|Which is not to be confused with made-up stories about juice vesicles.|
Without getting into too much detail, in the 1900's, there was no YouTube. Shocking, I know. In those days, kids really had three sources of entertainment: radio, print, and like, marbles. So without an endless supply of ten-second clips of cats falling into boxes, you listened to the radio. If you didn't like what was on the radio, you took that ten cents you made from a week of shining shoes and bought yourself a cheap-o magazine with some kind of thrilling story inside.
It could be a detective who guns down an entire crime ring, or a young boy who builds himself an electric rifle, or even a mysterious masked man who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men.
Pulp stories knew what their audience wanted. Adventure, mystery, that sort of thing. And we still enjoy the same thrills to this day. Lost is just a post-modernization of the standard shipwreck plot, superhero movies are the modern equivalent of the Blue Beetle radio serials, and the Goosebumps books are what kids these days read instead of Tales From the Crypt.
Do kids these days still read Goosebumps? Am I getting old?
No matter. My point is that I'll be recapping today draws on many elements of classic pulp stories without actually being what you would classify as pulp fiction.
Mystery. Thrills. Science fiction. Fantasy. Horror. All rolled up into one. Not to mention it's one of the cleverest shows out there in terms of writing, plotting, foreshadowing, humor....
Twin Peaks meets The Simpsons, as the show's creator, Alex Hirsch, put it.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Gravity Falls.
|You had me at hello, Gravity Falls. You had me at hello.|
Narrator: "A time for leisure. Recreation. And taking 'er easy. Unless you're me."
To punctuate that remark, our narrator, a small boy voiced by Jason Ritter, crashes through a billboard in a golf cart with a question mark on it. The small, female occupant, voiced by Kristen Schaal, worriedly remarks that whatever's chasing them is getting closer. Whatever it is, it's big and angry.
Narrator: "My name is Dipper."
I'm sorry for that.
Dipper: "The girl about to puke is my sister Mabel."
Sorry for that, too.
Dipper: "You may be wondering what we're doing in a golf cart, fleeing from a creature of unimaginable horror."
As they swerve to miss a fallen tree, Dipper's voiceover assures us that there's a perfectly logical explanation for everything that's happening.
|Abandon your preconceived notions as to what "logical" means."|
To top it off, the theme sequence is filled with blink-and-you'll-miss-it references to cryptozoology, the occult, and even a few cameos from upcoming menaces.
|And a couple frames of Bigfoot in the Patterson Footage pose.|
When the episode resumes, Dipper takes it from the top. Mabel and Dipper Pines were spending their summer vacation the way all the kids these days do. Inside. So their parents shipped them off to spend the summer with their Great-Uncle (or "Grunkle") Stan Pines (Alex Hirsch) in Gravity Falls, Oregon in the hopes that they'd get some fresh air. As opposed to their parents getting scared and sending them to live with their aunt and uncle in a town called Bel-Air. The differences are subtle, yet many.
Mabel takes moving in to their new home well.
Mabel: "This attic is amazing! Check out all my splinters!"
Dipper, meanwhile, is a bit miffed that there's a goat on his bed.
On an unrelated note, goats are one of my favorite animals. So, yes, I'll be almost unreasonably excited whenever he appears. The goat, Gompers, starts making friends with Mabel, who reacts the same way I would.
Mabel: "Yes, you can keep chewing on my sweater!"
|Gompers is now my favorite ungulate to be named after the first president of the American Federation of Labor.|
|I'm actually impressed with how he fit his fez underneath that thing.|
|The magic of Disney, ladies and gentlemen. Or possibly the magic of Mike.|
|She'll grow out of it. Hopefully.|
Boy: "'Yes,' 'Definitely'... 'Absolutely'?"
Mabel: "I rigged it!"
Dipper, cleaning a jar of eyeballs, tells her to tone down the crazy, but Mabel insists that this is a prime opportunity for her to have a summer romance, what with it being summer and all. We get some clips of her previous attempts at flirting, which... well, she's confident. I'll give her that.
|Still, she needs to develop some standards.|
Mabel: "I wouldn't be surprised if the man of my dreams walked through that door right now."
Cue Grunkle Stan entering, making some grody old man noises. He's got a bunch of signs that he needs somebody to take into the spooky woods to nail to trees.
Dipper: "Not it."
Mabel: "Not it!"
Soos: "Also not it."
Grunkle Stan: "Nobody asked you, Soos."
Soos: "I know, and I'm comfortable with that."
Ladies and gentlemen, Soos.
Voiced by Alex Hirsch, he is not only the resident handyman of the Shack, but he's also the number one source of solid one-liners in the show.
|Also the number one source of the phrase "'Sup, dude."|
Dipper: "Just today, my mosquito bites spelled out 'BEWARE.'"
Grunkle Stan: "That says 'BEWARB.'"
|Well, can't argue with that logic, either.|
Inside the panel are two millipedes, some cobwebs, and a book. On the cover is a golden hand with six fingers and a number 3. A cursory glance through the book reveals a record of all the strange happenings of Gravity Falls. Floating eyes, giant vampire bats, gnomes, cursed doors.... and a message.
