Review: Gravity Falls – Season 1, Episode 2

Producer: Disney Television Animation
Director: John Aoshima
Writer: Michael Rianda & 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

Spiritual Content: None.

Violence/Scary Images: A lake monster chases the Pines twins and Soos, which is more intense than the gnome giant chase from Episode 1. Beavers attack the main characters and are used as weapons against the lake monster by the main characters.

Language/Crude Humor: Soos is shirtless for several minutes towards the end of episode two.

Sexual Content: Mabel flirts with 80’s male heartthrobs in her imagination.

Drug/Alcohol use: None.

Spiritual Content: None.

Other Negative Themes: Blindfolding kids and counterfeiting money joke in opening.

Positive Content: Appreciation of family, particularly the elderly, over selfish ambition.

EPISODE RECAP

Episode two, The Legend of the Gobblewonker, begins with the Pines twins eating breakfast at the Mystery Shack, conducting a dripping race between their respective syrup bottles. Dipper discovers a monster photo contest in Wacky News, a Fortean-type magazine; Mabel discovers an advertisement for a human-sized hamster ball in the same magazine.

Grunkle Stan enters the kitchen, announcing family bonding day. Dipper responds with despair, recalling past experiences. But, Grunkle Stan promises a fun day this time, before happily telling the Twins to put on blindfolds and get into his car. The Twins cheer, before the statement registers with Dipper, causing him to say, “Wait, what?” They ride in the back of Stan’s car, blindfolded and headed to an unknown location.

The Twins finally remove their blindfolds and find themselves at Lake Gravity Falls. Fishing season has arrived and the town is out in full force. Dipper distrusts his Grunkle’s desire to bond, to which Grunkle Stan responds he has no fishing buddies. Old Man McGucket enters as the town kook, shouting he spotted the Gobblewonker. The Gobblewonker serves as the Loch Ness stand-in for Gravity Falls. The entire town mocks the proclamation of Old Man McGucket, including his own son.

The Hunt for the Gobblewonker

Dipper then decides to get a photo of the Gobblewonker and try to win the $1,000 contest prize from Wacky News. Mabel imagines using her half of the money to purchase the giant hamster ball. Soos pulls up in his boat, the S.S. Cool Dude, and offers his services for the monster hunt. The Pines twins ditch Grunkle Stan and head to Scuttlebutt Island to search for the lake monster.

On the boat, Dipper addresses the archetypal issue with monster hunting: Camera trouble. Dipper supposedly solves this problem by buying 17 disposable cameras. They soon lose six of their 17 cameras. After determining the captains, Dipper says they will use fish food to lure the Gobblewonker out. Once they land on the island, they hear monstrous noises and run to investigate. They instead find a colony of beavers, one of which bites on a rusty chainsaw to make the monster noises. Dipper sits on a rock, dismayed and regretting ditching their Grunkle Stand. Suddenly, the rock Dipper sits on shifts from under him, revealed to be the tail of the Gobblewonker. The monster then starts to chase them on Scuttlebutt Island.

Conclusion

The Pine twins and Soos manage to return to the boat, only to be chased in the water as well. They go into a cave under a waterfall; the Gobblewonker follows and gets stuck in the mouth of the cave. As Dipper crazily snaps pictures of the trapped creature, he realizes something wrong with the lake monster. Dipper discovers the Gobblewonker is made of metal. He opens a door on the machine, to reveal Old Man McGucket as the operator. Old Man McGucket states he made the Gobblewonker to get attention from his son. He notes the difficultly in spending time with your family when you get old. This shames the Pines twins, as they understand the folly of ditching their Grunkle Stan.

Dipper and Mabel later meet up with Grunkle Stan and apologize to him. They hang out together and take pictures as the day on Lake Gravity Falls comes to an end. As the episode closes, Dipper’s last camera sinks in the lake. But, before the camera can hit the bottom, the real flesh-and-blood Gobblewonker eats it. The end credits show Mabel once again using the pelican as a puppet and annoying Dipper.

REVIEW

The overarching theme of family appears in the second episode, which remains prominent throughout the entire series. The humor lands again in this next episode, keeping good consistency. Dipper’s solution to camera problems is not only funny, but also displays the writer’s knowledge of the genre (i.e., why can’t paranormal hunters get good pictures of their supposed subject?).

The twist ending feels a bit odd, considering that part of the wonder of Gravity Falls is the reality of bizarre occurrences. McGucket even makes a self-referential comment, saying, “In retrospect, it seems a bit contrived.” The twist gave me an unmasked villain vibe from Scooby Doo, but in a bad way. For the sake of the episode’s theme, the twist isn’t unacceptable. It, as with many things in these first few episodes, does introduce character traits that come into play later in the overarching story, particularly for Old Man McGucket. The clincher does redeem this a bit.

Soos develops as the man-child protector of the Pines kids in episode two. The music remains fitting; it sets the tone and isn’t distracting. Voice acting and animation also remain superb.

Spiritual Thoughts

The main spiritual application from episode two is the importance of family over selfish ambition, particularly elderly family. 1 Timothy 5:8 (NASB) says, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

I noticed the neglect of the elderly appears in several kid’s shows, and rightfully so. It is a needed topic. I know I could have spent more time with my grandparents before they passed. Although, I feel other series carried a stronger emotional impact when it came to this theme. The Legend of the Gobblewonker didn’t drive home this lesson as well as other series.

The Bottom Line

 

Episode two continues the world building of Gravity Falls. Despite the twist of the man behind the Gobblewonker, this episode still maintains the mystery of the overall series. The theme of spending time with grandparents is effective, although not as strong as it has been in other series.

 

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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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