The second half of Summer in Gravity Falls is here! After an endless hiatus and cruel breaks in TV scheduling, we return to the weirdness that has been life for the Pine Twins.
Spoilers for Episodes 1 and 2 begin now!
The mysteries deepen even further and Episode One, "Scary-Oke" begins right where we left off - Grunkle Stan in that room behind the vending machine at the Mystery Shack. Whatever it is he's doing, it's been 30 years since it's last been done. The light from his code cracking of Journals 1 through 3 can be seen for miles and is disrupting the town's slumber (but not really because they're mostly all clueless save Waddles and Gideon). But even more troublesome, the activity has brought Secret Agents from the U.S. Government to investigate.
Dipper's excitement to have X-Files style comrades in the U.S. Government puts the gang into a lot of trouble. He wants to impress them and show them that yes, strange things do exist in this town but his ruminations on gnomes, the Leprecorn and the Undead (among others) all sound a little too normal as far as the paranormal go and/or is too ridiculous to be believed. That is, of course, until Dipper carelessly spurts out an ancient incantation from Journal 3 on raising the Undead and sure enough, the earth cracks and a lone Zombie stumbles out. ...Followed by a whole lot more.
So, yay! Gravity Falls finally gets true Undead and not the joke of an ex-boyfriend Undead Mabel had way back at the start of the series. The joke being the "zombie boyfriend" was actually a bunch of gnomes disguised as an (awkward) tween.
Except, something's a little off…
These zombies are actually scary.
There's a shift in tone in Gravity Falls that is immediately recognizable once the Zombies make an appearance. Some of them drag the two screaming Secret Agents into the woods in a glorious horror movie shot, and the others shamble along to cause havoc on a Karaoke party that the Mystery Shack is hosting for the town. No longer is there a sort of light-hearted nature in the supernatural that the Pines Twins discovered in the first half of Summer. But as the black light reveals hidden messages in Journal 3 on pages previous thought to be blank, we're made to understand that those previous encounters were as childish and whimsical as two kids solving rookie style mysteries. The kind you might hear at Summer Camp around a bonfire.
It's the halfway point of Summer, after all, and there's still the matter of who authored the Journals (more on that later). And like any good tv series or movie, the serious nature to unraveling all those previous plot points following that weird and All Powerful Triangle Guy seems like they will be covered before the Pines Twins have to return to a normality of life in their normal old hometown - a new school year and all that jazz.
In the midst of the zombie invasion full of your usual tropes but also containing some nice surprises, the Twins are finally clued in to what viewers have already long known - Grunkle Stan has been playing them. He's well-aware that Gravity Falls is full of the supernatural, but has been turning a blind eye or rather, feigning ignorance and lying to protect Dipper and Mabel from getting hurt.
It's a touching moment when Grunkle Stan sees his younger self in Dipper. It's even more so when he tells them the half-truth about what he knows. But like Grunkle, like Grnephew : these two are not yet willing to share all their secrets. Doing so would mean Dipper would be stopped from going on missions of discovery, while Grunkle Stan would have to reveal his plans on whatever he's doing behind closed vending machines.
And so there are two major mysteries that now stem from these reveals. The first being that whatever Grunkle Stan is doing, it's huge. The second major mystery really brings that question to the forefront that's been bugging Dipper since he got his hands on Journal 3: Who is the author of these Journals?
It's that question that sets the stage for Episode Two, "Into the Bunker".
Now, maybe the zombies of the first episode really weren't completely scary, as peppered by Soos' (nearly complete) transformation to the brain eating kind. Maybe the level of violence of zombie destruction at the hands on Grunkle Stan's baseball bat was softened by the ridiculousness of the Pines' family fantastic karaoke rendition of &NDRA's "T8king Over Midnight" zombie killing song.
But what happens in the second episode "Into the Bunker" showcases even more of that darker tone. Yes, it's still a show that understands the needs of its young audience by revealing the tearing out of a creature's tongue as portrayed by shadow silhouettes on the wall. Then briefly mentioning the creature has regenerative properties. But the action that happened in the first place was a mere teaser for the level of terror to come, as fully appreciated and understood by its adult audience as well.
