April212013

Episode Review #2: Gobbling Gobblewonkers!

Text galore and spoilers abound for those who are not caught up with Gravity Falls.

 

            If episode one is the setup for the series, then episode two is our first real look into the characters of Gravity falls. The Legend of the Gobblewonker, while not a particularly popular episode and not nearly as dense as the first episode, is a very important one in moral context, and story-wise. I’ll point these out as I go along in the article, so let’s get right into it.

            With many episodes of Gravity Falls it opens with light-hearted activities between the twins, but something comes up in order to push the plot. The main plot though isn’t touched upon until we actually get into the episode and the driving force (the reward money) is just mentioned as an off-handed subject. By only giving us a snippet of what is going to happen the plot doesn’t become too over-bearing or jarring to throw us off and becomes a very natural progression of normal events. I also want to point out the little advertisement on the back of the magazine Dipper is reading is for Gideon, who doesn’t appear until episode four. (While I seemed to have trouble grabbing a direct picture of the advertisement that would work with Tumblr’s format, the scene is within the first minute of the episode and can be seen when Dipper lifts the magazine on the table in case someone doesn’t believe me.)

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While this is foreshadowing, this is also a way of character introductions in regards to the entire town of Gravity Falls as we see later in the episode.

Moving on with character, Grunkle Stan makes an appearance right after the exchange between Dipper and Mabel and takes them on a fishing trip. Stan is featured heavily in this episode, but not in the same way that he appeared in the first. The writers didn’t forget about his attributes in the first episode because we see this in a flashback of the twins making counterfeit money with Stan. He is still greedy, but this episode brings out a different side of Stan that changes him from a static character to a dynamic one that isn’t just obsessed with money and becomes an important point of the episode.

The Gravity Falls Lake is where we see our reoccurring background characters. What makes them interesting, is that they aren’t really because they are made important in some event or another within the series. This scene establishes them so that when we actually learn about them a little more in later episodes we are already acquainted with them. It also makes the situation more realistic considering Gravity Falls is a small town. These characters would gather in one place for a large event since not much would be happening on a regular basis and would be seen more often than if this was a city setting.

As it turns out, it’s one of the background characters (in this case, Old Man McGucket) that jump-starts the plot and becomes a key character later in the episode. Gravity Falls has a mastery of making something unassuming but in reality it is important, a sort of wolf in sheep’s clothing that throws us off every time.

Another side note, Blendin Blandin also appears in the episode for a few seconds. While this isn’t important to this episode, I will address him in episode nine and elaborate on a theory of just why this was done other than showing off the impressive planning done for this series.

I would love to talk about Mabel’s daydream about the giant hamster ball for a moment. Now, we first see her in this moment addressing a hamster while she is in her own container. While establishing her usually goofy self and her slightly lucid vision of the world, later in the episode we also see the beavers, who have this little exchange among themselves. I love how Mabel’s generally happy nature also destroys a wall, not only establishing a point for Dipper’s daydream later in the episode, but it also points out an element that Mabel isn’t necessarily aware of the destruction she causes from amusing herself. We see this in other episodes of Gravity Falls, particularly later ones, where she picks on Dipper and can be seen in the camera scene where she throws one of the cameras over-board to get her way, throws a volleyball at Dipper to make a joke, and pokes him to literally poke fun at him. The best part is the second part of her daydream where we see two boys in a very different style from the traditional show. This also establishes how she can become progressively out-there which is played upon in episode five, and again shows her interest in finding romance.

The real first conflict of the episode arises when Dipper and Mabel want to go searching for the Gobblewonker and Soos comes in with his boat. This conflict builds into the moral of the episode, but I also see another side to this and this will be addressed towards the end of the article.

Right after the break we are introduced to a good establishment scene for the characters, particularly Soos since we focused on Dipper in our first episode and this scene just reestablishes points we know about him. While Soos is given many jokes and poked fun at, he is actually an incredibly smart character, though in some situations naïve. Just before the scene he asks if the twins had sunscreen, which is such a small comment but is something that a parent figure would ask instead of a friend. A true friend will just make fun of your pain and call you stupid, but because Soos says this he acts as more of a guardian to the twins. He also acts as a fourth wall character with his comment about characters dying in horror films, but if we step back for a minute and remember that Soos has noticed the weird things about Gravity Falls then this is an actual reoccurring thought for him and reinforces the idea of him as a parent-figure. Yet we still have exchanges that are done between the characters that make us still see him as a friend to the twins. The rest of the scene is so funny and one of the highlights of the episode because of the quick dialogue exchange and just ridiculousness of the situation.

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What I find very interesting is the quick tone shift from Stan’s attempt at telling a very bad joke at a very bad moment to this mysterious misty background. Even though Mabel is making jokes the music still remains the same and gives us the impression that a lot of bad things are going to go down on this island. I like to believe that Mabel is somewhat oblivious to the danger of their situation while Dipper does understand some of the danger, but his own ambition gets in the way of that. This is seen in his daydream sequence after he loses the lantern.

