With the recent news that this week’s episode of Gravity Falls, “Weirdmageddon 2: Escape from Reality” is the second-to-last episode ever, it adds even more importance to an episode that already feels heavy and substantial. In fact, watching it again it seems impossible for the show to continue after the events of these final few episodes. But more on that in a bit …
The episode begins on the fourth day of Weirdmageddon; giant Lovecraftian beasts are menacing Gravity Falls citizens, with Bill turning many of them into statues that serve as the basis for his “massive throne of human agony.” As Bill says, “Gravity Falls is just the beginning, it’s time to take our chaos worldwide.” Except, as his band of intergalactic freaks, hooligans, and criminals attempt to leave Gravity Falls, they are blocked by some kind of invisible force field (it made us think of another work by frequent Gravity Falls touchstone Stephen King – his wonderful 2009 novel Under the Dome).
When the episode returns from the Bill version of the theme song (it’s just as unsettling as it was last week), we’re in a different kind of bubble: Wendy, Dipper, and Soos are inside Mabel’s prison bubble. “Our first step to stopping him [meaning Bill] is rescuing Mabel,” Dipper says, before they all fall, eventually landing on a bouncy castle ground. “Does the air smell like childlike wonder?” Soos asks. Everything looks like a child’s notebook from the early ‘90s; bright, shiny colors, rainbows galore, and that weird dolphin creature last seen during the season one episode “The Inconveniencing,” when Mabel ate all that expired sugar candy. (An unseen announcer states: “Today’s weather calls for rainbows with a chance of dance parties.” Waddles is there, as is Duck-tective. Soos, quoting Aladdin, asks, “What is this new world? Shining, shimmering, splendid?”
Eventually Xyler and Craz, Mabel’s weirdly ‘90s dream boys (they are actually from a movie called Dream Boy High, suggested by Mabel in “Dreamscapers”), welcome Dipper, Soos and Wendy to Mabeland (tagline: Perfection, but better!). They take our heroes on the grand tour, which includes getting served tropical drinks by adorable penguin butlers. Dipper warns that this is a world created by Bill, so the “punch is probably blood.” His theory: Bill is “using Mabel’s fantasies as a sick trap.” Mabel is in the tallest tower, guarded by super-buff waffle guards. (Soos eats one and Wendy punches through the other.) They race to the top of the tower. As they’re trying to rescue her, Mabel claps her hands, telepathically rearranging the room. She tells them that it isn’t a prison, but that she’s made this world. “This is my home now,” Mabel reports, turning around a small placard that reads: Mayor Mabel. “And I don’t want to be saved!”
Mabel tells Dipper how upset she was overhearing that he wanted to stay in Gravity Falls for his apprenticeship with Ford. But then she woke up in the world she wanted: an endless summer where she never has to grow up. She has even prepared “a back-up Dipper with a more supportive attitude.” This is Dippy Fresh, who wears sneakers, sunglasses, and a backwards hat. “I love skateboarding, supporting my sister, and punctuating every sentence with a high five,” Dippy Fresh says. Still, Dipper persists: this is actually a nightmare, even if Mabel doesn’t know it yet. Wendy chimes in too: “Gravity Falls is in trouble …” she begins, but is interrupted by a monster truck filled with all her friends, who offer her a chance to prank her principle something fierce … and she’s gone. Even Soos is compromised, leaving when his father, who Soos can’t remember (so he has “the body of a pro-wrestler and the face you once saw on a hot sauce bottle”), shows up and offers to play catch with him. So Dipper is alone and can’t convince Mabel of the truth. “For once, stop listening to your head and start listening with your heart,” Mabel urges.
Meanwhile, in Bill’s Fearamid, he’s [Bill] wondering why he and the rest of the giant horrible monsters can’t escape the borders of Gravity Falls. He looks to the petrified Ford, little more than a statue (Bill has been using him as a back-scratcher), and says, “Maybe somebody needs to come out of retirement.” Keyhole interrupts, telling Bill that Gideon let the Pines into Mabel’s bubble. “Buddy, Mabel’s bubble is the most diabolical trap I’ve ever created,” Bill says, which is really saying something. Bill turns his attention to the bubble.
