Tag Archives: favorite animated shows

“Voltron: Legendary Defender” Season 3 – Great New Characters and Reveals

“Voltron: Legendary Defender” has yet to go wrong. Last season may have dragged a little bit, but each episode has payed off and even the moments of anime tonal dissodance are at this point gone (they were in Season 1 and 2, not 3). For non-spoiler thoughts, check out this season if you are already watching. You’ll meet Prince Lotor and his amazing generals and all our heroes get some amazing development, and you’ll learn about the really cool origins of Voltron. Seriously, should check out this season.

The story picks up where we left off with Shiro missing and the Black Lion needing a new leader and Prince Lotor coming out of exile to lead his people after his father has been put into a coma after the last battle. From here our heroes must find a new team dynamic and figure out Prince Lotor’s plot and stop it.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The New Paladins – With the disappearance of Shiro we have a change in the Paladins! Keith gets the Black Lion, Lance gets his Red Lion and Princess Allura becomes the new paladin over the Blue Lion. It is so cool seeing them figure things out as Keith feels inadequate and his quickness to anger is something he has to temper before they start winning battles. The Prince is always one step ahead of him too which is another issue he is always facing as Allura is also facing the change of becoming a Paladin and the new role it brings her.

Prince Lotor and his Generals – Lotor and his generals are awesome! All of his generals are women and each of them is some type of rogue. They don’t really have other soldiers and they don’t need them. They capture a town without any soldiers present and show how a special elite force is better at achieving ends than a small force. Each of them is Part Galran but none of them are full blooded as far as we know, making them an outlier of the Galra Empire. His overall end is to conquer all the universes using the overwhelming power of Quintessence, at least that is the Galra Empire’s goal. Prince Lotor doesn’t kill (from what we have seen) so may have another agenda separate from that of his father and mother.

Origins of Voltron – Voltron was created by Princess Allura’s father when they discover a comet from another universe that could give infinite power. Emperor Zarkon who was friend’s with Allura’s father falls in love with the alchemist who is experimenting on the substance. Eventually a creature from another universe is brought through and breaks out leading to the Lions and Voltron first being used. After this Zarkon and Alfor having a falling out until he  tricks them into opening up the portal once more (the portal that is destroying his home planet). He does this to resurrect his wife who we later learn becomes Witch Haggar (She was an alchemist from Alfor’s people) they are both believed dead until the Quintessence brings them back to life and the Galra Empire makes war on the galaxy once more to gather Quintessence in order to conquer all, as the last episode ends with Haggar bringing the Emperor out of his coma too as she remembers the history that the episode recounts (that begins with Coran telling the Paladins the origins of Voltron).

Okay/Cons: Too Short – I would say this was perfect season but I wanted more time with Lotor and his generals or more time with Haggar. These were missed development opportunities that only exist because the season is only 7 episodes long, when really this season needed at least 8 or 9. It is still a great season, but this keeps it from perfection. 

This was easily one of the best seasons of the show so far as the new enemy and team make-up gave us tons of character development and helped shape things leading into the most likely finale, as by the end of the season we know what the Galra Empire wants and how it got to be the way it is, as well as what our heroes still need to face internally in order to overcome this final challenge. This was a season that I couldn’t stop watching and is by far one of the best shows to come out on Netflix. I can’t wait to see how they wrap the story up and would watch spinoffs in this universe as the characters and politics keep me coming back.

Final Score: 9.7 / 10 Would have been perfect if more time had been spent developing the Paladins and Lotor further.

 

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“Star Wars Rebels” Season 3 – Some Great Arcs are Completed and one of my Favorite Villains Enters the New Canon

    “Star Wars Rebels” has found great quality again, and they do it by getting rid of the Inquisitors (who were really wasted last season) all together and bringing in a character who existed in the original canon of Star Wars, Grand Admiral Thrawn. Doing this was one of the smartest things Disney could have done as even when the Empire is losing most of the time in small battles, it all comes together in Thrawn’s master plan and a pretty glorious final that shows just how deadly the Empire is since the Death Star or Battle of Hoth. Suffice to say, I loved this season and highly recommend it.

    The story of Season 3 involves the arrival of Governor Pryce as the new Moff over Lothal and Grand Admiral Thrawn as the new Imperial Agent to destroy the Rebellion in the sector. As the rebellion gathers allies to free Lothal from Imperial Rule Thrawn uses their own strengths against them as his master plan unfolds to wipe out the Rebellion.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: Growing Rebellion Arc – A major arc this season is the Rebellion collecting allies and meeting the leaders of other cells. Whether it is Saw Gerrera on Geonosis, the stupid Iron Squadron, the Twi’lik on Ryloth, Hondo and leaders of the Rebellion like Mon Mothma. This season continues on Season 2 and 1 as the Rebellion Cells are coming together to form a greater fleet so worlds can be liberated.

