Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Gravity Falls season 2 blogs: Scary-oke & Into the Bunker

So I guess this is going to be my regular thing now, until My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic season 5 starts airing.  I try to do the same with Adventure Time and Wander Over Yonder, but I either don't have to proper motivation to do write-ups on those, or not enough people comment or are interested in discussing those shows (not that I regularly get comments on these blogs, but whatever)...  I should catch up with those shows, actually, I've fallen behind quite a bit.

...ANYWAY, season 2 of Gravity Falls.  Before I watched the season premiere (and the second episode of the season), I was kind of nervous...  Mostly because after the cliffhanger at the end of season 1, I was afraid the series would return to the status quo.  After all, before I watched it, I did see some sneak peek clips of the first two episodes, one of which was of, to avoid spoiling for those who haven't seen it, essentially reversing something that happened in the season 1 finale.  I remember hearing on a Nerdist panel interview with Alex Hirsch that something happens in the season 1 finale that made writing season 2 difficult, and I assumed it was the thing that happened in said episode. Since this turns out not to be the case, I kind of assumed the worst and that they copped-out, and there wouldn't be that much change this time around...

...Leave it to Alex Hirsch and his crack team of writers, storyboard artists, etc. to prove me wrong and show me why I got into the show in the first place!  Not only are the first two episodes of season 2 Gravity Falls excellent, exciting, and hilarious, they also continue Mr. Hirsch's trend of showing that this show progresses and that we should have stakes in what's going on!  Two major things happen in both of these two episodes, and while I'm going to discuss them in further detail, I just want to say right now that I'm glad they did what they did here at the beginning of season 2, since it pretty much addresses two problems (or rather, a problem and a minor annoyance) I had with season 1!  It's so fantastic, I really don't know where to start...

Just a fair warning, anyone not familiar with what I did with my My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic blogs, or heck anything I talk about in general, there will be a LOT of text, because I tend to talk in detail about a lot of things.  If that intimidates you, or turns out off, that's fine, just don't bother pointing out that my post was "too long" and you "didn't read", okay?

Oh, and another fair warning, spoilers for the first two episodes of season 2 are in this post, obviously, as well as some profanity here and there.  See what I thought, after the break.

...Well, I suppose I should start with Scary-oke, the first episode of season 2.  I guess I should also say that my DVR didn't get the whole thing and cut off a bit of the beginning as well as a bit of the ending to both of these episodes, so I might have missed out on some information or a gag.  I'll basically talk about what I DID see and what I thought of it.

So, the episode opens up directly where season 1 left off.  Good thing, too, better to explain this then to leave us hanging on what that's about.  Thankfully, though, they don't blow their load and immediately show us what that thing is; it shows that, whatever that machine is doing, it's going to take some time for it to fully function, as indicated by the 0.0000000001% on a nearby machine.  We don't actually learn what Stan is trying to do or what he plans to accomplish just yet, though we do learn that he's worried if he's going to endanger Dipper and Mabel with this project of his.  He shrugs it off, saying he's gotten away with this secret this long, he can keep it secret a bit longer.  Also, I noticed he puts on a rubber glove with 6 fingers on it.  I thought it was weird, and I almost forgot about this, but then I realized...  the journal has a six-fingered hand on it...  Could it be that the glove...  Hell, maybe that whole laboratory belonged to the author of the journals?!

That will have to wait, as Stan's machine attracts the attention of some government facility, who decide to investigate the place they've been looking into for some time: Gravity Falls!