Inside the bubble, Dipper is angrily skipping stones on Giggle Creek. He starts to doubt himself, noting that the outside world is a “horror show” and at least, in the bubble, the air is breathable. Wendy comes up to him to offer her support, eventually segueing into something more romantic. Wendy tells Dipper that he would be his dream guy if they were the same age and then has an epiphany: inside the bubble you can be any age you want. “In this place it could finally be just you and me,” she says. That’s when Dipper realizes that it isn’t real, and Wendy turns into a gross bug-beast (think: Oogie Boogie after he is unzipped at the end of The Nightmare Before Christmas). After the clones from Sev’ral Timez riding by on a tandem bicycle distract Dipper, the world goes back to being sugary sweet. Dipper makes a proclamation: “We have to go back to the real world.” This is the one rule in Mabeland that you cannot break. As the waffle guards prepare to banish Dipper, Mabel saves him, forcing him to stand trial instead of getting booted outright.
Enter: the single greatest cameo in the history of Gravity Falls, as Jon Stewart appears as Judge Kitty Kitty Meow Meow Face-Schwartstein. “Order order, this trial begins right meow,” he says. (And yes, he’s a giant pink cat.) The Judge sets the stakes: if Dipper wins, then Mabel will return with Dipper to the real world. If Dipper loses, he will be banished forever and “replaced by town darling Dippy Fresh.” Mabel’s legal team then enter the courtroom: Xyler and Craz, who have “a doctorate degree in hunkiness” and “also criminal and international law.” They then playback memories from Mabel’s childhood, including a moment when Mabel gets gum stuck in her hair on photo day (“Mabel’s fantasy was having a great school photo but reality had other plans”). Dipper then calls his witness: Mabel.
When Mabel takes the stand, Dipper says, “I know one thing well and that’s you. And you don’t want to be in this fantasy world.” Dipper admits that he’s scared of growing up but the way to cope is by getting help from people who care about you. He then revisits the same bad memories and shows her how they were in it together (the school photo flashback shows Dipper shaving his head like Mabel for the school photo). It’s undeniably touching and one of the more moving moments in the entire series. Dipper tells Mabel that he was also living in a fantasy world: he thought he was going to stay in Gravity Falls and be Ford’s apprentice. “How ridiculous is that?” Dipper isn’t taking Ford’s apprenticeship. “Let’s beat Bill and grow up together,” Dipper says, as the music soars. They then embrace in a sincere sibling hug (replacing their awkward sibling hug).
As it turns out, that hug releases Mabel’s control of the bubble world. Everything goes scary and nightmarish, and everyone (including Xyler and Craz) flee the crumbling Mabeland. They hop on an oversized Waddles. Mabel grabs a giant sewing needle and together they burst the bubble. Back in the real Gravity Falls, Mabel tells Dipper that he can take Ford’s apprenticeship if he wants, but he says no. “And miss your awkward teen years?” he jokes. Together, the reunited team looks towards the decimated town. “Did Bill already win?” Soos asks. They eventually make their way back to the Mystery Shack. It’s in shambles (“Just like we left it,” Dipper says) and as soon as they get inside, they’re besieged by old favorites. It seems that a lot of characters have been hiding out in the Mystery Shack. And it’s not just Stan, Sheriff Blubs, Pacifica, Old Man McGucket, Woodpecker guy,Wendy, and Grenda (both sporting vaguely steampunk-y post-apocalyptic looks); Chutzpar the Manotaur, Celestabellebethabelle the snooty unicorn, and several gnomes are there. And right before the episode ends, the Multi-Bear even makes an appearance!
Over the closing credits we see that there are two more survivors of Mabeland, in the real world: Xyler and Craz. “Are we real? Is this reality?” they ask. Then they quote French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. And fin.
We had a unique experience with this episode. When we first watched it a few weeks ago, it was before the show’s conclusion had been announced. And we loved it back then. It has the perfect mixture of thrills, humor, and heart that has been a staple of Gravity Falls since the very first episode. It was a huge kick to get to see Dipper and Mabel as little kids. And stylistically, we loved how opposite it was to the episode that came before it, which was more mired in the apocalyptic gloom of Bill and his evil plan (this was so bright and colorful it bordered on abstraction). But when we watched it again for recapping purposes, it took on a different dimension: it was deeper, more meaningful, and bittersweet. When Dipper addresses Mabel, telling her that they have to leave the fantasy world and return to reality, where people grow up, things change, and feelings get hurt, it felt more like a poignant mission statement than anything else. As much as it was Dipper talking to Mabel, it also felt like Gravity Falls creator Alex Hirsch chatting with the fans: come on guys, let’s go, we’ve had fun, but it’s time to do other things. And that made the episode absolutely heartbreaking and one of the most brilliant half-hours in the history of the series.
So with that in mind, we say: bring on the series finale. We’re sure Gravity Falls will go out with a bang.