28th Oct2015

‘Gravity Falls 2×18: Weirdmageddon Part I’ Review

by Gretchen Felker-Martin

“Fighting children is boring. Fighting a Chaos God sounds fun!”

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I’d bet good money that the storyboard for ‘Weirdmageddon Part I’ just reads “take it to the wall.” It’s twenty jam-packed minutes of phantasmagorical horror and oddness with an extended Road Warrior homage, Louis C. K. as a hapless and ravenous giant head with an arm growing out the top of his skull, and a scene in which Wendy breaks a grown man’s ulna and radius. This is the best kind of rising action, a sequence of skin-of-their-teeth escapes and outright disasters for Dipper and co building up to what promises to be a tripped-out resolution to the series’ emotional arcs. The mysteries are pretty much over at this point, burned up over the course of the show’s run just like Ford’s journals after Bill got hold of them.

The episode is concerned primarily with setting up the stakes for what will presumably be a three-part season finale and, unless someone at Disney can smell season 3 coming in the air tonight, the end of Gravity FallsIt does a hell of a job. It’s tempting just to list bizarre sights, like Jason Ritter and Linda Cardellini as live-action Dipper and Wendy or the Gravity Falls water tower sprouting fangs and rampaging through town, and in a way that’s sort of what ‘Weirdmageddon Part I’ is going for. There’s no real need for plot when we can watch waves of demonic insanity pulse through the town we’ve grown to know and love, ripping it apart one person at a time. Bill Cipher’s reign of directionless chaos even corrupts the credits sequence, maybe the single most beloved part of the show.

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Visually, ‘Weirdmageddon Part I’ is a feast. From the Lynchian angles and ugliness of Bill’s Fearamid to the weirded-out wasteland of the town, the episode spares no expense when it comes to bringing the horror home. The detail lavished on places like Wendy’s refuge in an ersatz Hot Topic is incredible, especially considering the episode spends perhaps a minute on it. If Bill’s exercises in terror and chaos are jumbled or thematically clashing, that’s more or less in service to his characterization, and there isn’t an image in the episode that beats the gory revelation that his hat is made of his own flesh.

“It’s Gideon, and he’s gotten even folksier,” says Wendy when Dipper and Mabel’s old nemesis, freed from prison by an enormous Gompers, shows up as the ringleader of a gang of convicts driving his father’s used cars rejiggered into war rigs. At first it seems like that’s the joke. Gideon reaffirms his obsession with Mabel, capers and cavorts, references his total lack of a neck, and then Lord Humunguses out onto the badlands after Dipper and Wendy. It feels a little stale, but Gideon’s exchange with Dipper after Wendy wrecks their getaway car does a lot to make up for it. Contrasting Dipper’s maturation with regards to his feelings toward Wendy with Gideon’s inability to see Mabel as a human being who knows her own mind is a smart decision, and spiced with “Gideon hates being second fiddle to anyone, even an immortal trickster demon” it really sells Gideon’s rapid about-face. The moment feels earned and justifies bringing Gideon back into the show, giving his cackling arc a surprisingly bittersweet conclusion.

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There isn’t much more to say. Gravity Falls has put all its pieces into play and pulled off an incredibly difficult feat: resolving all its mysteries without deflating all tension. ‘Weirdmageddon Part I’ is winding up for a huge pitch, and when Dipper, The Soos With No Name, and Wendy head into that enormous floating prison sphere there’s a real frisson of excitement and melancholy in the air. If this is the end then the show is in a perfect position to deliver a real humdinger, its waving cluster of plot tentacles trimmed down to a manageable number. Ford’s and Stan’s broken relationship, the end of Mabel and Dipper’s childhoods, and the fate of the town.

That’s all there is left.

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