The next day, apparently Stan slept in the lab all night...  I like his comment of "Oh, right...  Showtime."  Like his Mr. Mystery persona AND his Grunkle Stan persona are all just acts he puts on to hide his true nature...  Anyway, the citizens of Gravity Falls show up at the Mystery Shack for an announcement; continuing from where season 1 left off, the town still hates Lil' Gideon for lying and spying on all of them, and love Stan for exposing him and taking back the Mystery Shack (which Gideon stole the deed to).  There's going to be a big karaoke party that night to celebrate, and Mabel advertises that she, Dipper, and Stan will all sing together as part of a group that I forget the name off and don't feel like looking up, to which Stan and Dipper are incredibly reluctant to participate in.  As the crowd leaves to buy tickets for the party, Dipper asks Stan for his journal back.  I was actually rather surprised when I first saw this; at the very least I expected Stan to hang onto the journal longer then he did.  True, he did copy all of the pages, but then again...  isn't that the copier that makes clones out of the things it copies?  What if the drawings and images on those pages come to life thanks to that thing?!  ...Then again, since it's Stan's copier, he probably has that under control and won't let that happen.  Now, as I alluded to before, I thought this might have been a cop-out, in that Alex Hirsch said that "something" would happen in Gideon Rises (the season 1 finale) that made writing for season 2 hard, and I thought this might have been it.  So seeing Dipper immediately get the book back felt like kind of a let-down.  On the other hand, it does help that he has it back, since there would be little else to turn to, if and when Dipper and Mabel inevitably come across another thing supernatural.  Not to mention, as soon as Dipper gets it back, he discloses with Mabel that he realizes that they're not any closer to solving the mysteries of Gravity Falls.   Who wrote these journals?  Why did Gideon want them so badly?  Since Gideon went to great lengths to try and get them, they clearly must hold a terrible secret...  And he recalls Bill Cipher saying soon everything they know will change forever, what could THAT mean?  Unfortunately, Dipper has already went over the book from start to finish, so he pretty much knows everything that's written down in it, plus the remaining unwritten pages are seemingly blank, so it feels like there's a piece of the puzzle missing...

Later on, some government agents arrive to investigate a mysterious signal they picked up from Gravity Falls.  I have to say, I love these government agents, or at least Agent Powers.  For the first time, we have a completely straight-faced character who's taking the situations he's in completely seriously...  And they still manage to make him funny, specifically in a "comically serious" or "anti-humor" kind of way.  He says he was born with a defect making him unable to comprehend or feel humor, which makes him funny, in that he could be placed in a number of goofy situations and he'll treat it all seriously, which itself is pretty funny.  But the other thing about him is that, while Stan obviously wants to keep him away, Dipper wants to try to work with him to figure out just what is the deal with Gravity Falls.  Turns out his a paranormal investigator by trade (sort of like the MIB of this world), and he's willing to listen to what Dipper, a child, has to say.  Of course, Stan shoos them away, and takes away the card they gave to Dipper, telling him not to talk or associate with those guys again.  Of course, we know why he doesn't want government guys snooping around, though part of me wonders why Dipper doesn't question this suspicious behavior...  Then I realized that Stan has done various crimes and criminal acts in Gravity Falls, so obviously he doesn't want government guys snooping around and seeing what he does.

Later that evening, everyone is setting up the party, when Wendy and Dipper talk while Wendy hangs up some black lights for the party.  It's cool that we're seeing the first few steps of Wendy getting more involved this season, and also cool that Dipper isn't tripping over himself while talking to Wendy.  I guess it's because he's so close to having the answers and he might not get another chance like this.  Wendy tells Dipper that Stan keeps everything he confiscates in his room; Dipper thinks he'll get in major trouble if he gets caught, to which Wendy tells him that's part of the fun.  The guests start to arrive, and with all the recurring characters that show up here, I can't help but notice that Robbie is missing...  Could it be that he's still upset over the break-up with Wendy (odd, considering he approached her in Gideon Rises), or...  well, I have this theory that Robbie is actually a zombie as opposed to a normal human teenager, and I think he isn't here because it might come into conflict with what happens later on...  Anyway, Dipper sneaks into Stan's room, finds the card, and instead of escaping the room and calling the agents in private, stays in Stan's room and uses Stan's phone to call the agents.  This comes to bite him in the butt, because even though he sets up a meet-up with the agents, Stan catches him (Wendy was supposed to be watching, but she got distracted with a funny joke from this episode).  Dipper pleads with Stan, trying to make him see/realize that the supernatural DOES exist, but Stan keeps his facade and insists that there isn't anything supernatural, and he's going to get in over his head if he keeps messing around with this.  He tells him to go enjoy the party, because he's grounded after that.  After that, Stan proceeds down to the basement, to continue his work, while the party-goers continue to have a good time.