The Mandalore Arc – The Mandalore arc is one in which the Empire is in firm control but slowly loses it as Sabine and Clan Wren become greater power players when she takes on the leader of the Empire on Mandalore, Gar Saxon and makes peace with her family. From here it is decided to fight and Mandalore is thrown once more into Civil War as it is the only chance for Mandalore to exist for Mandalore and not the Empire. This is where Sabine leaves too as she has found a greater purpose beyond the tech. of the Ghost crew.

The Fulcrum Arc – Agent Kallus is fully a good guy in this season and his arc is helping the Rebellion and getting information to them until he is discovered by Thrawn. In this we see the Rebellion come to trust him and his arc ends with him officially joining them at their lowest as Thrawn’s battle is a success and the Rebels are routed from their base.

Maul’s Arc – Maul’s arc continues the theme of last season of showing how the Dark Side only leaves one alone and resentful of all. By the end of the series all he has is hatred of Obi-Wan and nothing more as he was not able to corrupt Ezra. For a character who really should have stayed dead or died in Clone Wars they at least gave his story a purpose. He is a character who brings about pity as he has lost everything and the Empire is so large and powerful he has no way of gaining back his prior position. He is taking easy outs because if he stays around long enough the Empire will hunt him down. His story is sad and he shows the loneliness of the Dark Side and how empty the quest for power truly is as in the end he dies in Obi-Wan’s arms as Obi-Wan has found peace and a higher cause beyond power and is able to help Maul find peace.

The Bendu – Tom Baker plays the Bendu, a force being who is made up of both the Dark and the Light. He is the one who trains Kanan and Ezra and helps them find balance after their losses last season. He is a great character who in the end is hurt by the Jedi, showing that they aren’t good, as forcing him to fight leads to his death at the hands of Thrawn. In the end he was right in a way and in the end the Jedi turning him to the Dark Side and destroying his balance, is one of the saddest parts of the season as it is what leads to his destruction.

Grand Admiral Thrawn’s Plan and Payoff – Much of this Season involves Thrawn as the observer, watching the different players of the Rebellion and studying how they fight, discovering who Fulcrum is and developing weapons for the Empire. In the end his plan is a success, though it is isn’t a complete success. He destroys most of the Rebellion on Atollon and forces the Rebellion on the run again. He only loses due to the pride of Pryce and Konstantine who let ego get in the way of results and in order for the Rebels to even survive Commander Sato has to sacrifice himself to destroy a ship at the Battle of Atollon, which the battle that ends this season.

Revenge versus Mercy – One of the major themes this season is Revenge versus Mercy and the heart of how the Rebellion and characters should act. We see this with Saw Gerrera and his willingness to kill the last survivor of Geonosis, Cham Syndulla and his willingness to kill and risk his life for the liberation of Rylok and each cases how isolated the characters are when they don’t act with mercy and only want Revenge. It is mercy that turns Kallus to the Rebellion and helps the Rebellion gain allies from Mandalore as well as keeping Ezra’s balance. This theme is universal through the season and gave it strength.

Grand Admiral Thrawn – Lars Mikkelson plays one of my favorite characters in the EU, both in the original lore and now the new lore. This is a character who is an alien among an organization made up of humans and because of this doesn’t care about his own ego and pride. He is ruthless and cares about results and it makes sense because he is an outsider. He has a history and we see that he is honorable to as he lets Cham Syndulla escape after Cham is willing to destroy his own home to escape and is the observer. Every rebel victory is a learning experience that pays off. He is unconventional too as he is making Tie Defenders on Lothal and they are shielded ties that the ghost crew has trouble destroying. Because his greatest asset is knowledge he takes out rebels spies whenever we see him and he is the one who traps Fulcrum and nearly destroys the Rebellion, as the Rebels only manage to escape because Kanan angers the Bendu and Ezra brings allies from Mandalore. He is still alive and I can’t wait to see what he does next season. Just as he was my favorite character in the original lore he is now in the new canon.

Okay: Empire Needed More Wins – The Empire still needed more wins, and with the dead of Admiral Constantine (a stupid Admiral who is obsessed with glory) is killed in the finale that may happen. Thrawn turns even scenarios were he doesn’t crush the Rebellion into learning experiences that lead to his trap unfolding at the Battle of Atollon.

 The Cons: Iron Squadron – Iron Squadron is a rebellion run by a bunch of kids. They were super annoying and overpowered. They were the only folks from the Rebellion we meet who clash with the competence and fear that pervades the rest of the Rebellion and allies. I hated this episode, it is the only episode I hated this season. The rest are good or great.

