The world is losing something special with the end of Gravity Falls. The experience of waiting, hands collectively clutched, through almost four years (but only two seasons; thanks, Disney scheduling) of conspiracies, comedy, and bonds of blood and found families has been a singular and wonderful experience. The show’s been a gift to my life in some minor and pretty major ways, and frankly? It might be ending at exactly the point when the story was initially conceived to wrap up, nothing short of a miracle in modern American television…but I’m not ready to let it go yet.
So for the next few months, I want to relive it with all of you. One episode at a time, analyst-style, from beginning to end: loving what worked and breaking down moments that didn’t, and digging into what makes this unique little show tick. That means a special third post starting next week, in the wake of the finale doomed to break all of our hearts. But I don’t want this just to be a nostalgic return visit for longtime fans – I want to new and curious viewers to be able to take this trip in its entirety with the same surprise, agony, and triumph that the rest of us felt. With that in mind, I’m going to structure these to be spoiler free. While I might make an oblique hint or two to the overarching story or how a character was handled, I want to keep the surprise alive. Gravity Falls has a lot to offer beyond its mystery element, but there’s no denying that figuring things out is part of the fun.
And speaking of figuring things out…you would not believe some of the turns we fans took while trying to parse that mystery. The amazingly, wonderfully wrong assumptions made while desperately trying to fill the months-long gaps between episodes. In fact, I kind of want to tell you about it. Whenever possible, I’ll include a little slice of the meta-game going on around the series, from the code-breaking to the secret websites to the bizarre theories (though since I discovered the show during the Great Between Season Hiatus, unfortunately it won’t all be from-the-ground reportage).
But before we start in with all of that, here’s a little basic guide to the show’s premise and major characters, to help you orient yourself before we dive in. Happy hunting, Fallers!
12 year old twins Dipper and Mabel Pines are sent to spend the summer with their Great Uncle Stan in Gravity Falls, Oregon. While the only excitement on offer seems to be long days working in Stan’s tourist trap, the Mystery Shack, things change when Dipper finds a mysterious journal in the woods. Its pages are filled with descriptions of mysteries and monsters lurking in the woods, and it isn’t long before Dipper becomes obsessed with finding the author of the journals.
We’ll introduce other important players as they come along, but this should get you through the first half dozen episodes.
Smart, shy, and overly analytical, Dipper is in a hurry to grow up and finally earn some respect. He’s also about as nervous and sweaty as your average adolescent, longing for someone to share his obsessions but not so great at making new friends. He and his sister have always been inseparable, and always have each other’s backs.
Bubbly and sociable, Mabel is hoping to use this summer break to have her first whirlwind romance – and while she might have more confidence than Dipper, she’s about as awkward. A crafting genius and lover of adventure, Mabel has always been her brother’s protector. She worries that he’s not really enjoying being a kid. And maybe, a little, that she might be left behind.
A crusty old con man with a fast mouth and outstanding warrants in most of These United States, Stan is probably not the ideal guardian for a couple of kids. Despite that, he can always be counted on in a pinch, gruff front or no. And it seems he has his own share of secrets to solve this summer.
Stan’s longest-running employee, a goofball manchild who’s more or less an unofficial Pines just from sticking around so long. He idolizes Stan, maybe a bit too much, and can usually be counted on for boundless enthusiasm and surprisingly insightful advice.
Stan’s other employee, a teenager working in the Shack to avoid being sent off to logging camp by her burly lumberjack father. Wendy is a decade shy of fitting right in to a Daria episode, with a sharp, sarcastic wit and a relaxed, abiding attitude. Of course, given that she’s the only girl in a family of loud, also burly brothers, maybe the chill doesn’t go as deep as it appears.
Stan’s “rival” for the dollars of the gullible townsfolk, a nine-year-old telepath with a friendly drawl and a revival faith-healer flair. Gideon’s hatred for the Pines is rivaled only by his very unwelcome determination to make Mabel his overly-rhinestoned queen.
While most episodes are structured in a monster of the week format, there’s usually a hint of something-or-other that ties into the larger mystery – or some inside joke that might not make it into the show at all. From the Author to the Illuminati to the Shriners, there’s plenty of visual data that you can miss on your first run through. To that end, for returning viewers and those who don’t mind being a little bit spoiled, we’ll check in every week with background details to look for or the occasional real-world conspiracy reference. You’ve been buying gold, right?