Not Dipper, though.  Dipper meets up with the agents to show them the journal, but unfortunately, despite investigating supernatural stuff regularly, the stuff in the book is too strange (and stupid) for even them to believe.  They dismiss Dipper, but Dipper, desperate to get them to believe him, reads a spell and inadvertently summons the dead.  At first, Dipper takes this as a positive, since there's only one zombie, but the agents are clearly horrified by this, and after disposing the one, dozens of zombies show up, and even though they're paranormal investigators, even THEY haven't seen something like this before.  As the zombies drag the agents away, Dipper rushes back to the Mystery Shack in order to warn the others...  Too late for that, though, as the dead are already descending on them.  Wendy takes to action by leading the citizens of Gravity Falls away, leaving Dipper, Mabel, and Soos to deal with the zombies.  All while this is happening, Stan is underground, pondering if he's being too harsh on his grand-nephew, since Dipper's as stubborn as he is...  He dismisses it and says it's for their own good (I think), all while the zombies continue to attack outside.  Soos says he's seen enough zombie movies to know what to do in this scenario...  only to promptly get bitten and turn into a zombie himself (Zombie Soos, incidentally, is hilarious, because he keeps his personality, but he's motivated by the desire to eat brains).  Mabel and Dipper try to fend themselves off from the zombie horde, though they're quickly overwhelming them through sheer numbers...  and because Soos is on their side, who's pretty dang smart by zombie standards.  They zombies are about to get them, all seems lost...

...Until a gruffed up Stan barges in and lays the smack-down on the zombies!  HELL FREAKING YES, this is probably my favorite part of this episode, and another reason why Stan's my favorite character; when push comes to shove, Stan is a total badass!  He tells the kids to head for the attic while he holds off the zombies.  He drives them away with a bat, and when the zombie takes the bat and breaks it, he whips out his BRASS KNUCKLES!  That's right, Stan literally punches out the zombies surrounding him!  I seriously can't understate how badass this whole scene is!  All three of them make it to the attic, and Dipper finally tells Stan that this proves supernatural stuff is going on.  Backed into a corner, Stan finally admits that he knew all along that Gravity Falls is a strange place, and that he was lying to keep Dipper and Mabel safe, so they won't mess around in anything too dangerous...  Yeah, so much for that.  Again, they seem doomed, as none of them know how to deal with the zombies, and the book doesn't tell them anything...  that is until some of the black lights from earlier shines on it, revealing that there's more written in the book!  It seems as though the author wrote some stuff in invisible ink, to further protect the secrets in the book, and one of the things written down is that the zombies can be stopped through a "perfect three-part harmony", to which Mabel immediately deduces this means they can defeat the zombies by doing their planned singing routine!  Dipper and Stan are highly reluctant, but eventually come through, and blow up the zombies' skulls all by the break of dawn!

So the day is saved, and Mabel isn't even mad that zombies crashed the party, since she got to sing with her brother and great uncle!  Stan, now on...  relatively even turns with Dipper about the crazy going-ons in Gravity Falls, says he'll let Dipper keep the journal, but only if he doesn't go looking for trouble.  Dipper agrees, on the grounds that Stan doesn't keep any more secrets from him.  They both have their fingers crossed as they agree to this.  I like this, at the very least now Stan CAN be a resource and "in" on what happens on Gravity Falls, but now Dipper and Mabel have another excuse not to involve Stan, since they promised not to go snooping around like that again.  And of course, Stan's not about to tell them what he's been doing in the basement.  This progresses things a bit while not overloading us with what the ultimate answer is.  On top of all that, now there's a new wealth of information, to which Dipper can now look up using a black light, so there are plenty of new things to be discovered!  ...And then it's shown that Soos is still zombified, but luckily, there's a cure for it, and the episode ends with them curing Soos...

...Except during the credits, we see that the two agents survived the zombie attack (Agent Powers was wearing an apparently zombie-proof vest), and realize that things are more serious then they expected.  It's time for them to call in the "big guns"...  And then there's another joke at Toby Determined's expense.  WAH-WAH-WAAAAAAAAAH!

