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: Twelve year-old twins Dipper and Mabel Pines are spending the summer in Gravity Falls, Oregon, a little town where the strange and supernatural are almost everyday occurrences. When Dipper’s not trying to learn the identity of the Author of the enigmatic Journal that’s been aiding him in his adventures, or Mabel isn’t trying to start the perfect summer romance, they’re evading ghosts, monsters, zombies, and attracting the attention of a powerful demon who once sought to wreck their great-uncle’s mind. As of late Mabel’s formed a tentative truce with her former rival and rich bitch Pacifica Northwest after saving her from some murderous mini-golf balls, but things are complicated when it comes to her and Dipper…and they’re about to become even more so…
C-can it be? An episode review perfectly appropriate for Halloween at last? Huzzah!! Come everyone, let us partake in the Dance of Joy!
We begin not with the Pines family but with the Northwests in their resplendent mansion overlooking Gravity Falls. Preston Northwest (Nathan Fillion) and his wife are preparing for a gala event they’re set to host the following evening. Pacifica enters wearing the wrong dress – lake foam green, not sea foam green like her mother requested. Pacifica insists that she likes wearing this dress, but her father rings a tiny bell that silences her protests.
Without warning, the plates, silverware and chairs begin to float around the room and smash themselves. Preston insinuates that this unusual occurrence is a strangely familiar one. With only several hours left to deal with this supernatural problem, the Northwests happen upon the one person who could save their party.
The next afternoon Dipper settles himself in for a nice long marathon of his favorite show “Ghost Harassers”. Too bad for him it’s preempted by Mabel, Candy and Grenda wanting to watch live coverage of the rich and famous arriving at the Northwest Mansion for their annual high-society gala. Only the uppest of the upper-crust are allowed in while the common folk must content themselves by tailgating outside the manor gates.
Dipper shares my thoughts on these kind “news stories”; that it’s pointless celebrity worship that nobody should care about, especially when it’s about the Northwests, who have caused them so much trouble in the past. He even says that he’d tell Pacifica Northwest she’s the worst to her face. Then Pacifica shows up at the door asking for his help. His response?
When Mabel overhears Pacifica telling him to name his price for his aid, she demands Dipper give in so she and her friends can attend the party. Dipper and Pacifica reluctantly agree and she drives them up to the mansion. While Candy, Grenda and Mabel fawn over the fanciness, Preston welcomes Dipper and has Pacifica go dress him in more suitable party attire.
The girls get a sneak peek at the guest list and learn a wealthy young hottie from Austria, Marius Von Hauser, will be attending. As much as they want to pursue him Candy says that chasing someone in that league would only end in disaster and they tentatively agree that he’s off-limits. That doesn’t stop Mabel and Candy from taking turns flirting with him when Grenda’s not around since her outspokenness usually scares guys away. But Grenda finds out, they fight, she tries the whole “your shoe’s untied” trick on Marius to prove a point and I’m just getting this B-plot out of the way rather than cutting back and forth to it so we can focus on the A-plot.
All paranormal activity signs point to a painting of a very manly lumberjack in a room decorated with hunting trophies by Gaston (though there’s a surprising lack of antlers in all of this decorating). Dipper’s not too concerned with dealing with the pesky poltergeist, though. When it comes to the Journal’s ghosts, you’ve got your Caspers, your Slimers, your Pinheads and your Freddys to name a few, and chances are a spirit that pops in and out of pictures and just floats furniture around is gonna be in the first category.
And then Sam Raimi takes over directing duties.
Flesh, skin and clothes appear on the skeleton and it takes the form of a disfigured lumberjack with a beard of hellfire. It declares its thirst for Northwest blood and chases the kids through the manor grounds and back. A quick look through the Journal reveals that ghosts from paintings can be trapped in a silver mirror and Dipper spies one hanging on the wall of the bedroom. But Pacifica refuses to let him fetch it since their muddy shoes would ruin her parents’ favorite carpet and get them angry.
While arguing they fall through a portrait into a secret room where discarded furniture and other things are stored away. The ghost follows them in, ripping dust cloths off old paintings and knocking over boxes of silverware in its haste to kill Pacifica. Dipper finds a silver mirror in one of the boxes and throws it in the ghost’s path before it can finish her off. The impact blasts them out the window into the garden, but the ghost is captured and Pacifica uncharacteristically shows a fair bit gratitude to Dipper for saving her life.
The Northwest family thanks Dipper, none more so than Pacifica, and her parting with Dipper is adorably awkward. He leaves to make sure the ghost is exorcised properly, wondering aloud that maybe Pacifica isn’t as bad as he thought. The ghost laughs ominously, saying Dipper’s naivete reminds him of how he once felt when he was alive, and shares his tale:
Years ago the Northwests asked the lumberjacks of Gravity Falls to build them a mansion with the promise that, upon its completion, they would throw a grand party for the entire town once a year. Many hardworking folk died to ensure the mansion was built, but after years of labor the task was done. Yet the Northwests refused to let the common people who toiled away for them to be a part of their celebration and shut the gates to them permanently. As they trudged off, only the lumberjack remained behind to rail against the Northwests; but the deforestation around the mansion’s hilltop caused a terrible mudslide which resulted in his death. With his last breath the lumberjack cursed the Northwests, vowing to return 150 years to the day should the mansion gates still be closed, and spill the blood of the family who could never keep their promises. And not only did the ghost keep his word, but the Northwests knew he would…somehow.
