Review: Gravity Falls – Season 1, Episode 10

Producer: Disney Television Animation
Director: John Aoshima
Writer: Zach Paez & Alex Hirsch
Starring: Alex Hirsch, Kristen Schaal, Jason Ritter, Linda Cardellini
Distributor: Disney Channel (later Disney XD)
Genre: Mystery, Fantasy, Comedy, Adventure
Rating: TV-Y7

Gravity Falls is an American animated series created by Alex Hirsh and produced by Disney Television Animation. The series started on June 15, 2012 and ended on February 15, 2016. Gravity Falls has won numerous awards, including Teen Choice Awards, Kid’s Choice Awards, and Annie Awards to name a few. The series ended with only two seasons of 40 episodes, as Hirsh desired to end on a high note and not allow the series to grow stale. Nevertheless, Hirsh commented in interviews about the possibility of revisiting Gravity Falls in future projects.

To the joy of many fans, all 40 episodes were released on July 24th, 2018, from Shout! Factory. Gravity Falls: The Complete Series [Collector’s Edition] includes audio commentary, deleted scenes, and many extra features. It is available on both Blu-ray and DVD.

CONTENT GUIDE

Violence/Scary Images: Robbie bullies Dipper in various ways, poking him and grabbing him by the collar. There is a lot of 2-D fighting game-style violence, all done for comedic effect.

Language/Crude Humor: None

Sexual Content: Wendy kisses Robbie.

Drug/Alcohol use: None.

Spiritual Content: None.

Other Negative Themes: Dipper lies to Wendy in the episode conclusion.

Positive Content: Facing your fears, whether people or places.

EPISODE RECAP

Episode 10 starts with Soos showing Grunkle Stan and Mabel the local arcade. Soos insists everything he ever learned came from the various video games. Elsewhere in the arcade, Dipper and Wendy play against each other in Fight Fighters (a parody of Street Fighter).

Dipper beats Wendy with Rumble McSkirmish, a Ryu-type main character complete with Hadokens. As Wendy and Dipper try to beat up the background referee during Round 2, Robbie hangs up flyers for his band in the arcade. Wendy tells Robbie how Dipper showed her a great game, but Robbie takes over Round 3 of Fight Fighters. Claiming his status as boyfriend, Dipper becomes a third wheel simply watching the two. Robbie pulls Wendy close to him, giving Dipper a dirty look. Dipper glares back at him, as the video game announcer says, “Opponent sighted—Fight!”

Back at the Mystery Shack, Grunkle Stan, Soos, Dipper, and Mabel play cards. Somehow, Mabel wins despite not even knowing what game they are playing. Out of nowhere, they begin hearing an electric guitar. Dipper says it is Robbie; Mabel offers to send Waddles after him again. But, Dipper says he will handle it, to the excitement of to the rest of the gang.

Dipper confronts the serenading Robbie outside, telling him Wendy is not in the Mystery Shack. He also adds under his breath that Robbie would know that if he listened to her. Robbie catches this, and pushes the issue with Dipper. He reveals his awareness of Dipper’s crush on Wendy and proceeds to bully him about it. Robbie then threatens to call Wendy, but Dipper knocks the phone out of his hand as she picks up the call. The phone breaks on the ground, and Robbie grabs Dipper by the collar.

Fight!

Grunkle Stan yells out the window, breaking up the commotion. Robbie tosses Dipper into some metal trashcans; he gives Dipper a time and place to fight. Grunkle Stan appears outside, but not to stop the fight. With popcorn in hand, he just wanted to place bets with the two.

Back inside The Mystery Shack, Dipper paces back and forth, fretting over the upcoming fight with Robbie. Mabel asks why boys can’t just hate each other in secret. Dipper thinks it may just blow over; but Soos notes the instability of teenagers. This only scares Dipper even more, making him want to hide. Grunkle Stan then says Dipper can either face him like a man, or hide like a wimp.