So yeah, great introduction to season 2!  Exciting, action-packed, humorous, full of secrets revealed while teasing at new ones!  If this were all I saw, I'd be more then excited for the rest of season 2...

But I also saw Into the Bunker, immediately after I saw Scary-oke!  And while the first episode fixed my minor issue of Stan acting ignorant about what's happening in Gravity Falls (because honestly I feel like that minimalizes his role in the series), this one tackles the issue of Wendy.  See, in season 1, she was probably one of my least favorite characters, not because I didn't like her or that she's a bad character, she just...  didn't have much to do.  She wasn't characterized beyond anything other then an object for Dipper to pine over, and only really got involved in Dipper and Mabel's adventures only once.  Alex Hirsch realized that was a problem, and aimed to fix that in season 2, and it looks like it'll start with this episode!

The episode opens up with Dipper and Wendy watching a really lame zombie movie at Wendy's house.  Robbie is still pestering Wendy over the break-up (this actually reminds me of Wendy's talk with Mabel in the episode The Hand That Rocks the Mabel, and how she's had dozens of boyfriends, and realizes she might not have officially broke-up with some of them...  then proceeds to ignore an incoming call from one of them), and when Dipper asks if she has a new boyfriend, she says yes...  and she's referring to a stuffed animal she has.  Dipper tries to ask Wendy out, or at the very least admit his feelings to Wendy, but ends up getting to overwhelmed but his own nervousness and merely asks if Wendy would join him and Mabel on their next adventure out in Gravity Falls.  Wendy agrees, and is apparently looking forward to hanging out with Dipper, though Dipper seems upset about this, probably because he realizes it's never going to work out with her, so he won't bother making things awkward between him and Wendy by admitting his true feelings for her.  You know, I'm going to do this a lot in this particular write-up, but I'm reminded of Finn from Adventure Time, and his relationship with both Princess Bubblegum and Flame Princess, and how badly the show botches up the romance and relationships Finn gets in.  First Finn loves PB, but PB's much older then Finn, so she rejects his advances.  It gets to the point where Finn goes into a depression, and Jake finds Flame Princess, and they become an item...  until Finn botches that up and sours their relationship.  Now FP is still on friendly terms with Finn, but doesn't want to get into another relationship with him, but Finn not only doesn't seem to care, he tries everything to try to make things work with either Flame Princess or Princess Bubblegum.  I could understand this kind of awkward, immature behavior towards the beginning of the series when he was, like, 12, but now he's at LEAST 15, and he should know better by now.  That aside, it's INCREDIBLY creepy and awkward for our "hero" to be acting this way.  Really, I don't know where Adventure Time is going with half the things it does, and I can only hope it goes somewhere good or interesting...  I'm losing hope that it is, which is kind of the opposite of Gravity Falls, in which I'm both intrigued with what's happening, and excited to see where it's going, plus I'm confident now that it'll go somewhere good!

Anyway, later on, Dipper, Mabel, Soos, and eventually Wendy all head out to the tree where Dipper originally found the journal (incidentally, Stan is overseeing the rebuilding of the Mystery Shack from what happened in the last episode).  Mabel catches on that Dipper invited Wendy, and thinks he's going to try and ask her out, but Dipper says he's over Wendy and shoots down Mabels inquiries.  Meanwhile, Wendy immediately displays her usefulness by spotting a branch that looks like a lever, then using her belt to climb the tree and her axe (that she apparently carries with her, since her dad, Manly Dan, is a lumberjack and made her play lumberjack games as a kid...  which she apparently ruled at) to hit the lever.  The tree then moves into the ground, and reveals a door and steps leading to it.  They enter the door to find some type of bunker, riddled with things that were apparently there to prepare for something.  One of the cans of beans appears to have been recently opened, and they find a hidden latch that leads to a room apparently filled with blocks and strange symbols.  Mabel shoves Dipper which causes him to step on one of the symbols, causing the blocks to slowing move in and crush them!  Thankfully, Dipper consults the book and tells the team to find and press four particular symbols, which opens up a doorway leading out of there.  Dipper just barely makes it, and his vest is caught in the trap as he leaves.  The four of them appear to have entered some type of laboratory, and while they investigate, Mabel returns Dipper's vest...  and also points out she found a note, proving that Dipper DOES still have feelings for Wendy, to which Dipper shushes Mabel, and tells her it doesn't matter.  He's looked over every possible scenario, and it just isn't going to work out between them.