Dipper is furious that the Northwests used him to avoid responsibility. Preston is welcoming guests, including Gravity Falls reclusive and ancient Mayor Befufftlefumpter, when Dipper storms back in. Pacifica is happy he returned but he tells her to can it and accuses them of not breaking the curse when they knew how to do it themselves all along and making him put his life on the line. Preston gloats that there’s no way he could hold a party for the richest, most powerful people in the world and have “his kind” mingle among them. Pacifica tries to apologize that she couldn’t tell him the truth but her father rings the bell again and she instantly shuts up.
This convinces Dipper that Pacifica is as terrible as her whole line and declines the invitation to stay at the party to finish exorcising the ghost. The lumberjack tells him that if he sets him free instead, they can both take revenge on the Northwests and their kind; but Dipper refuses only because Mabel is still at the party and he doesn’t want anything to befall her. He does however give in to the ghost’s final request to take one last look at the forest. Unsurprisingly, it’s a trick to get Dipper to drop the mirror. Once broken, the lumberjack is freed and it flies back to the mansion with Dipper in hot pursuit. He brings the taxidermied animals to life and begins turning all the terrified guests into wood.
Overhearing the lumberjack proclaim the only way to reverse the spell is for a Northwest to open the gates, Dipper searches the mansion for Pacifica and finds her in the hidden room in one of the most striking visuals of the episode.
In an episode that features some of the darkest imagery so far in the series, these are a few brief seconds that have resonated heavily with fans. Here we have Pacifica, raised from birth to act like an adult shown as what she really is – a lonely, scared, sad child.
Pacifica shows Dipper the reason why she’s so down and out with her flashlight. Surrounding her are portraits of every deceitful selfish act committed by her bloodline, things long covered up that she once believed were lies, now sneering down on her.
You wanna know why this room was locked up? This is what I found in here – a painted record of every horrible thing my family’s ever done. Lying, cheating, and then there’s me. I lied to you just ‘cuz I’m too scared to talk to my stupid parents. You were right about me. I AM just another link in the world’s worst chain.
Dipper promises her that it doesn’t have to be this way and they rush back to the great hall, which has become a forest of humans (even Mabel isn’t saved). Dipper confronts the ghost but it turns on him and leaves Dipper screaming for his life as he is transformed into wood.
For the coup de grace, the ghost begins to set the mansion aflame with the intention of burning everyone inside. Pacifica distracts him by promising to open the gates but the ghost calls her bluff. As she reaches for the lever, her parents pop up from a hidden shelter demanding she think of their reputation. Pacifica hesitates, but presses forward.
Then her father brings out the bell.
The tiny ringing drives Pacifica crazy, though to Preston’s annoyance she won’t give in.
And finally she jams down on the lever.
As the plebs pour in, the satisfied spirit gratefully tells Pacifica she is not like her family, lifts his curse and moves on to the afterlife. Preston is helpless as the masses turn his soiree into a uncouth but lively shendig. Even Pacifica and Dipper get in on the fun, messing up the carpet without a care. Pacifica thanks Dipper for believing in her. As for the girls, Mabel and Candy apologize to Grenda and the three reaffirm their friendship. Marius then approaches Grenda, confesses he’s taken by her boldness and gives her his phone number. Everything is going perfectly for nearly everyone…
…until Dipper bumps into Old Man McGucket, who’s been looking for him. He just finished fixing the laptop and wants to warn Dipper that something crazy is about to happen soon, something that could very well mean the end of the world. Dipper’s not in the mood to worry about that kind of thing, however, and he goes back to the party, leaving the inventor to fret over their swiftly impending doom.
This episode is easily among my top ten favorites. “Northwest Mansion Mystery” did to Pacifica what “Society of the Blind Eye” did to Old Man McGucket, taking a character we didn’t think could be capable of such depth and shining a light on them, with the added bonus that “The Golf War” helped foreshadow that. I’ve made no secret in the past that I wasn’t a fan of the one-dimensional valley girl bitch stereotype that Pacifica was in Season One – a sentiment shared by fans and the creators alike – so seeing her do a complete 180 while providing a peek at just why she turned out the way she did was certainly welcome. Those scenes with the bell, while not delved into, are pretty uncomfortable to watch; that on top of Pacifica’s repeated “You wouldn’t understand!” when Dipper asks why she’s so afraid of upsetting her parents brings up some unfortunate implications.
