You HAVE To Watch: Gravity Falls
Everyone told me I HAVE to watch The Expanse, it’s SOOOOOO good. Now I have, and I’m better off for it.
Another series I kept hearing I HAD to watch was a Disney+ animated series: Gravity Falls.
Popular in Gifs and often quoted, I got a The Princess Bride vibe to its cultural impact. Since The Princess Bride is both my favourite movie and one of the most original movies I’ve ever seen, comparisons to it are rare and have my attention.
But then hearing how Gravity Falls’ fans described the show threw me off. “It’s like X-Files for kids.” “If you like Rick and Morty, you’ll love Gravity Falls.” “This show is so smart.” “This show is so cute.”
Who created this show, Hermann Rorschach?
What Is Gravity Falls?
Actually created by Alex Hirsch, Gravity Falls follows twin preteens Dipper and Mabel’s summer with their great-uncle, Grunkle Stan. They work at The Mystery Shack, Stan’s business that exploits the town’s reputation for weirdness, getting caught up in that weirdness themselves.
The show ran from from June 2012, to February 2016, only producing 40 episodes in that time. Although there are standalone episodes, most advance one of the many metaplots or evolving character relationships in some way, which mostly wrap up in the series finale.
Hirsch famously described the series coming to an end after such a short run as “the show isn’t being cancelled- it’s being finished.”
Is It Sooooo Good?
In fact, Gravity Falls is the perfect example of the “Trust me, just watch it” attitude associated with a show you HAVE to watch, it’s SOOOO good. I’ll try to explain what made me love Gravity Falls as much as I was told I would, but it’s going to be tough.
Everything I said earlier -that it’s simultaneously like The Princess Bride, X-Files, and Rick and Morty, and that it’s smart and cute- it’s true. All of it.
The Princess Bride
In case you somehow don’t know, The Princess Bride is a beloved classic film that not only blends action, comedy, and real heart, it blends them perfectly. Delightfully acted, fun to watch, as fun to quote. I truly believed we’d never see anything like The Princess Bride in my lifetime.
Gravity Falls succeeds in all the same ways as The Princess Bride. Mabel and Stan usually get subplots while Dipper gets the main plots. These subplots load the show with quirky moments, memorable lines. Like the 80s jam Mabel sings, Don’t Start Un-Believing. Or one of Stan’s favourite shows, Duck-tective.
Meanwhile, Dipper alternates between exploring mysteries with the help of a book of local lore he stumbled across, Journal #3, and coming of age preteen adventures. Like X-Files, clever writing makes for fun mysteries that use and establish the rules of this universe.
Dipper and Mabel’s chemistry might not mirror Mulder and Scully, but is a highlight of the show. It’s one of my favourite TV family relationships, one part best friend bond, one part knowing (or thinking they know) exactly how far they can push each other’s buttons for their own amusement.
Rick and Morty
Rick and Morty balances ridiculous in your face moments that overload the senses and make for casual watching, with seeds of greater stories that drive obsessive fans to share theories and connect dots.
However, Rick and Morty’s criticized for asking too many questions it doesn’t answer. If you are the type of Rick and Morty fan who gets annoyed at the show for all its dangling threads, Gravity Falls is the alternative. The show challenges fans to solve mysteries, both within the plot and outside of it.
The end credits of every episode includes a credit code:
The cypher for these codes show up in the episode’s opening credits. Some decode to in jokes from the episode, but others hint at upcoming plot twists. But, they’re only hints. The above decodes to the innocent and self-explanatory “WELCOME TO GRAVITY FALLS”, but later codes translate to unsettling messages, like “WHEN ONE GETS TRAPPED INSIDE THE PAST, DREAMS CAN TURN TO NIGHTMARES FAST.”
Speaking of Nightmares.
Who Is This For?
Like The Princess Bride before it, explaining Gravity Falls’s target audience can be challenging. If Gravity Falls is Rick and Morty with kid gloves on, those gloves have holes in them that expose weird, hairy adult knuckles.
One episode, Mabel used time travel to get Dipper what he wanted. But, uh-oh, a butterfly effect cost her her beloved pet pig, Waddles. In another, a chatty, omniscient illuminati triangle summons a severed head that’s always screaming, then dismisses it a fifth of a layer at a time.
I watched this show with my then 5-year old daughter. She recently asked to rewatch it with me, something she’s never done before, so it has kid appeal. And I was more than happy to rewatch it, both to be entertained again and to catch more of the Easter eggs and to see what I didn’t realize were plot seeds get planted.
Gravity Falls isn’t just an amazing show, it’s an achievement. Not only entertaining on every level, full of setups and payoffs. It’s also got an amazing cast playing memorable characters. I could write another 1000 words on Gravity Falls and only scratch the surface of what makes this show so special.