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If you’re new to the blog or just want to revisit from the beginning, click HERE to read the review for “Tourist Trapped”.
BE WARNED – THIS IS A MAJOR EPISODE AND THERE WILL BE SPOILERS.
Previously on Gravity Falls:Dipper and Mabel Pines have been spending the summer in Gravity Falls, a place where the supernatural is a daily occurrence and their Grunkle Stanford Pines runs a tourist trap called the Mystery Shack…during daytime hours. After dark Stan has been working on a giant machine deep within the Mystery Shack, one that’s been hinted at in the enigmatic Journal written by an anonymous Author and kept by Dipper. As for its purpose who can say, but as Stan comes closer to fulfilling his goal, the authorities – and the countdown to doomsday – are closing in…
Night has fallen on Gravity Falls, and once again Stan is hard at work with his portal. While flipping though his Journal, he skims over a warning that overusage could lead to gravitational anomalies and endanger the area. But Stan’s come too far to give up now. The portal is ready at last. He activates it, briefly causing everyone and everything in Gravity Falls to levitate as they slumber, and the countdown begins:
Within eighteen hours, the world will be changed forever.
…Special abbreviated intro time!
Mabel wakes up Dipper at 7AM with a discovery she’s made in the Mystery Shack – a stash of illegal fireworks (then again, are there any firework stashes that actually ARE legal?) Grunkle Stan stops them, because there’s no way he’s letting them play with dangerous explosives…without him, of course. The Pines family have fun blasting them off the roof, eating ice cream, and cleaning up the mess with a big water balloon fight.
Grunkle Stan notes how unusual it is for two siblings to get along so well, but falls quiet after Mabel jokes they have the rest of the summer to drive each other nuts. He tells the kids there’s something he needs to say to them, but chickens out at the last moment. In private he steels himself to prepare Dipper and Mabel for what’s about to happen in several hours, but gets beaten to the punch.
An army of agents swoop in and arrest Stan.
A perimeter is put up around the Mystery Shack, trapping anyone or anything inside (thankfully Wendy and Soos were late to work today). Agents Powers and Trigger, who Dipper believed to be eaten by zombies, reveal that last night they found footage of Stan stealing hazardous waste from a government facility, which was the evidence they needed after watching the Pines family all summer. Stan professes his innocence and Mabel stands by him, but Powers says that Stan has conned the cops many times before and intended on using the waste to power a doomsday device hidden somewhere in the Shack; their beloved feisty uncle is someone they never really knew at all.
Trigger takes the kids to child services while Powers hauls Stan to the police station. Stan demands a phone call and begs help from the one person he knows he can count on right now – Soos. He asks him to stand guard over the vending machine in the Mystery Shack, no matter what.
Meanwhile Trigger tries to distract the kids with some mindless reality tv (as if there were any other kind). However the kids are too distraught to do anything other than find a way to prove Stan’s innocent. Inspired by the camera in the car, Dipper thinks of getting back to the Shack and fetching the security tape that shows Stan was there working while the theft was going on. All they need is a way out of the car, which Mabel provides when they see Manly Dan’s truck next to them and it has a Sev’ral Timez bumper sticker.
This sends Dan into a rage of Tumblr user proportions and he bumps them off the road. The car crashes into a tree, but the twins get out just fine. Trigger, who is trapped but otherwise unharmed, warns them that he’s seen this situation happen too many times before. He knows Stan is guilty of not being who he says he is, and they’re going to be let down once they realize that he’s fooled them just like he did everyone else. Dipper tries to brush him off, but the seed of doubt has been planted.
Meanwhile at the station Stan has five hours left to get out and be at the Portal. The timer he’s been keeping on his wrist alerts him of another gravity anomaly and he gets an idea…
The town braces itself as the a “baby-sized earthquakes” get worse and Old Man McGucket packs his things and skips town, fearing the end is nigh once the machine he’s been keeping tabs on with the laptop activates.
The kids hitch a ride back to the Mystery Shack and break in via grappling hook (yay!) Once inside Stan’s office they locate the security monitor and watch the tape from last night. Sure enough they see Stan restocking the gift shop like he claimed…
…but in the middle of his work he sneaks out. For hours the store is completely empty. Then in the middle of the night, someone in a hazmat suit hauls barrels of waste inside. Mabel insists that could be anyone but…
Mabel concedes that even if Powers and Trigger were right about Stan and the waste, that doesn’t mean they were also right about Stan not being who he says he was. Then Dipper discovers a box full of state IDs and passports, each one with Stan’s face but a different name. They also come across two newspaper clippings; one of an unnamed drifter at large who closely resembles Stan and the other –
Dipper is aghast that the real mystery, even greater than who the Author of the Journal is, is who is this stranger they’ve been living with this whole time. Mabel, who insists that there must be a rational explanation for this, thinks the real answer must be close. On emptying the box she finds a code marked “Secret Code to Hideout” (thereby proving Stan really is the most conspicuous secret keeper ever). It doesn’t match any codes Dipper knows, but Mabel’s seen the arrangement of letters and numbers before: the vending machine.