   Season 3 was a lot better than Season 2 and was much more focused than Season 2 as Thrawn’s overall agenda was revealed at the end and the rebel plans became undone. This was a Hoth moment for the Lothal Rebellion and it was powerful to see what was supposed to be a fleet to liberate Lothal, decimated by Thrawn and the Rebellion forced to run, only just surviving because of unexpected allies. I really enjoyed this given that the Empire experienced mostly losses this season until Thrawn’s trap was finally sprung. This Thrawn is true to his original counterpart in the books in all the ways that matter, and if you were a fan of him in the books, as I was, you will most likely love him on the show. Can’t wait to see how his story unfolds and I hope he survives this series.

Final Score: 9.4 / 10

“Voltron: Legendary Defender” Season 2 – Fantastic Rising Action and Climax With a Few Missed Opportunities

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     “Voltron” is an amazing show and the level of quality continues in Season 2. Dreamworks and Netflix have really created something rather amazing with this show and with Season 2  they get deeper into the world and characters, though there are some missed opportunities that keep it from being the perfect show.

  SPOILERS if you haven’t watched the first season.

The story picks up with the Paladins seperated leading to them finding each other again while Emperor Zarkin hunts them across the Galaxy as they build a team and seek out allies to fight back.

The Pros: The World – The world is amazing! We meet new planets, species and get the history behind the Black Lion. Each episode enriches this world further and it is the world that has me the most excited for future seasons.

The Animation – The animation is beautiful. Dreamworks really has a fantastic animation team and I love the anime aspects to how they’ve designed the heroes and villains. The forming of Voltron is great too, I really like how it has it’s own animation sequence of the Lions coming together.

The Action – The action is fantastic, especially with the last battle as the Lions and Castle assault Zarkon and his fleet directly. There are great challenges too with some challenging Beasts that Haggar creates.

The Blade of Marmora – The Blade of Marmora is a secret Galra organization that is fighting against Emperor Zarkon. They are so cool and really force the Paladins, specifically Keith to earn their help.

The Characters – The characters drive the story and most of them continue to grow over the course of this season. It is only a few who really don’t have an arc of any kind.

Coran – Coran is annoying sometimes as they overplay his loud personality a few times, but he gets better…especially when we see him in action as a soldier and his intelligence comes into play for helping them.

Emperor Zarkon – Zarkon is obsessed this season and it is because of this fact that he becomes vulnerable. If he had listened to Witch Haggar he wouldn’t have ended up on life support. His obsession was his downfall and after how unstoppable he was last season it was great to see his flaws. He also has an awesome Mech that is a giant version of himself.

Witch Haggar- Haggar is Altean (same race as Allura) and is the anti-Allura as we see her obsession with dark and control and willingness to do anything for the Empire makes her the greatest threat. It is after Zarkon’s fall that she calls for his son, she is down but not out and is the real power behind the throne. I wonder why she betrayed her people…

Hunk – Hunk is comedic relief for a lot of it but still manages to grow, such as his mini-arc with Keith where he gets over his prejudice towards the Galra. In this we find out he is a great cook and is the glue of the team.

Pidge – Pidge has a predictable arc and discovers her power…she can control vines and roots and finds that nature and tech are connected. She is also the one who helps the Paladins find one another. The arc with the vines I thought was fine but it was her finding the Team and her skills as a tech that really make her invaluable.

Shiro – Shiro is the leader and advocate for finding allies among the Galra as it was a Galra who rescued him and tells him about the Blade of Marmora. He is the calm and collected to Allura’s anger and together they are pretty much the parents of the team. His arc is breaking Zarkon’s connection to the Black Lion and learning about the past when the Altean’s and Galra were at peace and Zarkon was friend’s with Allura’s father. It is powerful and I’m really curious how he went missing.

Keith – Keith has a fantastic arc as he learns that he is half-Galra and must get over his self-hatred and earn his place among his people in the trials of the Blade with the Blade he inherited. He steps up to be the leader this season as even Shiro knows his time is coming.

Princess Allura – Allura continues to be a fantastic character as we get to see her fight in the final fight and risk all of herself to save them from the Galra fleet that is pursuing them. Her arc is getting over her prejudice towards the Galra as the Blade of Marmora show that good Galra exist as well as her feelings for Keith, who she learns is half-Galra.

Okay: Lance – Lance is horny and a jokester and contributes nothing beyond being a body part on the Lion. I’m not putting him as a con…yet, as he wasn’t totally awful.

The Point of the Final Fight – Shiro goes missing and Zarkon is on life support and the Capital Ship of the Galra seems to be fine. It feels unfinished.

Tonal Shifts – Coran is the most guilty of this but some of the creatures the Paladins find are also overly cute and it takes away the threat of the Galra whenever there are too many of them.

This was another great season for a great show that you should really go and check out if you like animes or animated shows. This season really showed that the different species are more complicated, which I am always a fan of. Most places go black and white and make simple good and bad like Elves and Orcs of Middle Earth. This show is so much more than that and gives us wonderfully complicated characters who have to grow as they overcome their prejudices. Once more, this show is well worth checking out.