And you know what, I like this!  All too often, romance subplots have one of the characters try to make things work when it obviously isn't going to work, and in the case of Adventure Time, Finn continuously trying to get PB and FP to like him, in a very UN-subtle fashion mind you, gets not only annoying, but intrusive of the much more interesting stuff.  I "get" that people are into romantic tension or some shit, but fuck it, just get over it and move on.  I don't want to have to constantly see characters acting like creepers or laughing nervously or give off that lovey-dovey talk.  The fact that Dipper recognizes that Wendy is out of his league and won't bother to pursue it makes me rather glad and grateful that he won't try to delude himself anymore...  Of course, Mabel is having none of that.  Mabel's the type of gal who will force relationships wherever possible, and she feels that, regardless of if Wendy accepts or rejects him, Dipper will be happy to get it of his chest that he likes Wendy.  With that in mind, Mabel proceeds to shove Dipper into what apparently looks like a closet with Wendy and locks them in there until Dipper tells Wendy "what he wanted to tell her".  While Dipper refuses to say anything and tries to open the door, Wendy pulls a chain that's in the room, which proceeds to shower and dry them, then shove them into a room filled with large containers.  They hear something moving just outside their viewpoint, and both tell Mabel to open the door, saying there's a monster in the room with them.  Mabel doesn't believe them and insists that Dipper say what he wanted to say.  Wendy asks him to just go ahead and say it, but Dipper...  in a move that I HOPED he would grow out of by this point, risks their lives rather then risk embarrassment.  I get that this series is all about teaching Dipper lessons and going through character growth and all that, but there's got to be a point where he really has to think "this CAN'T be worth it".  In this case, I would think that admitting that he likes Wendy and the aftermath thereof can't be worth risking BOTH of their lives trying to find a different exit.  Regardless, Dipper and Wendy find themselves backed into a corner and seemingly at the mercy of whatever's following them, until a man jumps out and attacks the beast and steps forward, showing them that he cut it's tongue off.  Dipper automatically assumes this is the author of the journals, and the three of them together try to find a way out of there.

Meanwhile, Soos puts on a lab coat and holds up a briefcase, asking Mabel if it makes him look smarter  Mabel, on the other hand, seems more occupied with turning on and off this cryogenic container seen through a surveillance camera...  Then notices a note mentioning a dangerous experiment, Experiment #210, "the Shape-Shifter".  Soos reminds Mabel that Dipper mentions being chased by a monster, and Mabel realizes he and Wendy might actually be in danger.  Meanwhile, the old man and Dipper talk, the old man saying he's been living down there for quite some time, and that he lost his "research".  Dipper says he rediscovers it and gives him the journal.  The old man mows over it, while Wendy asks Dipper if this is truly the author.  Dipper is certain that it is...  until Wendy points out that the man looks just like the guy on an old can of beans.  At first this confused me, like yeah, the guy happens to be the guy on the bean can, so?  Then I realized, the can must be really old, and yet this guy looks like he hasn't aged a single day since that photograph of him was taken.  Dipper asks for the journal back, only for the man to reveal that he's the shape-shifter!  He makes a remark that the author of the journal is no longer the man he was (also that he apparently had six-fingers), and that with the journal, he can take the shape of anything in it!  Wendy attacks the shape-shifter, which proceeds to give chase to them.  They lose the shape-shifter, then run into Mabel and Soos.  The question if either of them are the shape-shifter, and realize it's really them in humorous fashion.  Oh, by the way, it might not sound like it in my write-ups, but these episodes are all kinds of hilarious.  I'm not mentioning them here because a.) doing so would require more time and effort to explain and b.) it's better if you don't know, so you can laugh when you see the episodes for yourself!