It’s fifteen minutes til the Portal’s activation, and Powers reenters Stan’s cell with some guards to escort him to Washington. Stan stalls for time until his timer acts up – and the next gravity anomaly kicks in.
After that bit of ass kicking Stan further eludes the feds by tricking them into following a taxi that’s “escaping”. Trigger has the agents at the Shack do a sweep of the town, which allows Soos to break in and keep his promise to Stan. So strong is his devotion to him (and his hopes that he’ll be considered his adopted son) that he won’t stand down when Dipper and Mabel ask him to. Mabel is forced to blow glitter in his eyes while Dipper puts in the code. The machine blasts open, and Soos, Mabel and Dipper journey down to the depths while Stan sprints home.
One elevator ride later they find themselves in the lab. No one can believe what they’re seeing or why Stan would be keeping it beneath the Mystery Shack. Mabel attempts to rationalize that even though this is one hell of a secret, it’s still Stan they’re talking about; how could he be evil if he really cared about them?
Then Dipper sees the two other Journals.
This is the last straw for Dipper. He’s furious that Stan has been lying to them this whole summer about everything, even the Journals, and if he’s not the Author himself, then it’s likely he killed the Author and stole them for his own master plan with the machine. To prove his point he opens them up until they’re all on the center pages; when put together they make up a diagram of the Portal. When he turns on the blacklight, he finds this message inscribed in invisible ink:
The machine was meant to create knowledge but it is too powerful! The device, if fully operational could TEAR OUR UNIVERSE APART! I WAS WRONG THE WHOLE TIME! It must not fall into the wrong hands. If the clock ever reaches zero, our universe is DOOMED! TOTAL GLOBAL DESTRUCTION!
Luckily Journal 3 reveals a manual override that could shut down the Portal. With only 90 seconds left on the clock, Soos, Dipper and Mabel rush to activate it, but are stopped by the arrival of another presence.
Stan urges Dipper to trust him and back away, but Dipper’s having none of it. Before he can explain, his alarm goes off again in time for the final, biggest anomaly. All over town, people, cars and buildings are lifted high into the air while the earth beneath them shakes.
Thirty seconds left.
As the Pines family and Soos are hurled to the ceiling, Mabel gets her foot caught in a wire. She is the only one close enough to reach the button. Stan swims to her but is tackled by Soos. “I’m sorry Mr. Pines, if that is your real name, but I have a new mission now – protecting these kids!” Dipper joins the fray to give Mabel more time all the while Stan screams at them to trust what he’s doing. It’s Mabel who breaks it up with her sobbing. She loves Stan and wants to believe him with every fiber of her being, but there’s so much evidence stacked against him and it’s tearing the poor girl apart.
Trapped against the wall, both figuratively and literally, Stan confesses:
Remember this morning when I said I wanted to tell you guys something? I wanted to say that you’re gonna hear some bad things about me, and some of them are true, but trust me, everything I’ve worked for, everything I care about, it’s all for this family.
Stan begs if she really thinks he’s bad, but Dipper pleads her to listen to her head for once, that the whole universe could be in jeopardy.
Mabel raises her hand over the button that could prevent or seal the world’s fate.
The one thing Stan could never say on his own.
The one word you had to force out of him.
The one word Mabel taught him to say.
Five seconds left.
Her hand hovers above the button.
“Grunkle Stan -”
Before Dipper can even scream at her, everyone is engulfed in a flash of white hot light.
The Mystery Shack and everyone in it floats through a void…before everything in town comes crashing down to earth.
The portal, now in ruins, fizzles in the dark.
Before it dies, out of the remains steps a figure clad in black. He places his hand on a Journal – and all six fingers perfectly align.
Dipper comes to and asks who this man is. Stan replies:
“The Author of the Journals…”
I hate to sound like one of those fans but…
Best episode of Gravity Falls.
Not exaggerating. Not hyperbole.
BEST. EPISODE. EVER.
The writing is watertight, the suspension builds at a relentless pace, it constantly keeps you guessing as Stan’s lies are finally unraveling around him, and honestly there’s very little humor I could come up with when writing this review because not only were the jokes and lines included already hysterical enough but there’s almost nothing work with. In this case, that’s a good thing. If you asked me to pick the most perfect moments of television of all time, this episode (specifically its climax) would be on there. No matter how many times I watch it I am still hit with the same emotions as the first. In addition, the animation has never looked better, with several key moments drawn in house at Disney’s animation studio as opposed to exporting everything overseas like most animated shows.
We’ve still got nine more episodes in the show to go (only nine, holy shit…) but there’s a reason why this is considered the Number One entry in the series. Doug Walker talked at length about what this episode means to the fans, with so much beautiful fan art of that one moment where Mabel ultimately places her faith in Stan symbolizing how we the fans and viewers surrendered everything we expected for the slim hope that the writers – and Stan – would deliver on their promise.
And boy did they deliver.
No joke, when I first saw the reveal of Stan’s brother, I screamed. Honest to God screamed. Not even Game of Thrones with all its sudden curves and blatant disregard for main character living status has ever driven me to that level of excitement and emotion. I was aware of the theory floating around the internet that Stan had a twin brother but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that those who fervently espoused it would be right. Hell, the only people who were louder than those trying to prove it were those trying to disprove it, some even blindly continuing to do so even after the reveal (which is why I have never listened to LewToons’ GF theories since).
