Continuing from the previous episode, Soos, Wendy and Dipper enter the bubble Bill has imprisoned Mabel in –
Previously on Gravity Falls: Bill has merged his dimension with ours, it’s the endtimes, Dipper’s got to find and rescue Mabel so they can figure out what to do next, blah blah blah.
Go here to catch up on Gravity Falls from the beginning.
Anyway, Dipper, Wendy and Soos fall through what the rabbit hole to Wonderland would look like if it was coated in Smile Dip and emerge in…
Welcome to Mabeland, Mabel’s ultimate paradise. If Lisa Frank and Mary Blair had a wild 80’s themed bender at FAO Schwarz, the result wouldn’t be half as colorful, whimsical or fun as this. I’ve got to admit, it’s not all that far off from what my personal paradise would be like, too; a return to childhood except whatever you imagine can truly come to life, where the characters you love aren’t confined to the page or screen, where every inch is plastered with beautiful colors, and there’s no rules, no responsibilities, no looming threat of war or violence or poverty or death…
Anyway, as the gang wonders why such a shining shimmering splendid new world would be Mabel’s prison, they bump into Xyler and Craz, the Bill and Ted knockoffs from “Dreamscaperers”. The boys give them a tour of the place and tell them the only rule of Mabeland is one so important that they won’t say what it is until it’s time for the dramatic reveal rounding out the second act of the episode. Recognizing that this seemingly magical place must be some kind of trap designed by Bill, Dipper leads a raid on the tower Mabel’s being kept in.
They find Mabel in repose like Sleeping Beauty and try to keep the waffle guards from breaking in before they can escape. But with a clap of her hands Mabel sends the guards away and sets her room in order. Surprise, Mabel’s the one who created Mabeland all along! She tells them that she woke up in here with the power to shape the world as she saw fit. Anything she wants she can have like that, and what Mabel wants is an endless summer where she’ll never have to grow up and her friends and family are always there for her. And if they don’t like it, there’s always Plan B.
Mabel truly does want the genuine articles to stay and urges them to give her fantasy world a chance, promising them that Mabeland can grant them their every desire. In spite of their objections, Wendy is eventually lured away by her friends showing up with a truck full of fireworks, and Soos can’t pass up the chance to play ball with a facsimile of his deadbeat dad.
As humorous and tempting as both those fantasies are, they’re only the first clue of the inherent diabolical nature of Mabeland. Think about it. Without you even having to say anything, the world knows your innermost thoughts and desires. It finds the one thing you could never be able to pass up and makes surrendering your will and freedom in order to have it not seem like a trap at all. Having Soos run into the arms the father who abandoned him his whole life might seem like a step backwards for his character after “Blendin’s Game”, but Mabeland understands how to play on his wishes and insecurities. Soos knows this isn’t his father; the man that’s standing there openly admits that he’s a wrestler with a face from a hot sauce bottle since he doesn’t know what he even looks like. But Soos, while he acknowledges that this is just a dream, has to live that dream just once. And being offered the kind of dreams that only your subconscious is something both wonderful and bone-chilling. I mean, what would Mabeland give to me if I was there? The world’s biggest canvas for me to paint on complete with trampoline and bungee cords? A chance to reconnect with the artist grandfather I barely knew? A letter from a publishing house offering a twenty book deal instead of total rejection? One could only hope…
The only person able to resist the temptations of Mabeland is Dipper. He argues that getting your fantasies all the time can’t be good for anyone, but Mabel is convinced of the opposite; after all, what’s wrong with making people happy, even if what’s bringing on the mirth isn’t real?
Frustrated that he can’t convince Mabel that they need to return home, he goes off to sulk for a bit (though it’s hard to sulk in a place that literally has music and giggles in the air). Wendy joins him, having grown bored of wreaking adolescent misdemeanors. She reminds him that with his brains he can figure a way out of this happy hellhole. In fact, she openly confesses that if they were the same age, he’d be the perfect guy for her. If this place can give them anything they want, why couldn’t it make it possible for Dipper to skip puberty by a few years? Dipper almost gives in – but realizes this can’t be real.
And he’s right.
Pushed to the brink of terror and insanity, Dipper declares that they need to wake up and go back to the real world. And wouldn’t you know, THAT’S the unbreakable rule that Xyler and Craz mentioned earlier. Dipper is placed under arrest for mentioning reality and is about to be banished there when Mabel intervenes. Determined to keep her brother from being punished and to prove to him that Mabeland is an acceptable substitute, she invokes a trial where he will have to argue his case of Fantasy Vs. Reality. The opening of the trial plays out very much like one from Wonderland, from the nonsensical rules, to the jury being made up of Mabel clones who’d rather play than listen, to the whole event being presided over by a Southern judge who’s a pink cat with the voice of Jon Stewart. We’re not even up to the final episode and yet I think it’s safe to say we’ve reached peak weirdness here.
