If you’re new to the blog or just want to revisit from the beginning, click HERE to read the review for “Tourist Trapped”.
Previously on Gravity Falls:
Immediately following the return of the Mystery Shack, Stan Pines (or Grunkle Stan to his grand-niece and nephew) used the enigmatic Journals to activate a portal, which attracted the attention of some government agents. Dipper tried to recruit the agents in his search for the unknown, but they didn’t believe him until he accidentally summoned some flesh-hungry zombies that ruined the Mystery Shack’s grand re-opening party. After fending them off, Grunkle Stan revealed to Dipper and Mabel that he knew about the supernatural happenings in town and he was trying to protect the kids from them by pretending they didn’t exist. Stan returned Dipper’s Journal on the grounds that they don’t use it to look for trouble. But on learning that there are hidden entries and details written in invisible ink, the sense of adventure is too strong for the Mystery Twins to resist…
Dipper is at Wendy’s house watching a old cheesy horror movie they both have fun giving the MST3K treatment. When Wendy is bombarded by texts from Robbie begging her to give him another chance, Dipper asks if she’s seeing anyone. To his relief, the answer’s no. He attempts to ask her on a date, but at the last second he chickens out and instead asks her to join him and Mabel on their next mystery adventure.
The following morning as Grunkle Stan goes over the damage wreaked on the Mystery Shack from the other night’s zombie attack, Soos, Wendy, Dipper and Mabel locate the tree where Dipper first found Journal #3. Mabel spots a branch that looks suspiciously like a lever and Wendy uses her boss lumberjacking skills that she learned from her dad (who’s Manly Dan, by the way) to reach it. The tree lowers to reveal a spiral staircase leading underground. Dipper makes everyone promise not to tell a soul about what they find. Wendy shows it by zipping her lips, just as she did in The Inconveniencing to show Dipper he can trust her (remember that now). Before they head down, Mabel pulls Dipper aside and points out how especially happy he is to have Wendy there. Dipper insists he’s over his crush on Wendy, but Mabel’s got her skeptic-les on.
The group enters what appears to be a fallout shelter. It’s stocked with enough supplies to last sixty years, including weapons and stale candy. Dipper finds an freshly opened can of dog food, meaning the Author could still be alive and hiding down there. As if to prove his theory correct, Wendy finds an open hatch behind a poster. The hatch leads them to a quasi-futuristic room covered with strange symbols. Mabel accidentally triggers a trap and the symbols slowly move out of the wall to interlock and crush the intruders.With some quick thinking and the Journal, Dipper finds a way to deactivate it by having everyone step on a sequence of tiles Twister-style. As they escape, Mabel finds a note that’s fallen out of Dipper’s pocket; a message he originally intended for Wendy confessing his true feelings but never worked up the courage to say. Dipper snatches the note from back from her and admits he hasn’t said anything to Wendy because he doesn’t want her to hate him like she does Robbie. Mabel believes he’ll feel better if he goes ahead and does it. All he needs is a little push. So she knocks them both into a metal closet and locks it until Dipper makes his confession.
Wendy and Dipper both discover, however, that the closet is actually a decontamination shower, one which opens up into a cryogenics lab. One of the tubes is shattered, and hollowed out tunnels litter the walls. A monstrous growl echoes from one of them. When Dipper and Wendy’s cries to be let out fall on deaf ears, Dipper chickens out once again and leads Wendy down a tunnel hoping to find a way out. Unfortunately they are cornered by what seems to be stalking them, something resembling a giant insect, but they are rescued by an unlikely savior.The strange reclusive man (Mark Hamill!!) hurries them along before the creature can regain its strength. Dipper is overjoyed that he thinks he’s found the Author; his beliefs are confirmed when he shows him the Journal and he recognizes it. The Author brings them back to the lab and tells them the monster he subdued was an experiment of his, a shapeshifter with incredible strength and speed that can take the form of anything living or otherwise. He hopes that with their help they can recapture it before it wreaks havoc on the world above.
Meanwhile Mabel and Soos mess around the lab and come across a pad detailing the shapeshifter experiment. Both realize that Wendy and Dipper were telling the truth and they venture into the tunnels to find them.