Final Score: 9 / 10

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“BoJack Horseman” Season 3 – Individually Great Episodes But Overall Narrative and Ending Bring it Down

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   “Bojack Horseman” Season 3 is probably the weakest of the 3 seasons so far. It isn’t bad, by all means it is still great…but after the levels met in the last two seasons this one doesn’t cut it as it ends up suffering from a disjointed narrative and a strange end that feels slightly contrived and doesn’t answer any questions in regards to Bojack and the choices he made this season (or only in the vaguest sense answers those questions). There are some amazing stand alone episodes that are the best of the show so far (that I’ll talk about further down) but overall this season never reached the heights of last season.

      The series was created by Raphael Bob-Waksberg and is a Netflix original show…showing that only does Netflix get drama but it gets animation too as I’ve been watching this season for 3 seasons now and have yet to be dissapointed.

     The main drama this season is Bojack’s destruction of his relationships and his pursuit to win an Oscar for “Secreteriat” all the while dealing with his own inner demons as his friends face theirs and deal with the new relationships in their lives and Bojack.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Animation – The animation is beautiful and is easily one of the things that keeps me coming back to the show. The visuals are smooth and there are a few episodes that illustrate this beautifully.

The Dark Comedy – The dark comedy is still fantastic as our characters are put into and put themselves into awkward situations that reveal their darker sides or the cynical hopeless world they are a part of.

The Characters – The characters are one of the strongest parts of this show and even though I found some character decisions that were chosen to be a little contrived, there was a lot of good especially for characters like Todd.

Mr. Peanutbutter – Mr. Peanutbutter deals with loss for the first time when his brother goes in for surgery, and his kindness finally pays off when a random idea he had of buying a bunch of strainers leads to him rescuing Ocean City and with it getting everything and being a hero in this world. (is next his fall like Bojack’s and Carolyn’s?)

Sextina Aquafina – Is more than just a quick talking pop star…in this we see her use the popularity of her getting an abortion (not really getting one but faking one, Diane Nguyen is the one who is getting one) and in the end when she gets pregnant we see she wants a kid. This character grew on me a lot. Also her music video is hilarious.

Princess Carolyn – Carolyn is pretty much running in circles this season but I like seeing her backstory and how it was in relation to Bojack that she first got inspired to be an agent and it is when he leaves her agency and their friendship ends that she starts it up again after it ends.

Emily – Emily is Todd’s friend and is wonderfully sarcastic and weird. I really like their dynamic as she is explorative and really like Todd and they are similar. You see why they are so close but also how they are so different. Emily has awareness, Todd doesn’t.

Todd – Todd finally calls Bojack out and leaves him after all of it (the last betrayal was sleeping with his best friend Emily) and we learn that he isn’t gay or straight and doesn’t know what he is (sex freaks him out). He is oblivious and overall pretty sweet in this.

Ana Spanikopita – Ana is a powerhouse who is only out for success but is also normal and vulnerable and it makes her relationship with Bojack interesting. She is good at letting go, where he can’t…

Diane Nguyen – Diane like Carolyn is shafted this season. I didn’t feel like she had an arc. Most of what she does is reacting to and being there for Bojack. I like that she helps Mr. Peanutbutter grow and that she shows she is great at social media…but we don’t really learn anything new about her. I still put her as a pro though, I like how she interacts with characters.

Sarah Lynn – In this we see Sarah Lynn’s fall as she eventually dies from a drug overdose after going on a drug and alcoholic rampage with Bojack. This season really showed how alone she was and that because of how popular she was so young…she never got the chance to form real relationships and in the end her only real friend was Bojack after he saw himself as having lost everything.

Bojack – Bojack hurts his friends and loses them and goes on a drug fueled rampage with Sarah Lynn leading to him reopening old wounds, living in his guilt and shame and finally running away. I liked it when he tried but I hate the spiral largely because it hasn’t ended…

You Can’t Fix Everything – Sarah Lynn stays an addict, Bojack regresses to where he was before, Princess Carolyn repeats and Diane treads water…all our characters are broken and can’t be fixed.

“Fish Out of Water” – This episode has no speaking in nearly the entire episode. Everything is told through music and sound and it is beautifully done as Bojack tries to make up with Kelsey for never talking to her after “Secreteriat” failing each time he tries to communicate.

“Brrap Brrap Pew Pew” – A fantastic abortion episode that reveals Sextina has more awareness than she’s given credit for and the power of music and humor to empower against fear as well as the power of narrative as it relates to media. One of my favorite episodes in this entire show.

“Stop the Presses” – This is a great episode exploring Bojack’s selfishness as he sleeps with Todd’s best friend Emily and we see how afraid he is to tell Todd and how that fear dominates him and how for him each new mistake and failure is tied to past ones and it is the reason why he’s forever digging his hole.

