04th Aug2015

‘Gravity Falls 2×13: Dungeons, Dungeons and More Dungeons’ Review

by Gretchen Felker-Martin

“Is this the game that’s mostly math and writing and isn’t anything like the picture on the box?”

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Shows like Adventure Time, Steven Universe, and Gravity Falls exist in a grey area when it comes to who, exactly, they’re made for. Ostensibly they’re for kids, but anyone with a Tumblr or who’s been to a con knows there’s more than a sprinkling of adults watching the post-20005 renaissance in kids’ animation. Even reviewing the show is a bit of a tangle when it comes to pitching tone toward children or adults.  ‘Dungeons, Dungeons, & More Dungeons’ side-eyes possible reasons adults might feel drawn to the fantastic and the bizarre, but its real agenda is poking good-natured fun at Dungeons & Dragons while telling a loopy, fast-paced story about an interdimensional nerd, the wizard Probabilitor(Al “Weird Al” Yankovic) trying to eat Ford and Dipper’s brains in the midst of a Pines family kerfuffle.

The tension between Ford and Dipper on the one hand and Stan and Mabel(with Grenda tagging along) on the other hangs on the former camp’s desire to cover the TV room in graph paper for a game of Dungeons, Dungeons, & More Dungeons, D&D lookalike over which they’ve begun to bond, and the latter camp’s equally powerful desire to watch the finale of the mystery program Ducktective. The zany premise melds well with the genuine strife developing under the Mystery Shack’s roof. Dipper, sick of being picked on and unable to find someone who’ll play his new game with him, stumbles into the previously forbidden territory of Ford’s lab where his newfound grunkle is thrilled to see a 38-sided die after his years abroad in the multiverse. Dipper has always been the black sheep at the Mystery Shack, the sole earnest nerd in a sea of kooks and cynics, so it makes perfect sense that he worships a man who not only shares many of his interests but who also wrote the journal around which he constructs his identity. Stan and Ford’s old feud finds new fuel in Mabel’s fear of the status quo changing as Dipper spends more and more time with their new grunkle,

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It’s heavy stuff, new rifts opening up between Mable and Dipper as old conflict threatens to disrupt the makeshift Pines family. It’s also maybe the funniest episode Gravity Falls has done to date. The joke density is so great that there’s no time to recover between gags like Ford trying to shoot and murder a wizard and Stan shouting that cartoons are for adults, too!(Though the question of whether Ducktective is “animated” or “live action” is…pretty fascinating, honestly). The single best gag, without question, is Stan and Grenda bonding over Grenda beating an ogre to death with a chair. “There’s no cops in the forest,” says Stan, looking at the ogre’s body. “We take this to our graves.” Grenda just winks.

This show’s voice cast is almost unbelievably good. Weird Al is wonderfully overwrought as Probabilitor, a math wizard summoned by an accidental roll of Ford’s infinity-sided die and, despite his hunger for brains, mostly just excited about role-playing games. J. K. Simmons, meanwhile, makes for a great intrepid but mildly dickish adventurer set against Jason Ritter’s eager Dipper and Alex Hirsch’s gravelly, unimpressed Stan. The final confrontation, in which Mabel and Stan have to learn how to play Dungeons, Dungeons, & More Dungeons in order to prevent Probabilitor from eating Ford and Dipper’s brains, is driven largely by the strength of the line readings from Yankovic’s evilly delighted, “I’m using the controversial nineteen ninety-one to nineteen ninety-two edition!” to Kristen Schaal’s exuberant invocation of the centaurtaur, a beast which should in no way be allowed to exist.

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The episode has a lot going for it, giving everyone from hardcore D&D nerds to devoted drama hounds something to chew on. It does solid and never histrionic work establishing that while the threat is over and Dipper and Ford have made a new and mutually valuable connection, the Pines family is far from resolving its problems. Season 2′s back half, now structured on the mystery of a literal rift as the dark shadow of the emotional ones between both sets of twins, seems primed to test the family’s fabric to its limit.

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