Speaking of Dipper and Pacifica, I never really took the fans shipping them seriously until this episode. In fact…it kind of made me ship them too. Their banter is fun to listen to, there’s some good chemistry, and they end up bringing out the best in one another. Sadly this is as far as a possible romance gets between the two of them, but you need only look as far as the internet if you’re not fully satisfied (just be careful when you do).
This is actually one of the very few episodes where Mabel’s subplot doesn’t really hold my attention; when it goes back to the girls arguing over pursuing Marius I just patiently wait for the scene to end so we’ll return to Dipper and Pacifica. Kevin Michael Richardson does a menacing turn as the lumberjack ghost, though there’s not much of a difference between his voice and the one he does for Sheriff Blubs. And I don’t know what it is about Nathan Fillion and douchebags but he plays them so well. As for the rest of the episode, there’s a lot of great spooky atmosphere, from the colors and strong shadows to the ghost’s haunting, which like I said is very reminiscent of Evil Dead. Much like the episode itself it manages to be both funny and scary, and like the best Gravity Falls’ adventures, is tied together with a lot of heart. And of course, there’s that ending which hints at greater and more terrifying things to come…
And the Internet Went:
End Credits Craziness: In the midst of the ghost’s chaos, a couple hides inside a closet. That couple is none other than… Agents Powers and Trigger in disguise! Powers reports that the bureau is detecting increasing readings from the Mystery Shack, and it’s time for them to act. Then they bicker like a married couple over where Trigger put his cell phone before Tambry stumbles upon them and makes things even more awkward.
Callbacks: Now that the Society of the Blind Eye is no longer a thing, supernatural happenings are gaining more attention as seen by the newspaper in the opening. That same giant vampire bat was featured in the Journal in the very first episode. Mabel and Pacifica are still on good terms after the events of “The Golf War”. Dipper casually rubs in the fact that Pacifica’s family lied about being the town founders as discovered in “Irrational Treasure”. McGucket has kept his word to look into his past and fix the laptop as a result of “Society of the Blind Eye”, though he keeps up the kooky old hillbilly act to throw off suspicion.
And then there’s the way Dipper is frozen into wood, as prophesized by the Shapeshifter from “Into the Bunker”…
There’s also the matter of a book I’ve failed in my duties as a Gravity Falls aficionado to mention, a large oversight considering I own a copy signed by Alex Hirsch (yes, really.) It’s called “Dipper & Mabel’s Guide to Mystery and Nonstop Fun!”, and it’s a cute little book full of activities and jokes aimed mostly for kids. Why I bring this up, however, is the inclusion of hidden messages sprinkled throughout that foreshadow certain events that were brought to light in this episode: Grenda will marry rich, the mayor of Gravity Falls is not long for this world, and the end of the world will come quicker than the end of summer…
Crowning Line of Hilawesomness: In an episode so full of good ones it’s hard once again to choose, but I think I’ll go with a tie between Pacifica’s confession and what she says to Dipper once she breaks her cute-awkward thank you hug –
“…Can I pay you to pretend that never happened?”
Mabel SWatch (Sweater Watch): Mustard yellow with a cartoon moose and hot pink pine tree border on the sleeves and hem. The pink dress she wears to the party just barely counts as a sweater since she knitted it herself.
Dear Princess Celestabelleabethabelle: Our family’s past and upbringing are not what make us, it’s what we choose to do in spite of it.
Have You Seen the Agents?
Where’s that wacky triangle at?
“…We really should have picked a better place to hide.”
Next time on Gravity Falls –
Hey, I just realized Grunkle Stan wasn’t in this episode. I wonder where he could be…
“Hey Shelf, you finish the review yet?”
“Ugh, it’s me, Cynicism. I’m trying out my Halloween costume. I’m going as Optimism. What do you think?”
Wow, I didn’t even recognize you. Nice work.
“Yeah, yeah, save it for the actual holiday. Are you done yet or not?”
“You made any progress with the…you know…”
I wish I could say I did but –
“Oh come ON! It’s been a month since we last talked and you did NOTHING to get ready like you told us?!”
Don’t blame me, I’ve got a life outside this blog you know.
“Yeah, some life. Some life that isn’t even gonna exist with the rest of us if you make one more slip-up. But hey, what do I know? You’re the one sitting around working on your dumb little picture books while ordering everyone else to prepare for the -“
All right, all right, I’ll see what I can do for November!
“You’d better. I know we don’t have that many readers but there’s a fair few who’ve been looking forward to what you’ve had planned since last year.”
You think I don’t know that? You think this is the first time I’ve let my readers down? Listen to me you adorable little abomination, I may be stuck right now when it comes to doing movie reviews, but no matter how long it takes, I always finish what I start.
“Good. Now quit yappin’ and get crackin’.”
But you know, since I’ll most likely be too busy to go out on Halloween, I might be more motivated to finish quicker if someone were to bring me back some candy…
“…Fine. But I’m gonna throw out the junky ones so it can form into a giant child-eating monster.”
I wouldn’t have it any other way.