My tastes in television have evolved considerably in the past decade, and it’s been easier for me to discern what traps and annoying cliches some shows fall into to keep viewers invested at the cost of writing quality. Where programs like Lost have felt the need to answer long-held questions with even MORE questions, Gravity Falls wasn’t afraid to answer one of – if not THE – biggest ones since the very first episode, who was the Author of the Journals. As much as we want to see what comes out of this revelation, it doesn’t bombard you with all the potential queries and answers all at once. The moment is immensely satisfying as it is, and there’s no need to further complicate it. It makes for one hell of a midseason finale; some fans even prefer to split Season 2 down the middle and have this be the conclusion while the next episode serves as the opener to an unofficial Season 3.
Yet as awesome as it is, there’s a sense of finality that pervades this adventure. For the first time Mabel and Dipper are at odds over something that they stand their ground on instead of reconciling their differences. In the end, Mabel chooses Stan over her brother. The image of the frame of them shattering after everyone is engulfed by the Portal at its highest power? That ain’t no coincidence. For better or worse, the results of “Not What He Seems” marks a divergence between the beloved Mystery Twins. And with the presence of a new character that has been hyped from the get-go, there’s a tangible possibility that divide will be deepened as time goes on.
The Author is here.
The day has finally come where everything you know will be changed.
And the Internet Went:
End Credits Craziness:
Callbacks: Mabel’s grappling hook makes a return after a long absence. The rock that looks like a face distracts the agents long enough for Dipper and Mabel to sneak in the Shack. Robbie’s signature explosion muffin can be seen at the police station, as does the “McSuck It!” graffiti spray painted on McGucket’s shack in “Society of the Blind Eye”. On the board of evidence the agents have put together there’s a “Stan Bucks” from “Summerween”, a photo of a Stan Vac vacuum cleaner referenced in “Dreamscaperers,” and an ad for the grand opening of the wax museum from “Headhunters”. His altercation with the animatronic badger in “Soos and the Real Girl” has also been noted. Stan is still wearing the bandage he gained from “Society of the Blind Eye” which is seen consecutively through “Blendin’s Game” and “The Love God”. What Soos says when tackling Stan mirrors what he said and learned at the end of his story in “Bottomless Pit!”. This episode marks the first time we’ve seen Mabel with a sweater wrapped around her waist since “Irrational Treasure”. The background images of the police station and the beach view from the end credits appeared on Blendin’s camouflage suit in “Blendin’s Game”. Dipper mentions how similar the basement is to the Author’s bunker in “Into the Bunker”. Turns out he wasn’t too far off the mark. Speaking of marks, this is the first time his birthmark is fully seen since its reveal in “Double Dipper”.
Now let’s count the number of times Stan’s brother has been alluded to beforehand:
- Stan’s reaction to seeing his wax doppelganger for the first time as well as mourning its “death” in “Headhunters”.
- When Dipper and Mabel appear in and out of different time periods during “The Time Traveler’s Pig”, the Author is the one that’s seen opening the door of the Mystery Shack briefly during a winter setting.
- Stan finding and sadly pondering over an old pair of glasses that was uncovered in the room in “Carpet Diem” which are different from the ones he normally wears.
- The old broken down swingset seen in Stan’s mindscape in “Dreamscaperers” is the same one seen during the end credits.
- Also in “Dreamscaperers” a boy with similar hair can be seen with his head buried in a book in the background of Stan’s boxing lesson memories.
- At the climax of “Sock Opera”, Bill taunts Mabel by saying “Who would sacrifice everything they’ve worked for just for their dumb sibling?”
- Stan’s car has the license plate “STNLYMBLE”, which is unusual considering his name is Stanford, not Stanley…or is it?
Crowning Line of Hilawesomeness: Once again on such a momentous occasion I’m at an impasse. So here’s the Top 5 lines of the episode –
5. Wendy: (singing) “Headin’ into work, doot doo doo…orrr maybe not.”
4. Soos: “Time for a repair guy…to become a repair MAN.”
3. Mabel: “Maybe we’re getting Ker-Pranked! Justin Ker-Prank is gonna jump up from behind one of these plants any minute now!…Aaaaany minute, Justin…”
2. Stan’s speech. All of it. Including “Look into my eyes, Mabel! Do you really think I’m a bad guy?” and “Mabel, Please!!”
1. “…I trust you.”
Mabel SWatch (Sweater Watch): Magenta with an elaborate key
Dear Princess Celestabelleabethabelle: Please use your almighty unicorn princess powers to grant Alex Hirsch this much amount of creativity and control on his next show. Praise Faust. Sincerely, Shelf.
Have You Seen the Agents?
The agents are flying high, defying gravity…but soon enough it’ll bring them down.
Where’s that wacky triangle at?
Next time on Gravity Falls, even more questions will be answered with quite a heavy tale: “A Tale of Two Stans”. See you then.