Review: Gravity Falls – Season 1, Episode 4

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: Dipper and Gideon fight, with the latter using telekinesis in various ways, including tossing Dipper and threatening him with scissors. Gideon tackles Dipper through a window and off a cliff, with Mabel telekinetically stopping them before they hit the ground.

Language/Crude Humor: None.

Sexual Content:  Gideon goes out on a few dates with Mabel, which debecomes an obsession on his end. He smells Mabel’s hair as they hug and tries to pat her hair, all meant to induce cringe in a humorous way.

Drug/Alcohol use: None.

Spiritual Content: Gideon’s psychic abilities (including telepathy and telekinesis) from his magical bolo tie.

Other Negative Themes: None.

Positive Content: Responsibility in relationships and telling others the truth about your feelings.

EPISODE RECAP

The Hand That Rocks the Mabel starts with Grunkle Stan using the sack of mystery to get money from his customers. Meanwhile, Dipper, Mabel, and Soos see a commercial for Lil’ Gideon’s Tent of Telepathy on TV. Although Grunkle Stan restricts the crew from patronizing the competition, they still go to verify the authenticity of the self-proclaimed psychic.

Later that night, Dipper, Mabel, and Soos visit the Tent of Telepathy. Lil’s Gideon Gleeful enters the stage and sings about his psychic ability. The whole show and Gideon himself operate under the motif of a Southern televangelist. Although the child psychic impresses the audience members, Dipper remains skeptical. As Mabel raves about Dipper’s hair and dance moves, Gideon eavesdrops on their conversation.

The next morning, Mabel bedazzles herself, making herself out to be an unappreciated artist. Someone knocks on the door of the Mystery Shack and Mabel goes to answer. Lil’ Gideon stands at the door and they talk. Mabel laughs and coughs bedazzle diamonds on Gideon, which he compliments. The young psychic invites Mabel to his dressing room, to which she accepts. Mabel gets a complete makeover, but is oblivious to Gideon’s advances.

Mabel returns to the Mystery Shop, completely made over. She announces to Dipper that she was hanging out with Gideon, to which Dipper disagrees. Mabel accuses Dipper of never doing girly stuff with her, and that he always does boy stuff with Soos. She is proved right, as Dipper goes to watch hot dogs explode in the microwave.

The Start of the Cringe

Gideon and Mabel sit on top of his family’s factory, looking down on the town with opera glasses. Gideon makes a villainous slip, saying he feels like a “king over all [he] surveys.” Gideon proceeds to call Mabel his queen, and confesses his affections for Mabel. She tries to gently let him down, but he persists. Gideon asks her out on a date (while holding his bolo tie), and she grudgingly accepts.

Mabel and Dipper play video games in the Mystery Shack as they discuss her relationship with Gideon. Mabel explains she wanted to let Gideon down easy, but Dipper believes he will fall in love with her. Gideon comes to the door again, this time riding a white horse. Gideon takes her to a seafood restaurant. Mabel finds it hard to believe they allowed a horse in the restaurant, and Gideon reveals people have a hard time saying no to him.

Back at the Mystery Shack, Grunkle Stan finds Mabel and Gideon on the front page of the local newspaper, with the photo caption “Li’l Gideon’s Li’l Girlfriend”. Wendy tells Grunkle Stan everyone is talking about their date tonight, to Grunkle Stan’s shock. Grunkle Stan then determines to end the relationship and heads to Gideon’s home.

At the Gleeful house, Grunkle Stan encounters Bud Gleeful, Gideon’s Dad. The home impresses Grunkle Stan, but he remains against the relationship. Bud, however, sees the relationship between Mabel and Gideon as a business opportunity. He recommends they pool the profits of the Mystery Shack and the Tent of Telepathy.

Back at the seafood restaurant, Gideon implies another date tomorrow night. But Mabel corrects him, stating Gideon promised only one date. Gideon ignores this protest as a South American Rainbow Macaw lands on his arm and invites her to the ballroom dance. The bird also spits out a pink letter invitation. The other customers notice the invitation and adore the fact Gideon has a “girlfriend”. Before Mabel can refuse, the restaurant patrons await her acceptation of the invitation. One elderly lady even says she will die if Mabel says no, to which a random doctor agrees. The scene ends with the crowd awaiting a nervous Mabel’s answer.

Remaining Friends?

Mabel returns to the Mystery Shack, and Dipper says his sister will never have to go on a date with Gideon again. Mabel remains silent, making Dipper realize the relationship with Gideon isn’t over. She acknowledges she agreed to go out on a date again, but desires to remain friends.

Gideon and Mabel go on a night gondola ride with Old Man McGucket as the ferryman. Mabel tries to restore the relationship back to friendship, but Gideon gets another date out of her. Back at the Mystery Shop, Mabel freaks out over what happened, but Dipper says she won’t have to marry Gideon. Grunkle Stan enters and says she needs to marry Gideon. Grunkle Stan calls it part of his long-term business plan with Bud Gleeful. Mabel runs out to room, screaming.

The frazzled Mabel goes into “Sweatertown,” a safe place created by Mabel pulling her sweater up over her head. Dipper then agrees to break up with Gideon for Mabel. At a fancy restaurant, Dipper tells Gideon Mabel does not want to meet with him again. Gideon twitches, ready snap. Though he notes Dipper got between him and Mabel, Gideon acts as if everything is okay.

