As “Dungeons, Dungeons and More Dungeons” opens, the town of Gravity Falls is still reeling from the events of “Not What He Seems” (and the flashback-intensive follow-up “A Tale of Two Stans”). The Gravity Falls Gossiper has a headline that says, “Town Upside Down” and the Mystery Shack, that beacon of capitalist enterprise, is closed. Not that Mabel minds (“Lazy Tuesday, you are delivering in a big way,” she coos). Of course this (relatively) calm scene is interrupted by Ford, battling a one-eyed squid monster that wouldn’t be out of place on Gravity Falls’ new station-mate Doctor Who. Dipper wants to help but Ford isn’t so sure. “On the dark weird road I travel, I’m afraid you cannot follow,” Ford gravely intones, before adding cheerily: “Welp, call me for dinner!” Stan warns Dipper of Ford’s dangerous experiments and Mabel suggests that Dipper devote his time to the season finale of her favorite TV show, Duck-Tective. While Mabel insists the show is all the mystery Dipper needs, he longs for something more … otherworldly.
And with that, Gravity Falls is back!
When the show returns from its super catchy theme music, Mabel is scribbling a letter to her parents. This is, as far as we can remember, the first time the twins’ parents have been explicitly referenced. What makes the letter so interesting is that Mabel is, in her charmingly Mabel-ish way, explaining the general weirdness that has recently befallen the sleepy Pacific Northwest town. Then, thanks to a news clip, we see various Gravity Falls townsfolk, in the wake of the event (Lazy Susan jokes that she’s going to have to sell “right-side up cake”) and Mayor Befufflefumpter decrees that the rejuvenation of Gravity Falls begins. Mabel even tells her parents about Ford.
Unable to join Ford in his adventuring, Dipper instead turns to a turn-based board game called Dungeons, Dungeons and More Dungeons. Initially, Mabel is intrigued (“that hot elf looks promising”) but after Skipper explains some of the rules, including the heavy use of math, she bounces. (Soos is more of an FCLORP-er, which stands for “Foam and Cardboard Legitimate Outdoor Role Play,” so bows out.) Stan just makes fun of him. So Dipper is forced to play by himself outside, with Gompers the goat. After Dipper chases his 38-sided die into Ford’s underground lab, he finds someone who is willing to play with him: Ford, who exclaims, “This is my favorite game in the whole multiverse—I can’t believe they still make it!”
Meanwhile, Mabel and Stan are preparing for the Duck-Tective finale. Ford and Dipper are in the basement playing their game. In one of the best jokes of the episode, Ford marvels that the evil wizard in the game has undergone a scary reinvention since he last played his game, while Dipper recounts the character’s “cooler” ‘90s makeover, leading into a vintage commercial full of ‘90s slang and iconography. “Must have been dark times, those ‘90s,” Dipper says with a shiver. But when Dipper tries to press Ford for details of his inter-dimensional journey, he rebuffs him. Finally, Ford throws him a bone and shows Dipper one of his magical doohickeys: an infinity-sided die. “These things are outlawed in 9,000 dimensions. Infinite sides means infinite outcomes,” Ford explains.
Later that night, Mabel expresses concern over Dipper spending so much time with “Old Fordsy.” And when Grenda comes over to watch Duck-Tective with Mabel and Stan, they’re in for a rude awakening: Ford and Dipper have expanded their game to include the TV room. They’re going for a world record. When Ford mocks Stan for getting “all keyed up to watch a kids’ show,” Stan, in a moment of extreme meta-textual awareness, says that Duck-Tective has “a big mystery element and lots of humor that goes over kids’ heads.” As the argument gets more and more extreme, Stan grabs Ford’s bag of dice and accidentally rolls the infinity-sided die, unleashing dark wizard Probabilator (voiced by “Weird Al” Yankovic) and some fantasy realm goons, threatening to eat Ford and Dipper’s brains (“It’s what I do”). Suddenly, Dungeons, Dungeons and More Dungeons becomes very, very real.
With Ford and Dipper abducted by magical, potentially murderous fantasy creatures, Stan sighs and says, “Alright, I guess if we have no other choice, we’ll go on an epic wizard quest.” After grabbing their weapons (Grenda takes an armchair), Mabel cries out, “We’re coming for you Dipper, and Great Uncle Ford, and that hot elf, if he’s got anything to do with this.” Then they set off on their journey. When Stan, Grenda, and Mabel get to where Ford and Dipper are being held, Probabilator challenges them to a game of Dungeons, Dungeons and More Dungeons, “real-life edition!” This means that Dipper and Ford are shrunk down, placed on a magical game board, and forced to do the bidding of the players, Mabel and Stan (who made endless fun of the game earlier in the episode). If they win, Probabilator will go back to his own dimension and if they lose, Ford and Dipper’s brains will be devoured by a character who sounds a lot like the guy who popularized song parodies decades before the Internet.
These sequences with the game board are thrilling and hilarious, playing up the somewhat nonsensical guidelines of these types of games (they require “risk” and “imagination”). “I cast giggle-time bouncy boots!” Mabel exclaims, and the soundtrack replicates the chirpy score of a 1980’s dungeon-crawler video game. It’s pretty magical (we really love the “ogrenado,” especially since “it’s exactly what it sounds like”). Of course, it comes down to Probabilator using a nearly impossible foe (from the “controversial 1991-1992 edition”) that requires Stan to use dumb luck that turns out to be flagrant cheating, leading Mabel to cast the fatal blow, in the form of “death muffins.” Afterwards, Stan gives Dipper his blessing to hang out with Ford, while Dipper instead ops for some “mindless fun” in the form of the Duck-Tective finale. The actual Duck-Tective footage is hilarious (apparently the show is British) and again leads to some ace in-show commentary from Mabel, who says, “He had a twin brother all along? That’s the big twist we were waiting for?” (Soos, perhaps echoing some online commenters, says, “I predicted that like a year ago.”) In the basement, Ford locks away the infinity-sided die and shows Dipper what he’s been working on: dismantling the portal that brought him back to Gravity Falls. And then he drops a bombshell: the instability of the portal created an inter-dimensional rift. “I’ve contained it for now but it’s incredibly dangerous,” Ford explains. Ford locks the rift away, which is a psychedelic, swirling goo in a glass orb and the episode ends … ominously.
“Dungeons, Dungeons and More Dungeons” is a truly satisfying episode, mostly because it establishes the new paradigm that future episodes will presumably follow, folding in Ford (excellently voiced by recent Academy Award-winner J.K. Simmons) and introducing a new, even more dangerous threat in the form of the rift. It swaps out Dipper’s motivation (instead of searching for the author of the book, he’s on a quest to join the author’s adventure) and establishes clear lines of conflict between Ford and Stan, as well as double-underlining the parallels between Dipper and Mabel and Ford and Stan. And it’s also really, really fun. The episode’s bout of weirdness is introduced late in the episode but plays out well and has an appropriate level of danger (Yankovic’s performance, too, is out-of-the-magical-shire amazing). It will be interesting to see where the series goes from here, and what’s going on with that swirling vortex goo.