One of the TV shows that I’ve really gotten into recently has been Gravity Falls. Through its mix of great stories, solid humour, strong voice acting and incredible animation it has consistently had some of the best TV episodes of any show on air at the moment. Sadly though, this show is ending after 2 seasons at the decision of show creator Alex Hirsch. Whilst it’s a shame we won’t get more episodes, I support Hirsch’s decision to end the show before it gets stale and whilst there is still the potential to return to the series. To honour the brilliance of Gravity Falls, here are my top 10 favourite episodes. Keep in mind, there will be a lot of spoilers for the ending of Gravity Falls on here so, if you want to watch Gravity Falls, watch the full series first then read this.
10. Blendin’s Game – Something that will become apparent pretty quickly is that most of the episodes on this list are here because of their strong character work and this is a great place to start that trend. For most of the series, there wasn’t really much character development for Soos but that changed with this episode, although it was difficult for me to decide whether to put Soos and the Real Girl on over this for similar reasons, but I feel this one has more emotional depth. We find out a lot about Soos’ past, mainly his dad leaving him and his feelings of abandonment resulting from it. These scenes with the young Soos are heartbreaking to watch, the reactions of Dipper and Mabel fitting the tone of these scenes. Whilst the character stuff is the best part of the episode, the humour is on top form. The scenes with Blendin are a lot of fun to watch, particularly the Tron inspired Globnar, adding to the future world we’ve seen before in Gravity Falls, along with giving some depth to Blendin as well, but whilst Blendin is the title character, this is Soos’ episode and a great bit of development for the character.
9. Land Before Swine – This episode is on here mainly because it’s the one that introduced me to Gravity Falls through the Admirable Animation by Mr Enter, but still this is a great episode. It provides a lot of great character development for Stan and Soos, showing the strengths of the characters and calling them out for how they have caused a lot of problems in the past whilst also showing the importance of them in their relationships to Dipper and Mabel. The humour is top notch throughout (particularly the scenes with Old Man McGucket) , the sight of Stan punching a pterodactyl in the face is suitably awesome and it has some of the best animation in the show, mainly with the backgrounds in the dinosaur lair and the scenes involving the pterodactyl flying around.
8. Dipper and Mabel vs. The Future – Over the course of the series we’ve seen the differences between Dipper and Mabel in terms of their personalities but this is the episode where it comes to the forefront and the selfishness that both the characters have. Dipper choosing to stay in Gravity Falls to work with Ford and Mabel wanting summer to last forever shows their selfishness in separate ways, Dipper wanting to improve his mind and Mabel wanting to have fun. However, it’s the discussions over the future that push this onto the list. Seeing the heartbreak for Mabel as she realises that this may be the last summer she can truly spend with Dipper as they go their separate ways in the future is incredibly compelling, along with seeing the optimism that has carried her throughout the show crushed, to the point where she is susceptible to being tricked by Bill Cipher, leading into one of the darkest moments in the show. Plus, this episode has some great alien related action scenes to balance out the heavier themes, so there’s that.
7. Northwest Mansion Mystery – Throughout most of the series, Pacifica Northwest has been one of my most hated characters in the show (in a deliberate way), but from The Golf War we find out more about the character making her much more sympathetic. This reaches its peak in this episode. Aside from being a brilliantly handled ghost story and having some great moments for Mabel, Candy and Grenda, the scenes with Dipper and the Northwest family are the highlights of the episode. We see all the cruelty of the Northwest family throughout the history of the town, their spoiled, arrogant nature and their selfishness. best seen in a brilliant performance from Nathan Fillion as Preston Northwest. The cruelty shown to Pacifica meanwhile adds so much depth to the character, how she was conditioned into her attitude by her parents, her more sympathetic side and her desire to do good for the Northwest family name all come to a head at the end of the episode all serving to make Pacifica an incredibly compelling character in a brilliantly done story.
6. Dreamscaperers – So here we’re introduced to the main villain of the series, Bill Cipher in a suitably insane episode. Here the true insanity of Gravity Falls comes to life. By introducing such a powerful character with no limits to his power in the dream world the stakes of Gravity Falls start to rise to a level not seen before. Plus, by going include the dream of Grunkle Stan, there’s a strong personal stake, particularly as we find out more about Stan’s backstory. The dream environment also allows for some of the most unique animation in the show and the introduction of some of the funniest recurring characters when we see what Mabel can create in a dream world, leading to possibilities explored in greater detail in the series finale.
5. Not What He Seems – This is probably the most game-changing episode of Gravity Falls. Not only do we find out who the author of the journals is, but we also find out that the Stan we’ve been following is not the real Stanford Pines. The sense of betrayal that Dipper and Mabel feel is incredible to see and the decision made by Mabel at the end is a great show of everything that makes Mabel both a good person and incredibly naive, doing something incredibly dangerous, not knowing the consequences, reinforcing the theme of trust throughout the series, Dipper not trusting anyone, Mabel trusting everyone. The look of this episode is more distinct than other episodes of Gravity Falls, being a lot darker, the red backgrounds giving the episode a great, ominous feel that adds to the darker tone of the episode. And yeah, the reveal of the author at the end, whilst a bit obvious, was incredibly well executed.
4. Society of the Blind Eye – One of the biggest issues I had with Gravity Falls was that none of the other residents of the town mentioned any of the weird occurrences after each episode ended. In this episode we find out why, the residents wee willingly wiping their memories to maintain some semblance of normality. From this we get some great character development for Old Man McGucket. Originally he was just a joke character but here we see one of the more disturbing back stories in the series. We see how the brilliant mind McGucket had was destroyed through his experiences with the author and his desire to forget what he saw, later finding out it was related to Bill Cipher. This is one of the most disturbing episodes of the show and continues to show how good Gravity Falls is in this area.
