“Gravity Falls” Season 1 – Mystery, Relationships and one of the Best Animated Show Introductions

Gravity Falls Season 1

Disney X.D. has really done a great job in putting out quality shows. Whether it is “Star Wars Rebels” or “Gravity Falls” Disney like Marvel is telling stories that are powerful, fun and manage to capture what it means to be human so well. “Gravity Falls” is one of the best executions of this.

The series was created by Alex Hirsch and inspired by summer vacations spent with his twin sister.

The story involves the Mabel and Dipper Pines being sent to Gravity Falls to spend the summer with their Grunkle Stan. All is not as it appears to be though as Dipper discovers a mysterious journal as together they experience and seek out the mysteries of Gravity Falls.

The Pros: Gravity Falls – Gravity Falls is a fun town with colorful characters. Everyone there is a bit strange in different ways and it makes the town a lot of fun. Hell, this would be a fun town even if there were no supernatural elements in it. It is this location that gives us all our stories and it’s importance cannot be stated enough.

The Animation – The animation is stunning and has a charm to it. It works for the world and there is depth to the world that the animation portrays. The animation team also gets really creative too with bringing a videogame character to life at one point and all of Mabel’s 80’s colorful visions.

The Soundtrack – Brad Breeck created an amazing soundtrack with this! It’s like X-Files meets an Indie Band which captures the feel of Oregon and Gravity Falls really well. The theme song is probably my favorite for any animated show.

The Comedy – The comedy is some of the best. A lot of it comes from who are characters naturally are, like Dipper being OCD, Mabel being crazy about glitter and shiny things, Soos and his good nature but also not being very bright and Grunkle Stan and his hustling and money making schemes. The comedy flows naturally from the world and how the many members of Gravity Falls interact with one another or what they discover in regards to the Supernatural.

The Creatures – We meet the hyper-masculine Manataurs, Gnomes, living Wax figures, a vidoegame character brought to life, Mermando, the Summerween Trickster and more and each is more than what they appear to be. The creatures aren’t all that simple are given moments of depth in what drives them. It’s really cool and part of what gives the show it’s charm.

The Characters – The characters are the strongest part and they have arcs they go through over the course of the Season. I’m covering the main characters here as a lot of the other members of Gravity Falls don’t get full exploration until Season 2.

Wendy – Wendy is the apathetic teen who works at the Mystery Shack and is always down for breaking the rules. Over the course of Season 1 we see her break up with Robbie when she learns he was hypnotizing her and from there her going of her own way. She’s a fantastic character and easily the toughest character on the show.

Grunkle Stan – Grunkle Stan is a hustler who cares about his kids. Most of what he does is illegal but he’s a good manager as we see he knows what it takes to make the Mystery Shack successful. His arc is being more open with his feelings even though he is hiding a portal he is building in the basement so he isn’t honest with Mabel and Dipper yet. He’s probably my favorite character on the show in Season 1. Also he looks a lot like Wario.

Soos – Soos is a great guy who really doesn’t have an arc but is a good character. He lives with his Grandmother and is the fix it guy around the Mystery Shack. He is the glue of the show as he is always down for an adventure and is great friends with both Mabel and Dipper and helps them in their adventures from Day 1.

Mabel – Mabel is a fantastic character! She is into glitter and has so much energy. She has some of the best jokes and humor. Much of her adventures involve her many crushes, whether it is a boy band who she learns are grown in a lab, Mermando the Merman and countless others. It is these romantic misadventures and adventures that set up a lot of the humor. She takes it in stride though and learns to let and not take it personally. She is all about helping others too and helps Stan and Dipper on multiple occasions.

Dipper – Dipper is the anxious 12 year old boy who spends his time at Gravity Falls pining after Wendy and seeking to solve the mysteries of the town when he discovers a mysterious journal. He’s the closest thing the show has to a protagonist and his arc involves him being more aware of Mabel and in doing so becoming a better brother and realizing the ways he’s been a jerk and selfish and realizing that Stan really does care about him and discovering he is more than the journal and is strong on his own. He really is a good protagonist.