The Cons: The Ending – Bojack runs away after it is revealed he was never nominated for an Oscar. His possible daughter calls Carolyn’s new firm and Mr. Peanutbutter is a hero for saving Ocean City from a giant thing of pasta. T

The Way Things Fell Apart – Things seem to be going alright initially but he starts pushing people away after Princess Carolyn fails to get him one of the things he wants for future acting jobs…from here it just spiraled as he couldn’t answer the question of what he’d do after he won the Oscar…I get his guilt complex but this felt contrived.

Pacing and Focus – The pacing felt off this season as it felt like Bojack’s toxic choices didn’t make much sense given the characters around him helping to push him to focus (whether Ana or Carolyn) and even though he didn’t listen and was consumed by guilt…I felt more could have been done to show him doing the work. This felt like Season 1 Bojack and it made the pacing disjointed as it felt like they wanted focus wholly on Bojack or more focused on those around him.

   This season had a lot more cons than the last few seasons of the show but once again, this is a show worth checking out and Season 3 is still gold in so many ways. If you’ve been here this long you’ve gotten to know the characters and some of the ways they change or deal with pain is fascinating as it reveals so much about them. This is also the season we get the most into Bojack’s head, which in many ways made the series weaker in my opinion, but I at least understand why…it’s just a shame that they’d undo all the progress he made last season to show how toxic he is. Much like Walter White or Francis Underwood…he’s a bad guy who has some level of good in him buried under so much bad that you just want him to capture that good and live it more than the bad…given the nature of this show, I don’t know if that will ever happen. I can’t wait to see how it ends though, this season is well worth your time.

Final Score: 8.4 / 10

“Star Wars Rebels” Season 2 – A Great Beginning, Character Episodes and End but Overall Lack of Focus

Star Wars Rebels Season 2

   “Star Wars Rebels” Season 2 was a season that started with a lot of promise. “The Siege of Lothal” is one of the best episodes in the series and the promise of it being “The Empire Strikes Back” of the show was a very big claim that initially looked like would be successful executed. Sadly the shows lack of focus, clearly showing the threat of the Empire and poor setup of big payoffs brought the show down overall, making it weaker than Season 1 for me. This doesn’t discount what works though and this show is still a favorite. So without further ado, here is my overall assessment of the show.

The Pros: The Animation – The animation continues to be amazing and flow beautifully, especially in regards to the action sequences and giving us what the planets look like. This has never been an issue with the show and continues to be one of the strongest points within it.

The Action – The action when it happens is fantastic. The duels between Inquisitors, fights between the Rebels and Empire and any fight that involves Darth Vader is awesome. My biggest issue is the action wasn’t all the tight so that brought it down.

Hondo – Hondo is back and one of the few elements of comedic relief that works as we see his mercenary nature rub off on Ezra and help push him to the dark side in small ways as in helping him and when he helps the crew it shows an ends justify the means mentality that illustrated Anakin’s fall.

Captain Rex – Captain Rex is a pretty amazing character and I’m glad they brought him back into this Universe. I’m still hoping he dies so he can get the warrior’s death that would fit his character arc so well…his arc is great in that he and Kanan grow to have a respect for one another as they are both mentors for Ezra.

Yoda – Yoda makes an appearance in this and it is awesome! He recognizes his past mistakes with the Jedi order and helps our heroes make peace within themselves. He even reaches out to Ahsoka and is happy to see you. He really was handled beautifully this season.

The Crew of Ghost – The crew of the Ghost continues to be where the strongest characters are as we have a “Firefly” type relationship between this crew of survivors as they find themselves pulled into a larger story that they are only pieces in. For this reason, the glimpses of the Universe we get are all the more profound and how it impacts the crew.

The Crew of Ghost – The Crew continues to be the strongest part of the show as I’ve come to care about the drama they go through and what motivates them in what they do.

Chopper – Chopper is shown to be complex in this! He helps liberate an Imperial droid, we learn he fought in the Clone Wars and the cares deeply for the crew and those around him even though he’s a bit insane.

Sabine – We learn more about Sabine’s Mandalorian side and her willingness to do anything to achieve ends even if it means killing. The only reason she doesn’t kill is because she learns from Hera and Kanan who become like a father and mother figure to her. She is a lot of fun and could have done with some more exploration, especially tied back to the Empire.

Kanan – Kanan gets some great exploration in this as we see his relationship to Hera’s father who he fought with in the Clone Wars and is a hero and from that how deeply he cares about her. We see him rise in power in this and go through his arc of letting Ezra go and knowing that he can only give Ezra so much training. He connects with the light side of the Grand Inquisitor too which is pretty amazing.

Hera – In this we see that Hera is looked down upon by her father who is a hero of his people for fighting in the Clone Wars and is willing to go any means to win. It is Hera who shows him that wider perspective of how allies are their best bet to win the war. She really is a great character and we see her abandonment fears when Kanan is going off to face the Inquisitor as she has already lost her mother to war and in a way her father too. Her character is tragic and strong.