The scene immediately cuts to Dipper hiding under a pinball machine in the arcade. Soos says, “Wimp it is!” Dipper reasons he only needs to hide in the arcade until three o’clock passes. Back at the Shack, Mabel bemoans Dipper’s inability to face his fears. Grunkle Stan then states fears are for chumps and he doesn’t have any. He then reaches up for something too high for him to reach. Mabel offers to get a ladder, but Grunkle says he doesn’t have one. Mabel notices his weird reaction to ladders, and deduces her Grunkle secretly fears heights. She makes plans to test him.

Select Your Fighter!

Back at the arcade, Soos plays a Tron parody and wonders what it would be like to really enter a video game. He unscrews the arcade cabinet and physically enters the game. Nearby, Dipper complains to himself about Robbie as he plays Fight Fighters alone. Still waiting for time to pass, Dipper wishes one of the video game characters could fight for him. Dipper then tries to load up a quarter, only for it to fall next to the cabinet. As he goes to retrieve the coin, he finds a secret code etched on the side of Fight Fighters. The code promises to unleash ultimate power.

Dipper loads up the quarter and inserts the secret code. The screen goes black, along with the lights in the room. Dipper assumes the code didn’t work, when suddenly the arcade cabinet begins to shake. The glowing cabinet commands Dipper to select a character. He picks Rumble McSkirmish. Then, the video game character jumps out of the screen, a pixelated fighter with noticeably different animation from the rest of the world. Awestruck at the bizarre manifestation, Dipper high fives him, only to be hurt by the sharp pixels.

Rumble introduces himself and narrates his combo of punches and kicks. The combo ends with a flip kick to Dipper’s face, but Dipper still acknowledges it as cool. Dipper says he no longer needs to fear Robbie, as he has the world’s greatest fighter around as his bodyguard. Rumble starts flickering red, requiring power-ups. Dipper wants to show Soos, but Soos is stuck inside a video game cabinet.

Pressing the Start Button

Back at the Mystery Shack, with the help of Waddles, Mabel starts Operation: Get Stan Over His Fear of Heights. Mabel wakes up a snoozing Grunkle Stan with congratulations for Great Uncle Day (a day she obviously made up). She gives him a gift, which is revealed to be high heels. Grunkle Stan is confused, Mabel attempts to deduce his confusion as a fear of heights, but Grunkle Stan denies any phobia. As he adjusts the antenna on he TV, a skydiving program appears on TV. This terrifies Grunkle Stan, causing him to fall backward. Grunkle Stan finally admits to his fear of heights.

Also at the Mystery Shack, Dipper looks for a “power-up” in the form of food in his refrigerator. Dipper manages to find half a taco; Rumble tells him to place it on the floor. Rumble kneels down and absorbs the taco, in the classic method of a side-scrolling beat’em up power-up. A pixelated menu screen appears and Rumble equips the taco; Dipper says he wishes he could do that.

Rumble then requests to go to the Soviet Union to fight the world’s greatest fighters. Dipper instead says he knows a fighter in Gravity Falls: Robbie V. Dipper calls him his archenemy and notes he is dating the girl he likes. Rumble thinks Robbie V. killed Dipper’s father, to which Dipper dismissively says okay. Dipper simply wants Rumble to defend him, and Rumble accepts the challenge. Dipper then presses a pixelated start button manifested in mid-air.

Round One

As Mabel contemplates how to get Grunkle Stan over his fear of heights, Dipper walks in the bedroom with Rumble. Rumble’s overly dramatic voice astonishes Mabel, and she gives him say a list of words. Dipper says Rumble will defend him against Robbie, but Mabel calls that cheating.

 As Dipper and Rumble walk down the streets of Gravity Falls, the video game fighter picks up various weapons from the pavement. Dipper then wonders why there is so much dangerous litter. Back at the Mystery Shack, Mabel wants to take Grunkle Stan on a walk, blindfolded. Grunkle Stan realizes she might be trying to take him somewhere really high up. However, Mabel promises to never do that. She throws on a sweater with Scouts Honor salute on the front. But when she turns around, there are crossed fingers on the sweaters’ back.