The four of them come up with a plan, and they lead the shape-shifter to a pipe and try to blast it with water.  Unfortunately, the pipe isn't quite working, so Wendy upright attacks it...  just as the water starts to burst out at them.  They turn the water off, and Dipper rushes off to see Wendy unconscious.  Dipper laments over getting her seriously hurt or worse, and admits to her that he loves her...  only for Wendy to be apparently conscious and standing behind him.  The Wendy he's weeping over is the shape-shifter, and proceeds to attack!  Dipper gets the two Wendies mixed up, and when he grabs Wendy's axe, he's not sure who is who.  He asks to give him a sign who's the real one.  One of them winks at Dipper, the other zips her mouth shut and "throws away the key" (similar to what Wendy did in The Inconveniencing" and at the beginning this episode).  Knowing the latter is the true Wendy, Dipper swings the axe into the other, which was indeed the shape-shifter.  They force it back into the cryogenic chamber and freeze it, though not before it threatens them and he tells Dipper he will never find the author of the journal, then shifting into Dipper himself showing what he'll apparently look like before his end.

The group leaves the bunker, and Soos, tried of screaming all day, leaves with Mabel for some "hero breakfast".  Dipper takes this opportunity to finally come clean about what he said.  Wendy tells Dipper that she always knew, since she can hear him mutter that stuff under his breath.  Dipper just feels more awkward about this then ever, and Wendy sits down and tries to tell him that while he really likes him, as a friend, and that she's incredibly flattered by his affection, she just doesn't feel the same way about him.  She's out of his age-range, and while she definitely still wants to be friends, it's just not going to work out.  See, this is another think Adventure Time fails at: the characters never have a moment to just explain themselves.  Even if Finn wasn't a freak when it comes to expressing his feelings, Princess Bubblegum is just such a stone-hearted bitch.  She claims to love all the citizens of the Candy Kingdom, and really likes Finn as a friend, but her science experiments, attempts to expand her empire, and the way she acts and reacts to people, including Finn's advances, is just very blunt and unsympathetic.  Wendy may be a "typical teenager" (and she might have lose a few points for me when she didn't bother helping Mabel rebuild the Mystery Shack until she started acting like Stan in the episode Boss Mabel), it's moments like this that make her more then just that.  Hell, this moment, along with her badassery in this episode, finally bumped her up from one of my least favorite characters to...  well, not one of my favorites, but now she's probably within the top 5...  maybe...  top 10 at least.  Regardless, what I'm getting at is, this moment shows that she isn't just some prize to be one, but her own character, and that she's not only aware of Dipper's constant advances, but tries to let him down in a way that doesn't hurt his feelings too badly...  Because she really likes Dipper, and wants to hang out with him more.  It's really heartwarming (I'm actually close to tearing up as I'm writing this and I'm not sure why), even if she says it's because her life got a lot more interesting when Dipper came to town.  Wendy then leaves (after making sure they're still on good terms, of course), and then Mabel reveals that she and Soos didn't leave at all, and they've been hanging around listening to everything they said.  Dipper still feels awkward about the whole thing, and Mabel apologizes for being so pushy (I like this, it shows that Mabel actually cares about Dipper's feelings, unlike in The Deep End, where it feels like she was too absorbed in what SHE wanted over what Dipper wanted), and they both make up...

Soos then sits with them and laments that he wish he had brought something up from the bunker, other then the labcoat and the briefcase...  Then it's revealed that the briefcase is actually a laptop computer!  It's old and clearly broken, making Soos remark that he'll need a few days, and lots of duck tape, to fix it.  The episode ends with a slow zoom-in on the plate on the top of the laptop, reading "Property of F"...

Also, the credits scene has Dipper and Wendy watching more lame movies, ha ha.

So...  Yeah, that's about it.  This took a while, as usual.  Hey, when I have something to say, I have a lot to say!  I'd say anyone who's interested in what I have to say on a given episode better get used to this.  Regardless, it's great to have Gravity Falls back, and it's great to see that it met and exceeded expectations!  Here's to more mysterious...  and answers?

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