His daydream gives us more insight into his character and really shows that he’s not so much doing this for the money, but because he wants to prove that he was right. It also shows his desire to be seen as manly that is explored in later episodes by giving him a five o’clock shadow and he appears to drink black coffee. It’s also a little reference to Indiana Jones with Dipper’s outfit and the intro music he is given during the interview intro that sounds suspiciously like a bit of the theme from Raider’s of the Lost Ark. What I find really interesting about his dream is Mabel’s interruption with her looking not quite as happy as she did when she broke the wall in her dream. When we zoom out we see Mabel staring off into space as if she is sharing this day-dream with Dipper, not only playing into her lucid and crazy side, but also showing that her mind is very capable of going to dark places.

As I’m looking back on this, this really is a more Soos-centric episode not because he’s in the center of attention the entire time, but because of the little things added to him. Right after Dipper’s dream sequence we see Soos looking very concerned before chasing after the kids. Right after we see the kids also running off all excited, but Soos lingers back to pick up a spear with a pretty grim looking expression. He’s willing to kill to protect these children, not to mention he’s the one who charges in first with his camera when he’s assuming the monster is ahead. If we look to future episodes as well where he is involved Soos is always there during their adventures to take some of the damage for the kids, though in episode fourteen we see a sort of one-eighty of this idea. We pass him off as more of a friend because of his interactions with the kids and we want to stereotype him as the stupid-comic relief character, even though it is established that he knows more than we first assume.

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Just as the twins begin to regret their decision we turn back to Stan, who has actually began to replace Dipper and Mabel’s presence with a random child. While it seems to be a humorous joke, it really is a little sad. We see a Stan that really does miss having Dipper and Mabel around and to cope with this he tries to find someone he can replace them with. The thing about Stan is that he never directly asserts his feelings because of his pride and reputation for being cold-hearted. This could be because he is actually concerned for looking weak in front of others, or it could be because of he is so used to being alone that he is unsure of what to feel or he is afraid of this concern for others and how it could hurt him. This whole scene is framed by Dipper and Mabel beginning  to realize that they probably let Stan down and did hurt his feelings by abandoning him.

From this point on the pace of the episode in increased greatly with the introduction of the monster. What I find interesting is that before the chase scene we see Dipper’s complete disregard for the fact that this creature is dangerous while Soos and Mabel immediately begin to back away because they recognize the threat. It’s Dipper’s ambitions to prove monsters exist that gets him into trouble and becomes a key character point in episode thirteen, though in much more depth than one scene can really give us.

The chase scene with the Gobblewonker is done very well with gags thrown into the whole scene. There is a brief scene where we see Stan at his breaking point and getting angry at the doppelganger family because they have what he doesn’t. Back to the chase scene even we see a progression of destruction done to the boat and even Soos’s clothing as the Gobblewonker attacks the boat. To get away Dipper consults the book for a moment and this ends up saving the group from the monster, though Dipper might place too much trust in it because Mabel sounds skeptical when Dipper says there might be a cave and isn’t really sure.

The big reveal after we find out that the Gobblewonker is a robot is that McGucket set up the whole thing because he thought it might impress his son. I want to point out that the red lighting is very similar to the shack’s in the one scene I pointed out in episode one and might be because McGucket seems like a legitimately dangerous character, he proves this when he talks about causing mass destruction with the robots he’s built.

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McGucket points out the moral of the episode, that spending time with family is important, and to make even more obvious Soos tells the kids, exactly, “I guess the real lake monster is you two.” This seems like a very harsh comment for someone who is supposed to be their friends and sounds more like he’s scolding them (even though he pulled them away from Stan in the first place). Soos is a very close companion to the twins and generally fun for them to be around while Stan has them work and he simply becomes an obligation to the twins. What we are seeing is a conflict of choosing between friends and family, which, being kids, Dipper and Mabel choose the side that’s they assume to be more fun. While this moral seems skewed at first because it’s not bad to hang out with friends, what we see is the twins abandoning their family. This lesson becomes even more of an impact because of Stan’s age and the social issue of two generations clashing. In the end the moral is understood to it’s full potential and we see both the twins and Soos joining in with Stan to find a balance between the two.

The episode concludes with all three of them spending the day with Stan. We get a little glimpse that the Gobblewonker might not be completely fake, and the episode leaves us with that.

Comparing this with my last entry, I just realized my article is longer even though it’s not as dense an episode. I might have brushed some headcanon territory in my analysis and I’m sorry if I went too far with it instead of sticking with the solid facts.

Aside from that, I’m really happy that I’m getting a lot of positive feedback and comment and that people are interested in getting into the workings of Gravity Falls. The next one might take a little longer to make since it’s finals week for me, but after that I’ll be able to write these up like no tomorrow.

While the episode analysis is my main focus right now, I also ask that if there’s something you want my opinion on: episodes, characters, themes, theories, and so on, feel free to send a message my way and I’ll try to answer it to the best of my ability as soon as I can.

Stay intrigued.

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