Dipper finally arrives at the meeting place: A park in Gravity falls. He walks up to a hooded Robbie, who is waiting on a park bench. Robbie at first thought Dipper wouldn’t show; Dipper attempts to warn Robbie to not fight him. Robbie simply thinks he is scared. But Dipper snaps his fingers, and Rumble McSkirmish appears from behind a tree. Dipper states he is the greatest warrior that has ever lived, and Robbie mocks them. Rumble asks how Robbie can laugh after he killed Dipper’s father, which confuses Robbie. Dipper warns him a second time, but Robbie doesn’t budge. Dipper then sends Rumble after Robbie, and he begins severely beating the teenager up. This alarms Dipper, as he only wanted Rumble to scare Robbie. Robbie runs away, and Rumble chases after him, promising to destroy the man who dishonored Dipper.

Finish Him!

Dipper follows a path of destruction to a barrel factory. Robbie jumps out a crashed window, and Rumble breaks through a wall with a wooden barrel. He tosses the barrel at Robbie, missing Dipper. Dipper attempts to command him to stop, only for Robbie and Rumble to become a Mario and Donkey Kong parody, respectively. Rumble continues to chase Robbie, with an exhausted Dipper attempting to keep up. A Streets of Rage parody occurs, along with a bonus round from Street Fighter.

As Dipper catches his breathe at a street corner, Soos pulls up to him in a pick-up truck. Dipper asks him where he has been, but Soos simply says it is a long story, with pieces of an arcade cabinet wrapped around his neck. Soos notes the video game character destroying everything in sight, to which Dipper admits he’s the one who summoned him to deal with Robbie. Soos offers to help as a sidekick.

At the top of the Gravity Falls water tower, Mabel tells Grunkle Stan to take off his blindfold. Grunkle Stan holds on to the handrails for dear life, when Robbie climbs up to the water tower to hide from Rumble. Rumble finds Robbie regardless, and begins trying to take down the water tower with kicks and punches. Dipper pulls up to the scene with Soos, and attempts to dissuade Rumble, but to no avail. Rumble manages to tilt the tower enough for Robbie to drop. The video game character catches the teenager and prepares to do a finishing move on him.

Final Round

Suddenly, a quarter hits Rumble on the head, taking the fighter by surprise. It is revealed to be Dipper, who then discloses Robbie did not kill his father and that he lied to Rumble. Rumble calls Dipper a bad guy, to which Dipper grudgingly agrees. Rumble McSkirmish then goes on an overly dramatic monologue, ending with him calling Dipper the final stage.

A pixelated start button appears before Dipper, but Soos warns him he could get killed fighting Rumble. But, Dipper takes responsibility for everything that happened, and accepts the challenge to fight Rumble.

A fight begins between Dipper and Rumble McSkirmish, in the style of a classic 2-D fighting round. This includes life bars and an announcer. Rumble charges toward Dipper, throwing a fireball at him. Rumble manages to land a kick, which takes a significant amount of energy from his life bar. Dipper responds with a Shoryuken-type uppercut, but it only does minimal damage. After being unable to look up due to his lack of animation, Rumble accidentally falls flat on the ground. Although momentarily restricted, Rumble then performs a super move, Fist Punch Rain.

Rumble returns to a standing position, and charges a super combo. Seeing his life bar almost empty, Dipper allows the combo to hit him. The super combo hits, along with exaggerated text and an overly hyped announcer. Dipper loses and Rumble is announced as the winner. But, as the game is over, Rumble begins to disintegrate. Dipper gets up and a high score prompt appears. Dipper proceeds to put in his initials as DIP.

Conclusion

Mabel and Grunkle Stan still stand on the broken water tower, in complete fear. Mabel apologizes, but Grunkle Stan sees he is okay. Grunkle Stan conquered his fear of heights, whereas Mabel gained a fear of heights. As beat-up Dipper staggers away, Robbie jumps from the cover of a bush. Robbie then connects the paranormal activity with the presence of Dipper. Dipper figures Robbie wants to fight, and makes himself an open target (like he did with Rumble). Seeing Dipper was not running away, Robbie puts his fist down, saying it is not worth it.