With Xyler and Craz serving as the defense, they make the case that reality is “bogus”, “lame”, and “whack”. Hard to argue with those ten-dollar words. To prove their point they take examples of Mabel’s life chronicled in her scrapbook. It’d be cute to see Mabel and Dipper at various younger stages in their life if it weren’t so disheartening to see what they go through – Mabel’s pigtail up-do on school picture day is ruined when some callous little twerp intentionally sticks gum in her hair and the kids laughs at her, Dipper is picked on when he’s the only person in his class who doesn’t get a valentine, and of course Xyler and Craz remind everyone with stills from past episodes that Dipper’s life as well as Mabel’s has been full of disappointment and heartbreak from even the people they were closest to….
So Dipper has a lot going against him. But he calls a surprise witness to the stand – Mabel herself. Dipper admits he’s nowhere near as cool or fun as Mabeland and its infinite possibilities, but no one knows her better than he does. He understands that beneath all the smiles and hugs and colorful sweaters, she’s terrified. She is petrified of not being able to make everyone happy, not being accepted for herself, and most of all, growing up without knowing what the future may hold, feelings that Dipper also shares. Mabel tries to deny it, but her attempts at blocking Dipper out further prove that he’s correct.
Using the scrapbook, Dipper reveals the sob stories Xyler and Craz utilized were only true from a certain point of view. After Dipper ran off crying on Valentine’s Day, Mabel created a card for him out of all the ones she received. The school picture was resolved when Dipper found a razor and gave him and Mabel matching haircuts. Dipper also highlights their resolutions in “Summerween”, “Sock Opera”, and “Gideon Rises” as his main point – that no matter how bad things got, they got through it together. He admits that she wasn’t the only one who wanted to live in a fantasy; the whole summer he believed he could be happy cooped up with Ford instead of living life’s ups and downs with his sister, and it wasn’t until that was nearly taken from him that he realized it was what made him happy. He promises that though he can’t predict the future, she’ll never have to face it without him there.
There’s only one way this could end perfectly:
My usual happy cry guy isn’t enough to showcase my emotions. I’m bringing back Matthew McConaghey for this.
So good news, Dipper and Mabel’s relationship is perfectly patched up. The bad news? Mabel has now lost all control over Mabeland with that hug and its denizens melt into monsters and turn on her. With the world falling apart, the group make their escape on a giant Waddles and Mabel literally bursts her bubble with a giant knitting needle. Now safely back in the real world – or as safe as they can be with Bill Cipher still on the loose – Mabel insists that she won’t hold him back from his apprenticeship with Ford. But Dipper meant what he said and ensures that they’ll stick it out side by side.
Everyone makes their way back to the Mystery Shack and overhear someone moving around in there. Assuming the worst, the gang readies their weapons and barge in.
And it turns out the trespassers are just as prepped for a fight as they are.
“Weirdmageddon Part 2: Escape from Reality” has the unenviable task of continuing the story while building up to the climax, and it pulls it off almost flawlessly. It is endlessly creative in showing the living whims of a child’s mind manipulated by fantasy and fear, the humor is spot on with plenty of callbacks to Mabel’s previous exploits and it balances out the wonderfully unsettling darkness. This episode serves an excellent prelude into the series finale, though it wasn’t without its share of criticism.
Mabel’s detractors used this episode as the prime example of everything they find loathsome about her, with the image of her summoning the waffle guards to block her ears with foam fingers during the trial summing up how time after time she refuses to learn and selfishly forces others to sacrifice their goals when they clash with hers. Once again, I must protest that those fans are in the wrong. Yes, Mabel is a selfish character, but what kid isn’t, especially one who’s given rule over a dominion whose omnipotence is on par with the boy from The Twilight Zone’s “It’s A Good Life”? And even though Mabel’s the one who believes she calls the shots, remember, it’s Bill who created the world. Not only through his power does it provide everything you would want in order to get you to stay, it tries to provide alternatives to things that can’t be replaced; which leads into another point of contention for fans, Dippy Fresh. Some found it appalling that Mabel would attempt to replace her own brother with one who comes closer to matching her ideals of coolness. Again, I point to Bill. As we’ve seen before, he’s terribly good at driving wedges between friends and family. Dippy Fresh isn’t so much born out of Mabel’s longing for a cool twin brother as it is a way of ensuring Mabel won’t want to reconcile with the real Dipper, team up and return to defeat Bill. He’s just given the trappings of a hip 90’s mascot to appeal more to Mabel. Is it any coincidence that he’s voiced by Matt Chapman impersonating Alex Hirsch, whose younger self was the inspiration for Dipper AND who created this world like Bill Cipher has? If you want further proof Mabel doesn’t wish to supplant her brother, look at how thrilled she is when she finds him in Mabeland at last with Wendy and Soos. One has to wonder why she hasn’t given much thought to Candy or Grenda as there’s no version of them there at all. As for Dipper giving up his apprenticeship, Mabel didn’t force him to withdraw it. She didn’t threaten to not come home with him unless he did. He gave it up of his own volition, and he was right to. If he had stayed with Ford, it most likely would have led to another repeat of Ford and Stan’s falling out, and both siblings would have been made as miserable as before all over again.
