Review: Gravity Falls – Season 1, Episode 8

Producer: Disney Television Animation
Director: John Aoshima
Story: David Slack
Writer: 
Tim McKeon & 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: Gideon throws tomatoes at Grunkle Stan, who is stuck in stocks; Trembley is hit in the back of the head by a pole on the roof of a train; several people are killed in a landslide in an old-timey film reel (for comedic effect).

Language/Crude Humor: None.

Sexual Content: Woodpecker marriage implies bestiality as a joke. Trembley pulls off his pants in front of kids.

Drug/Alcohol use: None.

Spiritual Content: None.

Other Negative Themes: None.

Positive Content: The power of thinking outside-the-box.

EPISODE RECAP

Episode eight starts with the Pines twins in Grunkle Stan’s car, munching on snacks. Grunkle Stan beeps at traffic: old-fashioned horse-pulled wagons. It registers in his mind what day it is and he attempts to drive away, but is soon encircled by covered wagons. Mabel looks out the car window at a cow, and says she has a good feeling about today.

Later, the Pines twins walk around town, now changed to look like pre-Industrial America. Grunkle Stan grudgingly explains it is Pioneer Day, a holiday celebrating the founding of Gravity Falls. Activities include candle dipping, gold mining, and woodpecker-human marriage.

The opening ceremony starts, attracting the Pines twins. But, Grunkle Stan doesn’t want to go and leaves kids there. Dipper and Mabel walk through the crowd and up to the front of the ceremony stage. Pacifica Northwest introduces herself as well as her wealth. She states she is the great-great granddaughter of Nathaniel Northwest, the supposed founder of Gravity Falls. Pacifica calls those with pioneer spirit up to the stage to introduce themselves.

The opportunity for audience participation entices Mabel, despite Dipper saying Pacifica is her archenemy. Mabel dismisses that as water under the bridge. She steps up to the stage, only to be scowled at by Pacifica. The mean look completely goes over Mabel’s head, who proceeds to lead the crowd in a U.S.A. chant. Pacifica says Mabel is too silly for Pioneer Day, noting her basketball-playing puppy sweater. Mabel argues she can be serious, but Pacifica cites Mabel’s nacho earrings. Mabel leaves the stage embarrassed, and Dipper goes to comfort his dejected sister.

The Northwest Cover-Up

Trying to escape Pioneer Day, Grunkle Stan’s car is stuck in mud. He attempts to gain help from Steve the mechanic, who acts like he’s never seen a car before due to the holiday’s imposed time period. Grunkle Stan asks Steve to cut him some slack, but the mechanic again acts confused. He finally snaps at Steve, and the police step in. Grunkle Stan jokes the “constables” will throw him in “ye stocks”. The next shot shows this actually happening. Stuck in the stocks, he sees Gideon walking past in historic clothes. Grunkle Stan mocks his rival, prompting Gideon to throw tomatoes at him.

The Pines twins sit in front of the Nathaniel Northwest monument. Mabel, still down about the embarrassment from Pacifica, asks Dipper if she is silly. Dipper slowly says no, obviously lying to not hurt her feelings. Mabel realizes this, and says people see her as a big joke. She proceeds to remove her sweater and wrap it around her waist. Mabel then blames Pacifica for ruining everything. Even though Pacifica is related to the town founder, Dipper says that doesn’t give her the right to treat everyone like garbage. He recalls something in Journal #3 about Pacifica’s great-great grandfather.

Dipper pulls out the Journal and reads National Northwest might not be the true founder of Gravity Falls. The Author says the secret is in an enclosed parchment, taped to the respective page of the Journal. Dipper pulls it off and it reveals a strange document with an ominous Eye of Providence on it. With the possibility of the Northwest family being complete frauds, Dipper sets out to investigate the potential conspiracy. Mabel decides to help too, as investigating a conspiracy may make her appear serious.

Starting the Investigation

The Pines twins run off from the monument, with Mabel leaving a trail of candy. But Sherriff Blubs catches their revelation and radios a secret dispatcher about the information. The dispatcher commands Blubs to maintain the cover-up. Deputy Durland joins Sheriff Blubs and they set off to stop the Pines twins.

At the Gravity Falls Library, Old Man McGucket tells a group of children that pioneers gained sustenance from eating books around the fire, and promptly chews into a book himself. The Pines twins both set out to solve the mystery for their own reasons. Dipper deduces a triangle on the parchment is the alchemist symbol for flame. As he prepares to light it on fire to reveal the secret message, Mabel folds the paper into a hat. She catches her silliness, but Dipper sees something: A map. The Pines twins overhear Sheriff Blubs and Deputy Durland searching for them, and they leave the library.