Wendy comes on the scene and notices the devastation of the park. She also notices bruises on the faces of Robbie and Dipper. Wendy asks if they were fighting, which she hates. Dipper says they were actually stopping two other guys from fighting. This brightens up Wendy and she also likes the fact her two guys are hanging out. Wendy walks off, and Dipper tells Robbie they need to make a cold war pact. Dipper explains to Robbie this means they will simply hate each other in secret.

Back at the Mystery Shack, both Dipper and Robbie listen to Wendy as she brushes her hair. When she bends down to pick up the brush she dropped, Dipper and Robbie scowl at each other. She stands back up and the two return to a happy façade. Over the ending credits, a pixelated character select screen displays Dipper, Mabel, Grunkle Stan, and Wendy. A Soos Pac-Man then eats the characters, and it is revealed to be a dream of Soos.

REVIEW

Fight Fighters was a complete nostalgia trip for me. When I was a teenager, even going into my 20’s, 2-D fighters were among my favorite genre of video game. I would play them with my friends all the time; my favorite franchises where Street Fighter, King of Fighters, and Mortal Kombat. My personal favorite games were Marvel vs. Capcom 2 and the short-lived Capcom vs. SNK series.

When I first saw Rumble McSkirmish, I immediately knew what direction they were going. And this episode did not disappoint. If you were a fan of 2-D fighting games, or simply retro gaming in general, you will appreciate the humor. Again, as in other episodes, this shows the creators really know their material and audience. Dipper makes a meta-joke, asking about the presence of weapons scattered on the pavement, a reference to Streets of Rage and Final Fight. Other smaller allusions include Donkey Kong, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Frogger to name a few. Even the method by which Rumble is summoned is a reference to cheat codes, a prominent feature of video games during the 90’s.

The references do not overshadow the story or character development, but work in cooperation with it. However, if you are not a fan of 2-D fighting games (and similar genres), I can’t help but think many of those references will go over your head. Likewise, I didn’t really care for the subplot of Grunkle Stan overcoming his fear of heights. This might simply be because the main plot captured my attention. I understand both carry the theme of fear. But, when I try to think of the subplot separate from the main plot, it simply feels like filler.

Spiritual Application

This episode provides a balance for episode six, Dipper vs. Manliness. While Dipper vs. Manliness dealt with hyper-masculinity and aggression (with the solution being Dipper defending the perceived sensitivity of the Multi-Bear), Fight Fighters deals with cowardice and fear of man (with the solution being Dipper standing up to Rumble and Robbie).

Facing one’s fears is the major message of this episode. Dipper faces his fear of fighting Robbie, while Grunkle Stan faces his fear of heights. There are two major points that came to my heart when I watched this episode.

First, when we attempt to avoid our fears, we sometimes run into things much worse than what we initially feared. Dipper desperately tried to avoid Robbie, to the point of lying to Rumble to be his bodyguard. The end result was him fighting Rumble, a much worse threat than Robbie. Second, God will allow situations that cause us to face our fears. This is similar to how Mabel led Grunkle Stan to the top of the water tower, outside of his volition. God does not do this to torment us; on the contrary, it is to increase our trust in Him within the trials themselves (Job 13:15). Similarly, Grunkle Stan only conquered his fear when he was in the middle of a fearful situation.

Understanding God is with us is key to overcoming fear. As the Lord says in Isaiah 41:10, “Do not fear, for I am with you.” If God is with you and everything is ultimately under His control, then there is no reason to fear, whether it is a person (like the bully Robbie) or a place (like the heights of a water tower).

The Bottom Line

 

Fight Fighters is a treat for fans of 2-D fighters and gaming in general. Although non-gamers may not understand some of the humor, they will still appreciate the character development for Dipper. And although the main plot is solid, the subplot feels tagged on, despite carrying the same theme of fear.

 

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Armand Azamar

Armand J. Azamar is a freelance writer and artist from the Chicagoland area. Armed with the Word of God (and a love for superheroes, comic books and speculative fiction), he teaches at New Life Assembly Church and Kankakee Trinity Academy.

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