If you have not watched the Gravity Falls finale, stop reading this now. Seriously, watch it before you journey onward. We’ll wait for your return. We wouldn’t want to spoil anything for you.
After two brilliant seasons, the Disney show Gravity Falls has come to an end. The story of Dipper and Mabel’s summer in the mysterious Oregon town ended in the same way it began: in an explosion of weirdness, action, humor, and love. Even in the midst of this golden era of television, Gravity Falls felt like the height of the medium. This was serialized entertainment at its best—an ongoing story of friendship, family, and adventure. Creator Alex Hirsch brought the weird and he brought it in spades. There’s never quite been a show like Gravity Falls and it’s hard to imagine there ever will be again.
The success of the show can be attributed to many factors. Obviously, its hilarity goes a long way. From the fight with Rumble McSkirmish, to the quest for manliness with Manotaurs, to the final epic battle with Bill Cipher (more on him later), Gravity Falls stacked its bizarre adventures with enough humor to fill your Mindscape with an overabundance of glee. Between slapstick and pop culture references (Dundgren and Lolph of the Time Paradox Avoidance Enforcement Squadron make for one of my favorite gags), there was something for everybody.
Then there’s the heart of the show. Take out the funny stuff and you’re still left with a story about family, love, the end of innocence, and the pains of growing up. Dipper and Mabel’s summer in the town of Gravity Falls rings true in a very real way. Dipper deals with the urge to be recognized as more than just a kid; he falls in love with Wendy, the badass local teenager that all the boys crush on, and is driven to prove his manhood and worth over and over again, only to discover that what real matters is inside him all along (courage and love with a capital “L”).
Mabel is the opposite, embracing her youth and childish behavior and striving to never take the world too seriously. (The one time she does embrace seriousness leads to disastrous results involving a forgotten President of the United States.) She, too, falls in love… with any boy, merman, or stack of gnomes that crosses her path. Like Dipper, she learns that her worth is in her selflessness and willingness to sacrifice for others.
Gravity Falls stuck a chord across generations, serving a sort of all-ages entertainment that we really do not get enough of these days. My kids and I obsessed over it, wearing matching Dipper hats on family vacations, discussing theories, and drawing our own fan fiction comics. Sure, there are plenty of great cartoons on the air right now that are enjoyed by children and adults, but few, if any, carry the emotional weight of Gravity Falls. They lack that honest portrayal of growing up, family, and courage.
Of course, you can’t talk about Gravity Falls without talking about the weird. Alex Hirsch took humor and classic adolescent themes and rooted them squarely in the subgenre of weird fiction. A great mixture of horror, science fiction, and fantasy, the series is clearly the spiritual successor of the likes of H.P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith. It’s a strange trip though the unknown, and a battle with the things beyond the veil of human consciousness. Bill Cipher is straight out of the realm of Cthulhu, a demonic creature that exists permanently beyond our understanding; to know him is to know madness. In the finale, he literally sits on a throne of human agony while floating in a giant pyramid, lording over his domain of twisted horrors and monsters. He even ended up taking a monstrous form that sprouts multiple tentacle-like arms and takes a shape that the human mind can not fathom. Lovecraft would be proud.
Perhaps Gravity Falls‘ success was found in its ability to effectively combine all these elements. It wasn’t just funny, it was heartfelt. It was driven by action, but also mystery and intrigue. It’s humor was childish, but also shockingly adult at times (lest we forget the often pregnant pioneer woman named Fertillia). Like the best weird fiction, it never sat too long in any one category. It was unique in its diversity of story elements. Gravity Falls never compromised. It always swung for the fences.
In end, Gravity Falls sticks the landing so hard it deserves a gold medal and a bouquet of roses. In order to save Dipper and Mabel (and the rest of universe, really), Grunkle Stan sacrifices himself to destroy Bill Cipher. Posing as his twin brother, Stan draws Bill into his mind and traps him while the kids and Stan’s brother Ford use a mind-erasing gun to wipe Stan’s brain of all memory, thus wiping Bill Cipher from existence. The catch is that Stan is left with no memory of his family and friends, which Dipper to solemnly wonder, “If we lost Stan, what was the point?”
I teared up, guys. It was sad and beautiful. If Hirsch were a monster, he may have ended the show there (Lovecraft certainly would have). As it turns out, there was a little bit of Stan hidden away in his mind, in a place that only Dipper and Mabel could access through their love. Slowly, Stan came back to us… and man oh man, it was emotional. I’m telling you guys, television shows do not end any better than this.
The final scene features Dipper and Mabel on a bus, headed home to California, their summer with Grunkle Stan disappearing in the distance. Dipper then opens a letter given to him by Wendy—he was instructed to open it whenever he missed Gravity Falls—and sees that it contains one sentence and a signature from everyone in town.
“See you next summer!” are the words Gravity Falls leaves us with. In our hearts, we know that’s not true. We can’t go back, but we do have the memories. We have the time spent in one of the most fully realized fictional worlds to ever grace the TV screen. We have the brilliant and funny characters. We have the Pines family, and we know that nothing will ever break them up.
So it’s with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to our favorite television show. Thank you, Alex Hirsch, for sharing the world of Gravity Falls with us. Thank you for tugging at our heartstrings and making us care about this little cartoon family. Thanks for making us laugh. Thank you for the weird times. See you next summer.
Image: Disney XD