Zeb – Zeb is my favorite character in the series and in this he becomes the Hero of the Lasat as he works with the Elders to help them find the original Lasat homeworld. We also see his growth when he connects with Agent Kallus and helps them survive on a dangerous moon. He is a character with depth who manages to bring strength and humor to any situation and is easily one of the wisest characters on the show now.

The Empire – I still really like the Empire in this though I feel the writers spent most of this season making them feel weak. This was bad on their part as we were promised “The Empire Strikes Back” of the show and I didn’t feel that at all. If anything, it was more of “The New Hope” based off the Finale.

The Inquisitors – The Inquistiors have a cool look and start out strong but become weaker over the course of the series. When Ahsoka easily beats two of them they never recover for it and end being slaughtered by Maul in the Finale. I like the idea of them but they could have been handled as a threat a lot better (same with the Empire as a whole).

Agent Kallus – In this season we learn Kallus was a grunt who lost his men to a Lasat Mercenary and that is why he hates them. We also learn the slaughter of the Lasat was not what he thought would happen and he carries guilt over it. By the season’s end he is questioning and alone as he realizes he is being lied to and is just a cog in the Imperial Machine.

Darth Vader – Darth Vader is awesome and is the best part of “The Siege of Lothal” and “Twilight of the Apprentice.” His arc ends with him once again killing Anakin so that he can destroy Ahsoka and all his connections to the past. He beats her but we don’t know if she’s dead or not (I hope she is). This season we get glimpses of the light in the overwhelming dark of Vader.

The Old Master / Maul – Maul is back and he is awesome! In this he acts as Ezra’s teacher in the Dark Side and is responsible for killing the Imperial Inquisitors and blinding Kanan. He is after power and wants Ezra as his apprentice. It is great to see him again as he’s lost everything to the Jedi and Empire and now only has hate and vengeance to drive him. He survives the destruction of the Sith Temple and is out there still too.

Ahsoka Tano – Ahsoka’s arc in this is making peace with leaving Anakin and the Jedi order as we see her fight to avenge Anakin to destroy the monster he’s become in Vader. In the end she chooses to stay with him too as her spirit is broken as she sees the monster consumed by rag and power that Anakin has become. She really is a great character and I like how she never feels comfortable being a teacher because she is a free agent and not a Jedi, just a force user who uses light sabers and the light side of the force. I hope she died, she deserves an awesome death which she got.

Okay: Commander Sato – Sato is another character with potential, though I wish he’d die this season. He is the face of the larger Rebellion that connects to the crew and he even gets captured once. Sadly this doesn’t go anywhere as he is rescued and it establishes his respect for Ezra. He is a symbol of Rebel power and that is about it.

Ezra – Ezra has great moments when we see him tempted by the Dark Side but he is so overpowering at times that he feels like a Mary Sue at times. It is far to easy for him to save the people and the crew and he doesn’t go through any trial I felt until the final battle at the end. There was a lot of missed opportunities for this character.

Other Minor Characters – Sabine’s friend a few others are pretty weak. All they exist for is to show the crew has more allies, and in the process make the Empire even more weak as they can’t seem to kill people who should be dead. At least Ezra’s parents aren’t alive.

The Cons: Lack of Narrative Focus – We have fillers, we have a lot of bottle episodes for characters and some episodes that don’t involve the Empire at all. The Empire is set up to be THE threat with the Inquisitors in “The Siege of Lothal,” but it doesn’t go anywhere until the Finale and I blame that on the lack of focus.

Filler Episodes – We get a whale episode, an episode where we meet a mercenary who worked with Sabine and a few others that just feel like baggage. All they end up doing is make the Empire look weak and expand the size of the Universe.

    This season was not nearly as strong as last, though the First and Finale episodes of the season were on part with the best from last season and sometimes better. It was these episodes where the core drama between Darth Vader and the rebels really got explored and the Empire felt like a threat. Outside of that they spent most of this season being beaten by the rebels at every turn. Seriously, the Inquisitors became useless by the end leaving me to wonder how Dave Filoni is going to fill in a new threat for them as I worry making Vader the main threat will just make him as useless as the Inquisitors, which I don’t want. If this show ruins him I’m going to hate this show. That didn’t happen this season at least, and for all of the problems it had, there were some great moments of gold.

Final Score: 8 / 10

“Gravity Falls” Season 2 – A Brilliant Animated Show That Captures Mystery, Tension, Character and Adventure

dGravity Falls

    Alex Hirsch truly created a brilliant show with “Gravity Falls.” He described it as “The X-Files” meets “Twin Peaks” meets “The Simpsons.” From here he melded comedy, drama and mystery together perfectly as it is the characters who drive the story and who change after events happen in their lives. This season was extremely rich, even though the payoff wasn’t quite perfect…it still managed to be great.