But the real reason why I love “Escape from Reality” is because it speaks to me like almost none of the other episodes of Gravity Falls do. I for one am something of a creature of habit. I like my bagels with peanut butter, I watch at least one hour of tv with my family after dinner every night, and I was raised through a formidable combination of traditional children’s media and religious schooling that good will always deliver swift justice to evil. I am not a fan of change, nor of having my preconceptions of morality and reality challenged. Yet as my life has progressed I’ve found that all change, good and bad, sudden or gradual, is inevitable. I’ve had to learn that bagels can’t always be fresh and peanutty, and evil people can successfully lie their way into positions they don’t deserve with little to challenge them. “Dipper and Mabel Vs. the Future” brought up the problems of dealing with the onset of changes that we can neither avoid or control, but never attempted to fully address or answer them, and only existed to provide tension and lead into the final episodes, leaving a very depressing mess in its wake. Here, we finally have a resolution to the issues raised, and it’s an immensely satisfying one. When it’s time for me to meet changes, I’m not confident enough to say I’m ever really up to the challenge, but I am improving. And that’s because instead of trying to repress my fears, isolate and inundate myself with mindless fruitless distractions, I’ve tried to reach out. Almost no other line in Gravity Falls has gotten to me the way this has, because it is the most truthful thing ever said on the show.
Real life stinks sometimes, ok? I’m not gonna lie. But there’s a better way to get through it than denial, and that’s with help from people who care about you.
I’ve sought out help.
I have a great network of friends and family who are willing to listen.
I take daily comfort in the fact that I am not alone.
I guess that’s why I see so much of myself in Mabel; she needs to learn while there’s no shame in enjoying childish things, nothing comes out of burying yourself in them and blocking everyone out when you’re afraid. And in this episode, she does.
“Not What He Seems” is still my number one favorite episode, bar none. But “Escape From Reality?” That one’s a close second by a hair’s breadth. And I’m not afraid to say it.
And the Internet Went:
Come on internet, you can do better.
There we go.
End Credits Craziness: Xyler and Craz, the only beings from Mabeland not to turn traitor, have survived its destruction. They look out on the chaos of the reality Bill Cipher has wrought and do the only thing two radical excellent dudes like them can do – philosophize.
Callbacks: Dipper is wearing his old hat from “Tourist Trapped” in the Valentine’s Day flashback. The “awkward sibling hug” is a callback to the one Dipper and Mabel share near the end of that episode, as is Dipper’s response of “Yes, definitely, absolutely” when Mabel asks if he really meant what he said about turning down Ford’s apprenticeship. The same kid Mabel slipped the note asking if he liked her with those very answers from that very episode reappears in the beginning of this one. Farmer Sprott is still acting kooky from being exposed to one of Bill’s madness bubbles. Judge Kitty Kitty Meow Meow Face-Shwartstein is from one of Mabel’s sweaters in “Tourist Trapped”. He also resembles the kitten fists Mabel uses against Bill in “Dreamscaperers”. Sev’ral Timez makes an appearance in Mabeland, as do Hoo-Ha the Owl, Ducktective, the Sir Syrup bottle from “Legend of the Gobblewonker”, Mabel’s stuffed tiger, Aoshima and one of the hallucination dogs from “The Inconveniencing”, Shimmery Twinkleheart, the rhino and cardboard cutout from “Mabel’s Guide to Dating”, the industrial-sized sprinkles barrel from “Mabel’s Guide to Stickers as well as some of her stickers from her scrapbook, a Stan bobble head, and a puppy playing basketball that was on her sweater from “Irrational Treasure”. The waffle guards are personifications of the “waffle with big arms” Mabel drew when coming up with ideas for the wax museum in “Headhunters. Other characters having taken up sanctuary in the Mystery Shack that are not featured in the last picture include Multi-Bear and…well, that would spoil the next episode, wouldn’t it?
Crowning Line of Hilawesomeness: Dipper’s courtroom speech. No further questions, Your Honor.
Mabel SWatch (Sweater Watch): While in Mabeland, Mabel dons her classic “shooting star” sweater. Her jury doppelgangers wear the ones from “Legend of the Gobblewonker”, “Boss Mabel”, “Headhunters”, and “The Love God”. Three sweaters from “Boyz Crazy” and “Bottomless Pit!” fly about as birds. After escaping, she’s wearing the birthday cupcake one she had on when she was captured in “Dipper and Mabel vs. the Future”.
Dear Princess Celestabelleabethabelle: Gather your forces, it’s time for a truce. I’ll stop sending these annoying friendship letters if you send over the Elements of Harmony to help us deal with Bill posthaste.
Where’s that wacky triangle at?
Bill’s still on the loose, watch out!
GRAVITY FALLS REVIEWS CONCLUDES WITH
“WEIRDMAGEDDON PART 3: TAKE BACK THE FALLS”
FEBRUARY 16, 2018