The map leads Dipper and Mabel to the Gravity Falls Museum of History. Inside, Dipper catches the next clue from the parchment: An abstract triangle painting. Mabel looks at the painting upside-down, along with Dipper. In that next position, they see an angel pointing. Mabel says she saw that statue before in the cemetery.

Progress from Silliness

The police get a call from the mysterious dispatcher, who wants to know if the subjects have been apprehended. Sherriff Blubs says no, but they are close. He also promises the kids will never get past them, as the Pines twins run past them. The kids run out of the museum, and the police get jammed together in the doorway.

Grunkle Stan is still stuck in the stocks, despite trying to jimmy the lock with his mouth. Pacifica greets him and tells him to say the Northwest family is the best family in Gravity Falls. Grunkle Stan asks if she wants that in writing, to which Pacifica immediately pulls out a pen and notepad. He writes down the supposed message with pen in mouth, only to reveal the phrase, “You Stink!” Pacifica then whistles for a bunch of women with baskets of tomatoes, ready to hurl them at Grunkle Stan.

In the cemetery, Dipper reasons the angel statue is pointing to the next clue. But, Mabel picks her nose with the statue finger. She accidentally bends the finger, which triggers a hidden door in front of the two. They walk down the staircase underground, with flashlight in hand. Despite Dipper’s warning about booby traps, Mabel sets one off, causing tranquilizer darts to be fired at them.

The True Founder of Gravity Falls

The Pines twins run for cover, and fall down into a deeper section of the hidden chamber. In the chamber, there are various secret historical items, including a manila folder called The Northwest Cover-Up. They discover Nathanial Northwest was a fraud and actually a village idiot. In fact, the true founder was Sir Lord Quentin Trembley III, Esq. At that moment, the police catch Dipper and Mabel, with Deputy Durland falling out due to the tranquilizer darts.

Sheriff Blubs reveals the Quentin Trembley cover-up is a matter of national security. He plays a black-and-white film reel on an old projector, explaining Quentin Trembley was the 8 1/2th President of the United States. Trembley was regarded as the silliest president of America; he put various illogical polices in place, including the “Depantsipation Proclamation”.

Trembley was kicked out of office and escaped to an uncharted valley he called Gravity Falls. His term was erased from history. History records accredit William Henry Harrison as President and local nobody Nathaniel Northwest as founder of Gravity Falls. The film reel ends, saying the whereabouts of Trembley’s body are unknown. Sheriff Blubs then adds on, “..until now.”

The characters turn to reveal the body of Quentin Trembley, encased in solid peanut brittle. Trembley believed he could live forever in the block of brittle. Sherriff Blub’s main mission was to find his body, which Mabel inadvertently helped him do by leaving a trail of candy wrappers. Mabel bemoans her silliness once again. Sherriff Blubs says they can’t let the Pines twins escape with such information, and states they are shipping all of the evidence (including the kids) to Washington, never to return.

Trembley Revived

On the train, the Gravity Falls police grow ecstatic over the trip. The Pines twins are stuck inside a wooden crate along with the brittle-encased Trembley. Mabel again laments her silly mistake of leaving a wrapper trail. She says she is just a failure like Trembley and breaks off a piece of brittle to eat. This causes the whole brittle to crumble and Trembley revives, pulling off his pants.

Mabel realizes that brittle does have life-sustaining properties and understands Trembley is actually brilliant. Trembley calls Mabel brilliant as well, for following all of his abstract clues and freeing him from the candy tomb. Dipper says Mable’s silliness actually solved the codes that serious police could not.

Trembley attempts to use his President’s Key against the walls of the crate, but to no avail. In order to escape, Trembley says they need the silliest plan ever conceived. Mabel notices a finger-sized hole in the crate. Trembley says they will leap through it, to which he and Mabel attempt to squeeze through. Dipper says that isn’t working, but Mabel says to trust the silliness.

Wiggling the finger through the hole attracts a woodpecker, which pecks at the wooden crate. This causes a chain reaction that breaks the entire crate. The three escape, but accidently run into Blubs and Durland. They make it to the roof of the train, but are eventually cornered by the cops. Dipper realizes Trembley never signed an official resignation. Thus, Trembley is technically still the President of the United States and the cops need to answer to him. Trembley orders Blubs and Durland to pretend none of this ever happened and for them to go on a vacation.