Dipper gives the Journal to the Author once they reach one of his hideaways. As he pores through its contents and Dipper fanboys over finally meeting his idol, Wendy makes a terrifying discovery –
And once the “Author” realizes they’ve learned the truth…
The Shifter (if you haven’t already guessed who it is) thanks Wendy and Dipper for bringing it the Journal, providing it with new forms to copy. Dipper demands that it tell them what happened to the Author, but the Shifter only says that “he hasn’t been himself for thirty years”. Wendy succeeds in distracting it, allowing Dipper to take back the Journal. They both flee with the Shifter in hot pursuit as a giant pill bug.
After successfully sending it on the wrong track, Wendy and Dipper bump into Mabel and Soos. Suspicions quickly arise, but Soos and Mabel allay their fears not by answering questions only they’d know the answer to but by simply being themselves. The urgency of the situation is thrust upon them. If the Shifter ever escaped above ground, no one in Gravity Falls could ever be trusted again. You probably couldn’t even put on a pair of underpants without knowing if whether or not it was a shapeshifting monster.
Hey, some references I make for the masses, some I make for me. Besides, Red Dwarf is a smegging hilarious show that deserves to be mentioned as often as possible.
Anyway Wendy comes up with a plan to trap the Shifter: “It tricked us, then tried to trap us. I say we return the favor.”
Some time later, the Shifter is scouring the lab until Dipper and Mabel make themselves known to it.
And I know I’ve already done it once in this review and in the last one, but I need to do it again here.
Dipper and Mabel lead the Shifter to a large water pipe that Wendy and Soos are working to release. It’s too rusty to be busted, however, and the Shifter gets in a tug of war over the Journal with Wendy and Dipper. As it drags Wendy away, the pipe finally bursts open. In the chaos of the now-flooded tunnel, Wendy is swept beneath the water and hits her head on a stalagmite.
Dipper desperately searches for her once the flood subsides, only to find her still, twisted body lying on the ground. Fearing the worst, Dipper laments that he caused this by not telling the truth in the first place. He cries over her, wishing for the chance to tell Wendy that he really loved her.
The corpse that was really the Shifter springs back to life and attacks Wendy. Both struggle over the Journal. Dipper grabs the axe but doesn’t know who to attack.
One Wendy playfully winks.
The other zips her lips.
Dipper realizes it’s everyone’s favorite time of day, time for an excellent payoff to a brilliant setup, and hacks into the Wendy that winked. I don’t want to repeat the Disney logo joke here but they don’t censor Dipper burying the axe into the fake Wendy’s gut. On top of that, they focus on her screaming in agony for a bit while green blood spills from the wound before she returns to the Shifter’s true form. Take those seconds out of context and with the right blood color and it’s pretty messed up.
Mabel activates an empty cryo chamber and Wendy and Dipper shove the wounded Shifter inside. It changes into different forms as it fights to be released. The four friends head for the exit…
…but the Shifter isn’t done with them yet.
Before I go any further, I want to emphasize how excellent the Gravity Falls writing team is at balancing scares with laughs, especially in the dialogue. It’s gonna be tough picking a Crowning Moment of Hilawesomeness for this one because there’s too many to mention in the review alone. I bring this up because, even putting aside my bias for this show, what follows is one of the best sudden shifts in tone THAT WORK, and don’t feel like a lazy mood switch or leaves you with tonal whiplash. Oh, and I’m not talking about within the series itself, I mean in general. I’ve seen movies that are given four to five times the running time of this episode, movies that are considered the peak of the horror-comedy subgenre, and yet an animated show by Disney manages to do a jump from a moment of bone-chilling terror to sidesplitting hysteria better than most I could mention.
Moments before it is fully frozen, the Shifter plasters itself against the tube as it laughs ominously. It taunts Dipper saying that his cleverness will never help him find the Author will never be found, and his endless searching will only lead to a fate where his last form is this:
One of the most chilling moments I’ve seen in a show period.
And no less than three seconds later, Soos follows it up with:I understand that it’s hard to convey the emotions you’re supposed to feel from certain scenes using only captions and stills, but the first time I saw this I went from jaw dropped in shock to laughing hysterically, it was that funny; an expertly timed punchline to help release the tension built up throughout the entire episode. I hope Alex Hirsch and the team behind this are fucking proud of it because they deserve to be.
Safe up above ground, Dipper pulls Wendy aside. We all know what’s coming, and so does he. There’s no taking back what he cried in the heat of the moment. Dipper can barely look at Wendy because he feels whatever she’s going to say will be too painful for him to face. Still, he plucks up the courage to ask if they could pretend that what he said earlier didn’t happen.
