabel. Growing up is dealt with very heavily in the last few episodes of the season. It becomes apparent that Mabel wants everything to remain the same and fears the future, but Dipper is ready to embrace his new life as an apprentice to Ford, even if it means leaving his sister behind. The conflict seems very genuine. Every child deals with growing up, and siblings or even friends must separate at some point. One of the most important factors to the writing in Gravity Falls is that the conflict arises in a natural, unforced way. Because it is made clear what each character is feeling and why, situations or emotions escalate in a logical progression as opposed to having drama for the sake of drama. Ultimately, this season’s strongest point is dealing with the dynamics between characters. While the humor and action in each episode ranges from gut-busting to chuckle worthy, Gravity Falls very rarely strays from its core focus: character development.
Stan and Ford’s conflict is very similar to the children’s, but is instead a mature look at the consequences of unresolved conflict. Years of separation have only nurtured the harbored hostility and misunderstandings between the two brothers. Mabel fears that she and Dipper will become like Stan and Ford, despite her brother’s reassurances. The show does a great job of showing the characters’ struggling and growing in their own ways. The goofy nature of the show always carries a dark undertone; there is always a feeling that the fun and goofy antics of the characters will have to come to an end, and that they will have to eventually face their troubles. This arises during the series finale.
Weirdmageddon: The finale
Unlike most animated shows, Gravity Falls splits its series finale into three separate episodes. Aside from the finale being three parts, the final episode is an hour long special as opposed to the usual 22 minute runtime. While the rest of the season has been incredible, the quality of the show begins to fall apart over the three-part finale. Characters no longer have to deal with the consequences of their actions, the action falls short, and everything is extremely predictable. This is a serious flaw seeing as the creators not only had three episodes to tie up loose ends, but an extra hour of content.
The biggest problem has to be with Mabel’s character. Throughout the show she is the character that has always gotten what she has wanted and has shown the least growth. She is content with staying a child while her brother strives to do something greater with his life. Mabel opposes this and throws a huge tantrum, releasing horrible monsters onto Gravity Falls, and in the end, she gets exactly what she wants. Dipper literally throws away all ambition he has of being Ford’s apprentice just to keep his sister from crying. Not once is she reprimanded for almost destroying the world. Not once does Dipper seem a little upset with his sister’s attitude. Mabel is rewarded for her selfish and childish attitude.
The show attempts to make Stan a sort of tragic hero; he sacrifices himself for the ones he loves. That’s great, but anyone with their eyes open during the past half-hour knew this was going to happen. There was no drama, no remorse, it just kind of happened. An even bigger slap in the face occurs once the show makes it apparent that the sacrifice Stan made had no negative impact. He didn’t actually have to sacrifice anything because everything that is supposedly lost is returned through “the power of family” and possibly Disney executives.
The season finale shines in the resolution with the rekindled relationship between Stan and Ford, and the emotional heartbreak seeing the Pines twins leave Gravity Falls for the summer. Aside from those two aspects, the much-awaited finale has little else to offer in terms of humor, action, or impact.
Gravity Falls has some of the most likable and relatable characters ever created in a cartoon. The decisions the characters make seem understandable, and the conflicts between characters is very real. While the action and comedy present in the show are great, what makes the show so likable is relationships the main characters have with one another. Sadly, the finale did not give these wonderful characters the farewell that they deserve, and leaves much more to be desired. Despite this, the mid-season truly does make up for what is lacking towards the end of the show’s run, and is truly worth re-watching.
+Amazing character development
+Endearing sense of humor
+The mid-season twist is spectacular
-The last episode is lacking in action
-Mabel stays static as a character