Outside, Mabel asks if he got angry and reads Dipper’s mind. Dipper calmly says Gideon has no powers. Back at Gideon’s house, in the middle of the night, Gideon reveals he does have real powers. In his bedroom, he displays telekinesis based on his use of the bolo tie. Gideon’s vengeance on Dipper is established.

Gideon tricks Dipper into meeting Toby Determined at the Gleeful factory. Dipper goes, but only finds Gideon, sitting under a spotlight, rubbing the hair of miniature doll version of himself. Dipper immediately dismisses the supposed psychic, but Gideon shows his telekinesis with his bolo tie.

Mabel mopes outside the Mystery Shop and Wendy sits next to her. Mabel decides to talk directly to Gideon for an honest breakup. Dipper attempts to fight Gideon, but is no match for Li’l Gideon’s telekinesis. Mabel runs up to the Gleeful factory and sees the struggle.

Conclusion

Mabel runs inside and breaks up with Gideon. She manages to grab the bolo tie after getting close enough, and halts his telekinesis. Enraged, Gideon tackles Dipper out of the factory window and off a cliff. The two fight as they fall toward the ground. But before they hit the ground, a green aura stops them. Mabel is in control of the bolo tie and its telekinesis. She levitates down to the two, allowing them to drop harmlessly. She completely ends the relationship with Gideon and shatters the bolo tie. Gideon walks off into the darkness, promising revenge on the Pines twins.

Back in the Gleeful house, Bud and Grunkle Stan prepare to finalize the deal. But Gideon stomps in and rebukes Grunkle Stan and his family. With the wrath of his son invoked, Bud cancels the deal with Grunkle Stan. Grunkle Stan runs off with a sad clown painting.

Back at the Mystery Shack, the Pines family recover from Gideon and mock his promise of vengeance. But back at the Gleeful house, Gideon acts out scenarios with doll versions of the Pines family. He also reveals his valid capability of vengeance with his possession of the Second Journal. The end credits have Soos being bedazzled by Mabel, turning him into a human disco ball.

REVIEW

Episode four marks the introduction of the primary antagonist for season one, Li’l Gideon. He is also the catalyst of the conflict with Bill Cipher in season two. Although comical, he is a legitimate threat, as he carries the Journals. This also contrasts him from Dipper, who uses the Journal for good.

The comedy holds up pretty well in this episode. This includes the verification of the random doctor and Grunkle Stan’s betrothal of Mabel to Gideon. Both Mabel and Grunkle develop as characters. Grunkle Stan shows his willingness to ally with a rival for money. Mabel learns responsibility by turning down Gideon herself, although this might be considered short-lived considering future episodes.

I wonder how Gideon got his hands on the Second Journal, but that is not as important to the context of the show as Gideon having the Journal. Considering the genre of Gravity Falls, that is a mystery I am willing to let slide. What I can’t let slide is a plot hole. How did Mabel know Gideon would be at the factory? Wouldn’t she run to his house in the middle of the night and not his abandoned-looking family factory? Overall, the plot structure made everything clear and understandable.

Spiritual Thoughts

The personality traits of Lil’ Gideon still charm me on later viewings. Corrupt televangelists emerged in the popular mindset decades ago and continue to this day. The writers used the motif, but cited psychic abilities instead of the Holy Spirit as the source of Gideon’s power. Thus, the series retains the criticalness of the motif and corruption, but not Christianity itself. Of course, I don’t think the writers were trying to avoid criticizing Christianity. It simply fits better in Gravity Falls and the Journals for Gideon’s power to be psychic-based.

Lil’ Gideon plays off of two principles: Crowd mentality and showmanship. This is not including his supernatural abilities. Both of these are principles exploited by corrupt televangelists. I specify “corrupt” because not all televangelists are inherently bad. As with any Christian teacher, we must judge them by their fruits (Matthew 7:15-20).

Episode four also introduces one of the major themes of Gravity Falls: Unrequited love. This really struck home for me, having experienced unrequited love many times in my life. I think is an important life lesson for any youth, and the series handles it well throughout its run. Gravity Falls showcases the reaction from the side of the villain (Gideon for Mabel) and the hero (Dipper for Wendy in future episodes). Although both go through the same issue, they both learn their lessons, albeit with difficulty.

We will discuss the relationship of Dipper and Wendy later. But for this episode, Gideon’s unrequited love for Mabel crosses the line into obsession. In classic stalker fashion, photos of Mabel adorn his cork bulletin board. It would be nice to say Christians are better, but we too often fall into the same mindset. Exodus 20:3 says we shall have no other gods before the Lord.

In the past, the other gods may have taken the form of a graven image. But, other gods can very well include desires, relationships, or another person. If this happens, we need the words of Jesus: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment” (Matthew 22:37, 38). We must never place a person on the throne of our heart that should only be reserved for God Himself.

The Bottom Line

The Hand that Rocks the Mabel is the start of the principal conflict of Gravity Falls. As a result, this is one of the core episodes you do not want to miss. Gideon is an entertaining villain and a suitable nemesis for the Pines family. Gideon’s obsession may be cringeworthy in some parts, but it is all for humor.

 

8.6

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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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