And Wendy? She puts a comforting hand on his shoulder and tells him it’s ok – she always knew that he liked her that way. Still, in spite of how sweet it is, she’s too old for him, a fact that they’re both aware of.
Dipper is humiliated, but Wendy assures him that she would rather jump into the Bottomless Pit than lose his friendship. And after fighting yourself to the death and facing down a shapeshifting monster, potential awkwardness is the last thing they’d ever have to worry about. They make plans for another movie night and Wendy heads home, leaving Dipper alone with his thoughts.
Mabel pops in to ask how it went, and Dipper sums it up in one sentence – “How can everything be so amazing and so terrible all at the same time?” Mabel apologizes for pushing him too hard and comforts him. Soos is also bummed that they’re not any closer to finding the Author, but he did take his briefcase from the bunker with him as a souvenir. It pops open and they learn that it’s not a briefcase at all. It’s an old laptop computer – and it still works.
“Into the Bunker” continues the high from the Season 2 premiere with humor and horror abound. I am not a fan of scary movies in the slightest, but I’d be lying if I said there aren’t a few I enjoy every now and then, and one of them is John Carpenter’s The Thing. If anyone is familiar with that film you can easily see the influence it had on this episode, from the claustrophobic lab setting to the Shifter and the terrifying composite forms it takes (Note to self, add that movie to the Shelf for Halloween…) Needless to say it pushes the boundaries of the Y-7 rating in all the best ways. Make sure you watch the episode on Disney XD, though, because the Disney Channel cuts out some of the more family-unfriendly stuff. Truth be told I could kind of tell that the Shifter wasn’t really going to be the Author because it felt too soon for that reveal to be genuine, but we do get another intriguing clue with the reveal of the laptop at the end. Also, Mark Hamill kicks ass in the recording booth as the Shifter. What can I say, the Force is strong with that guy.
As for the Wendy and Dipper storyline, I think it’s handled and resolved perfectly. If you have ever been in either one of their shoes in such a situation (I know I’ve been in both before) this is an episode that will hit close to home. It adds a heavy punch of emotion to an episode that would otherwise be another fun, extra-dark adventure. That image of Dipper sitting alone on the log captures the uncertainty after a major heartbreak. I also like that Wendy has been aware of Dipper’s crush, even pointing out that his feelings for her have been pretty obvious, but has never forced him to admit anything or pushed him away because of them. She truly is that cool a person. I don’t know what else I can add other than this episode ranks among the series’ best for just about every reason I listed. I give it my highest recommendation.
And the Internet Went:
End Credits Craziness: Wendy and Dipper watching a cheap Saturday afternoon movie marathon on Gravity Falls TV, including “The Widdlest Wampire”, “The Planet People of Planet Planet”, “Help! My Mummy’s a Werewolf!”, Attack of the Exclamation Points!!!”, “The Man With No Taste”, “Ghost Turtle”, and “Help! My Mummy’s a Werewolf 2: This Again!”
Callbacks: While watching the first horror movie at Wendy’s house, Dipper comments that zombies on film aren’t so scary after fighting them yourself, a call back to the previous episode. Robbie is still bothering Wendy after their breakup in “Boyz Crazy”. Soos takes stale candy from a Pez dispenser that has the head of the “scary British dog-man” Bill tormented him with in “Dreamscaperers”. Three forms the Shifter takes when reading Journal 3 are a gnome, the Gremloblin, and the Hide-Behind from Dipper’s Guide to the Unexplained. And of course, the zipped lips Wendy made at the end of “The Inconveniencing” serves a greater purpose here.
Crowning Line of Hilawesomeness: Holy crap, there were a ton in this episode! But if you had to twist my arm…I’ll go with a tie between what Dipper said after his moment with Wendy for the emotion, and Soos’ gutbusting punctuation to the Shifter’s final warning for the humor. Good way to balance it out.
Mabel SWatch (Sweater Watch): Magenta with striped sleeves and a light bulb that works.
Dear Princess Celestabelleabethabelle: Crushes being crushed are the worst, but not as bad as fighting a monster that can eerily turn into anything.
Have You Seen the Agents?
The agents seem to have gone into hiding for this episode…
Where’s that wacky triangle at?Well, this adventure has been pretty intense. How about we relax with a friendly game of mini-golf in about, oh, two weeks’ time? See you July 16th when we look at The Golf War.