Gravity Falls does a little more growing up and focuses not just on finding the Author through ramped up danger, or the potential loss of one of its key players. It also addresses Dipper's school boy crush on Wendy and handles it swimmingly.
That trope of "Shout out my secret feelings when I think it's much too late (i.e. I think you're dead and can't hear me) but you're actually standing right behind me listening the whole time in shock" is employed here. But Gravity Fall's' handling of the aftermath is a lot more mature and realistic; and quite frankly, just one of the many reasons why this show is so damned clever to begin with. The fact they've even gone down this story path is sort of expected (boy goes on Summer adventure, meets first girl crush) but also really smart. We all know Wendy is far too old for Dipper. And she tells him. And she tells him that he knows this too. But what's great here, is that Wendy reveals herself to not be the oblivious cameo cast wheel we've come to expect of her. She knows Dipper likes her. How could she not? And the serious talk is had that needed to be done.
So it's a whirlwind of an episode with another truly scary entity encounter in a Shapeshifter (voiced by Mark Hamill, and is crazy awesome as expected) who hints at something quite sinister to come regarding the Author. One step forward is made in that they now know the Author was (is?) preparing for something big there in his hideout. He's got research and time capsules. He's been doing tests on other monsters too, it's safe to say. But what exactly did he find? An old laptop is now in the possession of the Twins and they're going to find out. Perhaps too, they'll find clues as to what happened to the Author and where he could be.
Other Observations and Ramblings:
- Grunkle Stan puts on a six-fingered glove when he's messing about with that Gateway looking device in the beginning of "Scary-Oke". As we know already, the hand on each of the Journals also has Six Fingers. And finally, The Shape Shifter mentions the Six Fingered Nerd in "Into the Bunker".
- How cool was it that Soos did not do an immediate transformation to Zombie kind? He instead retained a little bit of his personality and didn't die/get infected upon being bitten. It made for great comedy with Soos tossing little quirks on the silliness of zombie lore. He still wants to eat your brains but he'd also rather watch his favourite show, "Gossiping Housewives" too.
- The tie in from episode one to two was hilarious with Dipper and Wendy watching a movie about the Almost Dead but Not Quite Dead. And Dipper is completely un-phased by this, given what preceded just days (or the day) before.
- &NDRA is the best band name I might borrow in the future. Their music may not have been my cup of tea, however. And definitely not Dipper's
- "Welcome to the Mystery Shack, Gentlemen! What can I get you? Keychains? Snowglobes? These rare photos of American presidents?" Grunkle Stan sure knows how to bribe. We could all learn a thing or two from him. You know, if you needed to learn such things.
- The Undead raising chant,
Corpus Levitas Diablo Dominus Mondo Visium, is one I won't reveal to you because I don't want a Zombie Apocalypse on our hands. Plus, my Latin is terrible (read: non-existent), so it would probably be wrong anyway. Hooray!
- That six-fingered nerd sure knows how to make the best Tomb Raider/Uncharted/Indiana Jones Trap to keep unwanted guests out (which is clearly obvious enough to be avoided by our clever heroes until someone is accidentally pushed on the trigger).
- The Dipper/Mabel Twinsie Monster was adorbs.com.
- Syrup on Cereal. Visionary Breakfast? Or not so much...?
- Does Gravity Falls Tv show the worst movies? I'd watch Ghost Turtle or The Man with No Taste...
- Lots of Wendy love in Episode 2. Hopefully, lots more to come.
- Mabel's sweaters have increased in coolness, ten fold. Watermelon, Boombox and Light bulb Sweaters are things I'd like to add to my wardrobe in my future.
Swan Observation (Swanservation) :
- Poco is Mabel. I, Z, am Dipper.
So heeeey, all three of us who watch Gravity Falls and may have read this. What'd I miss from this half-sassed recap? What would you like to talk about? Where are we headed this season? What were the secret scrambled messages at the end of Episodes 1 and 2? How great is that theme song still, yeah?
The Gravity Falls TAYV Club might happen again next week and be less lengthy. Isn't that exciting?!
Images used are property of their respective parties. Some images used found at the Gravi-Team Falls Tumblr!