      This is a show I will be returning back to review episodically at some point as well, it is just that great.

    The main plot of Season 2 is the mystery surrounding Grunkle Stan and the device he is building beneath the shack as the answers to this help us uncover the other mysteries surrounding Gravity Falls and the characters who live there.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Animation – The animation style is unique and flows and fits the mystery of Gravity Falls as well as the colorful nature of the characters who make up the town.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack is beautiful, especially the theme song which Bill Cipher (the demon who brings about Weirdmageddon) changes. Brad Breek did a fantastic job!

The Mystery – The mystery of the Journals is a driving part of the plot as we see that Grunkle Stan has one of the journals and uses them to build a device to bring back his twin brother Ford who was trapped in another dimension. It’s a powerful mid-season finale and great payoff to the secrecy surrounding the town as all the mysteries come mostly back to the Brothers Pines.

Grunkle Stan Versus Zombies – At one point in the first episode of Season 2, Dipper summons a bunch of zombies and we see how amazing Stan is as he manages to take out most of them before performing karaoke with Dipper and Mabel which is what’s needed to cause the zombie heads to explode. It’s a great way to kick off the season. There are also two FBI agents investigating Gravity Falls too.

The Characters – The characters are the best part of “Gravity Falls” and it is how they are explored, which drives the plot. This season went in depth with all the main cast as well as a few side characters too who received some great development.

.GIFfany – .GIFfany is awesome! She is a sentient program from a Japanese dating sim who destroyed her creator and fixates on Soos. When Soos eventually ends the relationship she tries to kill him and his girlfriend but in the end is stopped. I really liked her obsessive character.

Gideon – Gideon goes through an arc over the course of the series as he is a villain serving Bill for much of it but finally comes around when he realizes that Mabel would be ashamed of what he’s doing and that her being trapped is not them being in a relationship. This leads to him with the prison escapees trying to take on Bill. Later on we see the prisoners have become his protectors.

Tyler Cutebiker – Cutebiker wins the election for Mayor of Gravity Falls and is the calmest head around. We see this in Tyler’s confrontation of Bill in Weirdmageddon to the acceptance speech. This character is a lot of fun.

Blubs and Durland – These are the police of Gravity Falls who love another and have a cute relationship as Durland isn’t bright at all but Blubs is always there for him and they make a good team in their ineptness. Them admitting their love for one another at the end is a sweet scene.

Blendin Blandin – The time traveler from last season is back and challenges Mabel and Dipper to a game of death. He loses and changes from it when he sees that they didn’t know they had ruined his life. He also comes to their aid with the Time Baby to take on Bill Cipher, though they don’t end up being successful.

Candy and Grenda – These two are wonderful! Grenda ends up with a prince because she of her blunt nature, Candy dates Dipper briefly and throughout it all they help Mabel get over her obsession with a boy band and a bunch of other things. These were great supporting characters.

Pacifica – Pacifica is a bully to Mabel and we soon learn why she is the way she is when we see her parents are high strung and emotionally abusive. She is the one to redeem her family when a past man the family wronged is turning everyone into wood and she must let the townspeople into the mansion. It’s awesome and though she puts on heirs later she shows that she has changed and isn’t the elitist she used to be. I really liked her character and hope they had done more with what came of her arc.

Mid-Season Finale – The portal opens and Mabel, Soos and Dipper have to trust Stan as we learn that his brother wrote the journals and was trapped in an alternate dimension this entire time…and that is why Stan has been so secretive as everything he’s done has been to get him back.

Old Man McGucket – McGucket was a tech guy who was brought in by Ford (Stan’s brother) who ends up going insane when he looks into the alternate dimension so he forms an organization to help the townspeople forget the weirdness of the Falls…this eventually leads to him going insane and becoming mad with power as it his his tech that’s been fought on multiple occasions. Luckily in the final he gets his shot at redemption.

Soos – Soos is the loveable nerd who is Stan’s trainee as he seeks to learn all he can to eventually run the Mystery Shack. His arc this season is finding confidence as we see him date and eventually get together with Melody (a fellow nerd) after he moves beyond the dating sim and when Weirdmaggedon hits hes the most prepared and becomes a hero to the populace, wandering and doing random acts of heroism before moving on. He is a great character.

Wendy – Wendy is a great character and in this we see her break up with Robbie (when he was mind controlling her with his music) and set down boundaries with Dipper as their friendship grows. She continues to be the trouble maker on the side and when Weirdmaggedon comes around she is the survivor as her family always sent her off to survival camp for Christmas, she is the epic hero of the new Gravity Falls besides Soos and she helps Dipper save Mabel and the town.