The Ending – The ending involves facing Lil’Gideon who was a fake psychic in a prior episode (was using a device to read people’s minds and later video) and the final fight is awesome as Dipper takes Gideon out in his robot and after we see Grunkle Stan has all the journals and activates a mysterious portal. It’s really cool and sets up Season 2 really well.

Bill Cipher – Bill Cipher is the one really threatening villain who doesn’t need motivation as he’s a chaos demon. I can’t wait to see what is done with him as he is fought in the Dreamscape at one point when our characters are protecting the numbers to the safe that hold Stan’s will to the Mystery Shack. He has a great design and does feel like an inter-dimensional being.

Okay: The Villains – In Season 1 the villains are largely played for comedy so a lot of them never get the chance to be humanized. This is a shame as the show is so good at humanizing the other characters. Having watched ahead I know this gets fixed but at least for Season 1, this was a con. I wanted to know why Gideon and Pacifica. This is the only downside though as the humor and situations make this secondary to the overarching plot of the Pines Family and their friends.

This is the best american animated tv show I have watched since “Batman: The Animated Series,” and the best thing to come out of Disney’s animated television team since “Gargoyles” it is well worth checking out has so much depth in the characters and relationships and gives some hilarious situations too. All our characters learn about themselves and we are still left with mysteries to explore in Season 2. This is a show that treats the audience and it’s characters and world with respect.

Final Score: 9.7 / 10

Gravity Falls Characters

Gone Home – An Amazing Game of Love, Mystery and Relationships

Gone_Home

        I’ve never been one for games that are purely exploration. Often times I find them overly convoluted and confusing and the gameplay tiring. It’s one reason I could never get into the “Myst” series…Though I am willing to give that series another chance as one of my favorite games is an exploration game, “Journey.” “Gone Home” is also a favorite after playing it last night, though mostly because of how immerse the story is. Suffice to say, if you like a good mystery and powerful story, chances are you will like this game.

      The game was developed Fullbright, designed by Steve Gaynor and composed by Chris Remo. The game is in the style of a first person interactive story adventure game.

     The story involves Kaitlin Greenbriar who has returned home after being gone for a long time traveling and studying abroad in Europe. When she arrives to the home her family had recently moved into she finds that everyone in her family is missing and must piece together the mystery of what happened as well as the mystery surrounding her Uncle Oscar who owned the house before.

From here on there are spoilers.

The Pros: The Soundtrack – Chris Remo did a great job on the soundtrack! There is the haunting sounds in the house combined with punk rock music and jazz when you put cassette tapes into tape players around the house. It gives the mansion a lived in feel beyond the graphics and items you interact with.

The Graphics – The graphics are fantastic! The house is beautifu/l and it is haunting as you are trapped inside with no way to contact the outside world as the phones are down because of the storm. There are also tons of rooms that are really detailed. From the bedroom of your little Sister Samantha who is the character who learn the most about and your father’s study as well as your mother’s sewing room. Each room has a distinct personality that the graphics portray really well. This also includes the hidden rooms that have a really scary feel to them and feel like they’re out of “Silent Hill” at times.

The House – As described above, the house is wonderful and has so much personality to it. From the hidden rooms with abandoned crosses and a safe, to Sam’s rockstar room, to the ornate bedroom and study of the parents. The house feels real and mysterious and is pretty much a character all on it’s own. Wanting to learn more about what it revealed was a big part of what kept me playing.

The Story – The story is amazing! There are a few stories that you get in the overacing narrative. Your Mom has a crush on one of the Ranger’s she works with and is having marriage problems with the father who was possibly molested by Uncle Oscar and lives in shame of his father’s expectations of him as an author as he largely rights pulp…and Oscar’s store going under and his seeking redemption from his Sister for what he did.

