After a really really long and drawn-out run, Gravity Falls has finally concluded its first season, and so I finally feel like I can talk about the show as a unit.
Guys, Gravity Falls is awesome. It’s the best and arguably the only good show coming out of the Disney Channel these days. It’s funny, it’s smart, and it’s spooky in a campy, goofy way. It also quite handily takes apart problematic concepts like consent, the need for stereotypical masculinity, and the friendzone at a simple, kid-friendly, and witty level. When I first listened to Welcome to Night Vale, I described it to my roommate as a grown-up Gravity Falls, if that gives you some sense of what it’s like. You should really watch it.
Gravity Falls is about twins Mabel and Dipper Pines, who are sent to live in the titular town with their Great-Uncle Stan—Grunkle Stan for short. Grunkle Stan runs an utterly trashy establishment called the Mystery Shack, filled with fake-as-hell “relics” and taxidermied jackalopes, where he preys on tourists for easy money. Among the supporting cast is Soos (short for Jesus), the Shack’s handyman, and Wendy, the teenaged part-time cashier.
As transplants to the strange little town, Dipper and Mabel are more prone to notice and investigate the truly weird-ass shit that happens around Gravity Falls. When Dipper discovers an incomplete journal, filled with arcane secrets about the town, he sets out to figure out exactly what is going on in the town that makes it so damn weird.
Dipper is ostensibly the main character; he’s at the center of each episode and goes through the most character growth. And you know, Dipper’s cool and all, but I adore Mabel. Despite not being as critical a thinker as her brother, she really has a solid sense of herself and is not ashamed of her interests. Mabel doesn’t need as much character development as Dipper because she’s already overcome most of her insecurities. She has a strong moral compass and refuses to ignore anyone, person, animal, or otherwise, that may need a helping hand; she tends to roll with the punches—by which I mean the weird shit—Gravity Falls throws at her; and although she’s quite boy-crazy, this is never portrayed as a negative thing. She’s allowed to have romantic/physical attraction to the guys she encounters without being shamed by others (or, if she is, the person doing the shaming is shown to be in the wrong).
Wendy’s a bit of a stereotype, as both the object of Dipper’s longtime crush and as one side of a tropey teenage relationship with a worthless emo skater dude. Although I still certainly like her as a character, I think the show needs to make it clearer that Dipper and Wendy are never (ever ever) gonna get together, because at their ages the age difference is pretty skeevy.
The cast of the show is somewhat diverse, although there’s definite room for improvement; of the main characters, only Soos is of color, and his heritage is rarely mentioned. Among the other recurring characters, there’s one of Mabel’s best friends, who is Asian, and one-half of the Gravity Falls police force, a black guy. The two police officers are also coded as being gay together about as strongly as a Disney cartoon can get away with coding, but I’d appreciate it if eventually it was a little less hinted and a little more canonical.
Most of the Gravity Falls episodes are, well, episodic. As it progresses, though, a more long-term arc becomes clear as recurring characters reveal that they have much more of a hand than anyone expected in the strange goings-on around Gravity Falls. The season finale in particular—specifically the last minute or so of it—quite literally made my jaw drop. There’s pretty much no reason (except, like, lack of free time or no access to the episodes) to not watch this show.