Ford – Ford is Stan’s twin brother who was always the genius and had the chance to get into an amazing university until Stan sabotaged it since he wanted to travel the world with him. This eventually leads to Ford exploring the paranormal leading him to Gravity Falls and a deal with Bill Cipher which costs him greatly, leading him to research on how to stop Bill. He’s never been a people person so his arc is resolving things with his brother and building a relationship with his niece and nephew. J.K. Simmons is great as his voice.

Mabel – Mabel’s arc this season is one of letting go, whether it was the boy band she was raising in her home as pets, or the paradise of never having to leave Gravity Falls (which she makes a deal with Bill Cipher over). She does eventually learn how to let go though and her grappling hook comes in handy in the final assault against Bill Cipher and his minions.

Dipper – Dipper’s arc is dealing with boundaries and masculinity. We see this when he dates for datings sake without any emotional investment and tries to be a player like Stan (both of them end up hurt) and in his sabotage of Wendy and Robbie’s relationship. In the end he keeps the friendships he built though and finds those are what matters most. He also realizes the danger of the diaries too when he summons zombies to show that Gravity Falls is supernatural to the FBI. He teams up with Wendy when Weirdmaggedon hits.

Grunkle Stan – Grunkle Stan is a liar, con man and theif whose entire life is a bunch of mess ups that is he is trying to atone for. From ruining Ford’s project, to the fight with Ford that lead to Ford falling into an alternate dimension and everything else. Stan’s arc is for redemption as we see his love for his Mabel and Dipper motivates him to be better and not a coward. He’s my favorite character in the show and I really like how they handle his story in the Finale.

Weirdmageddon

Weirdmageddon – Bill Cipher creates a hellscape of Weirdmaggedon (and gets a physical body) after he make a deal with Mabel to get what he needs to bring his dimension into ours. It’s a twisted hellscape where he turns the townspeople into stone to use as a chair and is populated by being who only want to cause destruction and mayhem. It really shows how powerful Bill is and what the town of Gravity Falls is up against to free themselves from the end. Weirdmaggedon is confined only to the falls though, thanks to smart thinking on Ford’s part and placing a barrier around the town. I really respect Hirsch for creating this nightmare in a kid’s show and changing the theme song to boot to go with it.

Bill Cipher – Bill is the big bad and eventually wins for a while thanks to Mabel making the deal. The demon loves chaos for chaos sake and we see just how powerful he is as he takes on the Resistance’s mech on his own and takes out Ford easily in the first few minutes of Weirdmaggedon. For this reason his defeat is rewarding as he won so thoroughly after Mabel made the deal.

The Resistance – The Resistance is great! There is a Unicorn, Gnomes, a Manitaur and quite a few others. When Mabel and Dipper join them they turn the Mystery Shack into a mech via Old Man McGucket (who finally uses his power for good) and take on Bill at his castle so they can free the town. They are amazing and I’d have watched an episode of just them and their interactions. The picture below is of the members of the Resistance.

Grunkle Stan’s Sacrifice – In the end Grunkle Stan saves the day and risks his mind for his kids as Ford knows how to drop the barrier around Gravity Falls so he and Stan switch places, tricking Bill so that the mind-eraser can be used on him. Thanks to Stan the day is saved and Weirdmaggedon ends.

Gravity Falls Resistance

The Ending – The ending deals with the aftermath as the mayor says that they won’t speak of the day again since no one understands what happened anyway and Ford, Mabel and Dipper deal with a Stan with no memory so share a scrapbook of the summer to help him remember everything again! After they have to say good-bye though and Dipper and Wendy swap hats to remember each other and she gives him a letter, Mabel keeps her pig Waddles and Ford and Stan go on an adventure together to fight monsters on the ocean as Stan gives Soos the Mystery Shack. It’s a sweet ending that captures the relationships of the show really well.

What I would have Changed – The fact that this happened over a summer limits the possiblities, and this is Disney and after how horrible Weirdmageddon was to the populace I get writing a happy ending. I wanted Grunkle Stan to have his memory lost though, Bill is a powerful demon and if it’d been permanent it would give the audience the chance to deal with it within their own lives in regards to family with Alzheimers. The fact that it was only a summer limited the chance to explore that though so it was still really good but I would have had it be permanent or have a character death (yeah, I’m horrible).

This is a show that is well worth your time. The animation is beautiful, there is a great antagonist, the characters change over time and the drama and mystery that drives the plot has great answers at the end. The tension never leaves the show because of the drama and mystery and in the end, the ending is touching and really shows that Dipper and Mabel have changed from their experiences at Gravity Falls, and that in the end, they always have next summer.

Final Score: 9.7 / 10 (Not going to give a perfect rating to since the Dipper dating episode didn’t really work and the “Dungeons and Dragons” episode was kind of weak). The FBI agents didn’t work within the show either and felt tacked on. Besides these things, this is a show I’ll be coming back to. It is easily one of the best animated shows ever made.

Gravity Falls Characters