The Prime story is that of Sam and her girlfriend Lonnie. The story involves Sam accepting she loves Lonnie and expressing that through her story of Captain Allegro and the First Mate who go on adventures together and are lovers. Her parents are religious though and they don’t believe her when she comes out to them and put her under house arrest. Later when they go to work on their relationship at a retreat, Lonnie leaves the military and runs away with Sam and you find the Journal entries that describe all of Sam’s experiences of learning how much she loves Lonnie, her being an outcast at school and her past friendship with Danny and making peace with herself enough to the point that she can leave home and make a life with the woman she loves. Katie is the one who learns all of this and we see and hear it through her experiences of discovering the mystery of why the house is empty.

The Characters – Uncle Oscar – His ghost haunts the house but it isn’t literal. He probably molested Terry (the Father of Sam and Katie) as we see Terry’s height measured throughout the years but stops at age 12 in 1963, which relates directly to the stories Terry writes about JFK and the assassination of him. He is not a good person and though he seeks redemption and has regret, we have no reason to trust him. I put this character as a pro because he reveals Terry to us in regards to Terry’s drinking and trust issues and also we see how Lonnie and Sam are ghost hunters as well as they try and get rid of what they see as his ghost haunting the house.

The Parents – Terry is insecure and drinks a lot and has a powerful artistic mind. His niche market even catches on with Time Travel and the Assassination of JFK. We don’t really know his relationship to his wife though and sadly his rejection of his daughter (whether from his experience with Uncle Oscar (not realizing that Pedophilia and Homosexuality are two very different things) or his insecurity in his marriage lead him rejecting Lonnie and Sam (or his religious belief, “Bibles” are all over the house). The Mom is pretty driven too as she gets promoted in Oregon in the Forest Service is maybe having an affair with Ranger Rick and sews and is in contact writing letters with one of her old friends. She’s also an immigrant from Canada. We see she’s supportive of her husband even though she is exploring another option. The marriage is complicated but I get her doubts given the amount her husband drinks and his doubts and we don’t know if he ever shared what happened when he was 12. They are off at a Marriage Retreat when Katie returns home though.

Sam and Lonnie – Sam and Lonnie are pretty distinct and awesome characters. Sam is quite and an artist who finds her voice both in coming out to her folks and when she runs away with Lonnie. Lonnie is tough and independent and is a singer in a band and is all about self improvement via her nearly joining the military. They are pulled apart at one point as Sam is looking at Reed College since she has a scholarship and Lonnie is joining the military. After Sam comes out to her parents though they choose each other. They are reckless but committed and it makes them very human and my favorite characters in this.

The Message – The message is one of equality and love and it is powerful. We see two people who are willing to risk everything for one another since who they are has been rejected by their parents. It’s powerful and shows just how rejected they were. The time period is the 90’s but in some families in the United States an LBGTQ relationship would still be seen as wrong and be rejected and not seen as love even when love is there. This message speaks to the affect that has on people. If Lonnie’s or Sam’s parents had accepted their relationship, they would not have run away as they’d feel they had a safe space to be together and themselves.

Okay/Pro: The  Gameplay – The gameplay is good but not great. There were many times I wish I could have explored more objects or learned more of what each object meant. For example, your father’s novels about the “JFK Assisination” where a Time Traveler goes back in time to stop it and later on wants to save himself was a story I wanted to read. This story is a glimpse into your Father’s life just as “Captain Allegro and the First Mate” are glimpses into who your sister Sam is. I also wish you could go outside so there would be more than just the feel of danger as you explore the house.

Okay: Katie – Katie is a cipher and we don’t get much of her personality beyond her love of adventure and her family. I wish we could have got her thoughts about Sam and Lonnie running away and if she accepted them and loved them the way her parents never could. Still we get some characterization, I just wanted more.

   I played the game in full with my partner playing a few places in it. She had played it earlier and I am extremely grateful she introduced this game to me and that I got to play and discuss it with her. It was a story we could relate to in many ways and the characters were so real. When I started to play it was hard for me to put down, which is one reason I consider it a favorite game. The gameplay was good enough that it didn’t interfere with the story and it was still a puzzle and discovery game rather than an interactive movie. I highly recommend this game and not because of the story message, it is a great game and one of the beset I’ve finished in a while.

Final Score: 9.4 / 10