Conclusion

As Blubs and Durland head to Michigan for vacation, Trembley and the kids are dropped off on the side of the railroad tracks. As thanks, Trembley makes Mabel an official US congressman and gives Dipper the President’s Key (which functions as a Skeleton Key).

The three walk back into the main festival of Pioneer Day. Mabel runs up to Pacifica, and tells her she uncovered a major government conspiracy about the 8 1/2th President. However, upon seeing the silliness of Trembley, Pacifica dismisses Mabel as dumb. Pacifica goes back to her fancy car and begins to ride off with her parents.

Dipper asks if Mabel will tell her the truth about the Northwest family, but Mabel doesn’t care. She says being silly is awesome. But, Dipper says he hasn’t learned anything. He whistles for the Northwest car to stop and tells Pacifica the truth about her family. He hands her the documents as proof, and as she rides off, she reacts in shock.

Dipper then says revenge is underrated. Trembley then says he is needed elsewhere, and gives the Pines twins a -$12 dollar bill. Dipper says that is worthless, but Trembley replies it is less then worthless. The former President then jumps backward onto a horse and rides off into the wilderness.

The Pines twins discover Grunkle Stan still in the stocks. Dipper frees him with the President’s Key, and Mabel uses her Congressman status to pardon him. Grunkle Stan then says Mabel will never make sense and she agrees. She attempts to backward jump like Trembley, but crashes into unseen items. The end credits show Trembley talking to his appointed congressman, which are a bunch of babies.

REVIEW

Irrational Treasure is the episode that made me realize there was something special about Gravity Falls. The plot is simple, yet hilarious. Most of the main cast have been established at this point, which greatly helps the humor. This episode emphasizes the theme of thinking outside-the-box. Again, the creators tackle an esoteric subject matter (in this case, conspiracies) as the backdrop to the theme.

Quentin Trembley and his clues embody most of the humor in this episode. Hirsh does an awesome job voicing the character, utilizing an almost transatlantic accent. Trembley is the classic genius eccentric, and his dialogue does not fail to entertain. My favorite line is him commenting on being stuck in a “crate shaped box,” which is such an amusingly redundant statement. He is, in many ways, a mirror of Mabel, and helps her develop as a character. Trembley’s personality almost falls into surrealism, a genre I am a personal fan of.

As I watched this episode however, I couln’t help but remember The Simpsons season seven episode Lisa the Iconoclast. Both episodes involve a main character discovering the true nature of the town founder, and some antagonistic force attempting to keep the conspiracy under wraps. Both episodes also carry a pioneer motif for celebrating the founding of the respective towns. So although certain aspects are different, the concept is not anything new. Nevertheless, Gravity Falls provides a good variant of this plot.

The plot flows well from beginning to end; nothing is rushed. In terms of other characters, Dipper provides a nice contrast to Mabel. I would have loved to see Trembley in future episodes or at least the Skeleton Key as a plot device. But considering the progression of the overall series plot, his absence (along with the absence of other one-episode characters) is understandable.

Spiritual Application

This episode illustrates an often forgotten spiritual truth. 1 Corinthians 1:27 (NIV) says, “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” On the surface, the methods of Mabel seem nothing but utter foolishness. But in the end, her foolishness confounded the wisdom of Dipper and even the police. In terms of the Christian, foolishness goes beyond simply thinking outside the box.

In the context of 1 Corinthians 1, Paul states how not many who are great according to the world’s standards are called to salvation or His work. This is not to say God doesn’t save or use those who are intelligent or wealthy. But, such things can also be hindrances to coming to Christ. God uses the weak and foolish so no one can boast and God gets all the glory. In the end, all of us are saved according to God’s mercy and grace, not a good or bad social status.

A similar principle can be applied to the Gospel. Paul said the message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but it is the power of God to those being saved (1 Corinthians 1:18). Personally, I taught other believers in Bible class and messages to keep this in mind when witnessing. Although we need wisdom when sharing the Gospel, the believer can’t help but look a little silly talking about Jesus. After all, we as Christians believe in a Jewish Carpenter who lived 2,000 years ago, died on the Cross for our sins, was raised from the dead, and now have a relationship with as our Messiah. There is no way in the natural world for that to sound logical. But, this seemingly foolish message is the very Gospel God uses to save people.

The Bottom Line

This is one of the first exceptional episodes of Gravity Falls. Everything from the structure, dialogue, and absurdity are top-notch. Mabel learns to accept and even use silliness for good. Quentin Trembley is an awesome character; it is a shame he only truly appears in this episode. I definitely recommend this episode.

 

8.7

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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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