3. The Last Mabelcorn – This episode does a great job in building up to the series finale of Gravity Falls, showing what could happen if Bill Cipher gets his hands on the rift created when Stan opened the portal to bring Ford back. From here we get to see some really intense and creepy imagery in relation to Bill and we see how Ford’s mindset of not trusting anyone is being transplanted into Dipper. The true horror seen in the episode though comes through the mind games that Bill plays, seeing how Ford was tricked into building the portal for Bill and it was only when McGucket went through it and saw Bill’s dimension that Ford realised what Bill was doing. The episode isn’t all creepy though, there is a lighter side with Mabel’s story with her, Wendy, Candy and Grenda going to find a unicorn to use its hair to protect the Mystery Shack from Bill. There’s some great character development for Mabel in terms of her doubts about how good a person she is coming to the forefront, along with some of the best comedy in the show in relation to the unicorns and to the reappearance of the gnomes, seeing more of their society. It ends though on one of the most terrifying prospects for Gravity Falls, yes Bill can’t possess anyone inside the shack, but he can possess anyone else, something which comes to fruition in Dipper and Mabel vs. the Future when he possesses Blendin, using him to get the rift from Mabel.
2. Weirdmageddon – With this entry, I’m considering all three parts of Weirdmageddon as one whole episode, a singular hour and a half finale to Gravity Falls and this is an incredibly satisfying ending. Sure the gaps between each episode were annoyingly long buy this made sure that the quality of each episode was retained. This is the episode where Bill Cipher takes full control of Gravity Falls and spreads his weirdness, creating some of the most terrifying images in children’s television (just look at what he did to Preston Northwest), along with the best animation the episode has seen. However, it’s with the character development that Weirdmageddon really shines. The first episode does a good job building up the threat of Bill Cipher, showing the damage that can be done if he escapes Gravity Falls but it’s in parts 2 and 3 that the real stakes of Weirdmageddon come in: the relationship between siblings. Part 2 focuses on the relationship between Dipper and Mabel, showing how, even if reality is more painful than living in fantasy (as represented by Mabel’s bubble), the love that Dipper and Mabel have for each other will carry them through even the hardest times. Part 3 meanwhile, focuses on Stan and Ford, showing the damage that the rift in their relationship can cause and the importance of forgiveness and realising the strengths that they have and how important they are to saving others. This is why it had to be Stan who defeated Bill Cipher. Throughout the series we see the lengths Stan will go to to protect his family and how damaged he became when Ford rejected him and this love for family made him the perfect person to defeat Bill, showing how he was willing to sacrifice everything to protect the people he loves. The real stakes of Weirdmageddon weren’t over whether Bill Cipher would be defeated but in whether the relationship between two brothers can be repaired. On top of that, some of the mysteries plaguing the show from the start (notably the importance of the Cipher Wheel) were solved, we saw great character resolutions for Gideon, McGucket (in a very touching scene with Ford), Pacifica and Soos (who couldn’t have had a better ending), the full declaration of love between Blubs and Durland and perfect choices for guest stars. Whilst humourous performances were given by Louis CK and Jon Stewart, it’s the final guest star that had the most poignancy. Throughout the series, there has been a clear influence of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, the atmosphere and tone of both shows having a lot of similarities. With the final character of the show, the influence became fully symbiotic with the appearance of Kyle MacLachlan, Dale Cooper in Twin Peaks. This was the perfect way for Gravity Falls to finish and I have to say, I did get a bit teary eyed at some moments. There’s only one episode which is better than this in my opinion.
1 A Tale of Two Stans – As soon as I saw this episode for the first time, I knew this would be my favourite episode of the show, even after watching Weirdmageddon, the only episode that would be at number one was going to be A Tale of Two Stans. After the ending of Not What He Seems, we needed to see an episode exploring the relationship between Stan and Ford and this was the perfect episode. We see how the relationship between Stan and Ford deteriorated from them being inseparable to them barely talking to each other and the events that cause this are heartbreaking to watch, seeing how it destroys Stan and Ford. A few mysteries are resolved here, including why McGucket invented the memory eraser, the writing of the journals, how Stan set up the Mystery Shack and his life before that. These segments also have some of the best humour in the series, mainly the con-artist games of Stan and the cheap products he sells. A final thing to mention is that the voice acting here is the best in the show, Alex Hirsch, JK Simmons and Jonathan Banks are all excellent and the family dynamic between the three performances helps make this episode work so well on an emotional level. This is as close to perfect as any episode of a TV show can get and I have no problem naming it my favourite episode of Gravity Falls.
- The Stanchurian Candidate
- Irrational Treasure
- Little Gift Shop of Horrors
So that’s Gravity Falls and I have to say, this will be remembered as one of the best animated shows ever made. Everything from the writing to the animation to the performances is incredible. Sure not everything in the show works (I’m not a fan of the episode The Love God) but when the show works, some of the best pieces of television ever made are created. I’d put A Tale of Two Stan’s up there with some of the other all time greatest TV episodes such as Breaking Bad’s Ozymandias, The West Wing’s Two Cathedrals, Blackadder Goes Forth’s Goodbyeee and Sherlock’s A Scandal in Belgravia. Shows like this prove that the Animation Age Ghetto doesn’t exist, how shows this good can translate to all audiences, who all see something different in the show, but everyone is united in solving the mysteries. I’m excited to see what Alex Hirsch will do in the future but, for my money, nothing he makes will ever top the masterpiece that is Gravity Falls.