Dipper: "Unfortunately, my suspicions have been confirmed. I'm being watched. I must hide this book before He finds it. Remember, in Gravity Falls, there is no one you can trust."
This is big. This is heavy. Looks like Dipper's going to have to keep this secret from everyone.
Mabel: "Hello! Whatcha reading, some nerd thing?"
Of course, he'll make an exception for his sister.
Dipper: "Uh... let's go somewhere private."
|What, you don't trust Gompers?|
Dipper: "And get this: after a certain point, the pages just stop, like the guy who was writing it mysteriously disappeared."
Well, isn't it obvious? Guy with six fingers? Suddenly disappeared?
Dipper: "...Gold Chains for Old Men Magazine?"
Grunkle Stan: "That's a good issue."
Mabel soon returns with her new boyfriend.
|Moral: Don't meet people on Craig's List.|
Everybody apparently ignores the fact that Mabel was hanging out at the cemetery and we learn this guy's real name.
Guy: "Uhh.... Normal... Man?"
Mabel: "He means 'Norman.'"
Dipper: "Are you bleeding, Norman?"
Norman: "...It's jam."
Grunkle Stan seems to be okay with them going off to hold hands, but Dipper's a bit suspicious of the pale, lanky teen with mysterious substances on his face who moves like parts of him don't work. In the attic, he consults the Journal. As it turns out, there's a local monster that bears a striking resemblance to teenagers with their bad attitudes and pale skin. The Undead.
Dipper watches from the attic as Norman lunges at Mabel... only to put a necklace of daisies around her neck.
Dipper: "Is my sister really dating a zombie, or am I just going nuts?"
Soos: "It's a dilemma to be sure."
Soos: "I couldn't help but overhear you talking aloud to yourself in this empty room."
Dipper asks for Soos' expert opinion on whether or not Norman is or is not an undead.
Soos: "Hmm... How many brains did you see the guy eat?"
Soos tells Dipper that all he needs is evidence. Otherwise, he'll look crazy. Of course, this is coming from the guy who thinks the mailman's a werewolf.
|I mean, come on, where's the oiled-up six pack? "Werewolf" my foot.|
Soos: "My wisdom is both a blessing... and a curse."
Grunkle Stan: "Soos! The portable toilets are clogged again!"
Soos: "I am needed elsewhere."
So Dipper takes it upon himself to film Mabel's date with Norman. He finds a lot of circumstantial evidence, the type of stuff that could fill a humorous montage, but nothing concrete. Instead, he goes to confront Mabel before she can go out with Norman again. Mabel proudly shows of a hickey on her cheek, alarming Dipper until she laughs and reveals that it's not a hickey, just a harmless result from practicing kissing on a leaf blower. Hey, it wouldn't be the most painful thing a leaf blower has ever done to lovelorn souls. Specifically male ones. You're welcome for that mental image.
Dipper: "No, Mabel, listen. I'm trying to tell you that Norman is not what he seems!"
Mabel: "You think he might be a vampire? That would be so awesome!"
I want to warn all you vampire fetishists out there that the Law of Averages still applies. Odds are, the object of your fantasies would look less like Cedric Diggory and more like....
|"'Til the cock crows," indeed....|
Orcs? Yes. Elves? Definitely. Dwarves? Absolutely. Gnomes? Hell no.
A year or so back, when I ran my D&D campaign, I had a Gnome villain. Talbot the Mad, they called him. Within half an hour, the players had killed him, looted his body (taking the obscenely powerful magic items he never had the chance to use), and thrown him down a bottomless pit.
Moral of the story, Gnomes will never be a credible threat. And if that ever happens, I'll eat my hat.
Back in the episode, Dipper is trying to convince Mabel of Norman's undeadery.
Dipper: "He never blinks! Have you noticed that?"
Mabel: "Maybe he's blinking when you're blinking."
But Mabel adamantly insists on going on her date at 5 o'clock. And soon enough, the clock hits five and the two are off on their latest date. Dipper reviews his footage, and laments that Norman's probably just a normal teenager who likes to do normal things with Mabel. Hopscotch, walks in the park, reattaching his hand after it falls off....
|His left hand. That fell off his right arm.|
He rushes to get Grunkle Stan, but he's busy with a group of tourists.
Grunkle Stan: "And here we have 'Rock That Looks Like a Face Rock: The Rock That Looks Like a Face.'"
Tourist: "Does it look like a rock?"
Grunkle Stan: "No, it looks like a face."
Tourist 2: "Is it a face?"
Grunkle Stan: "It's a rock that looks like a face!"
Man, I'm having flashbacks of the time I used to work at that gas station. How hard is it to understand that we don't carry Vernors?
With no other choice, Dipper tries to persuade Wendy to let him borrow the keys to the Mystery Shack's golf cart. Now, she's a responsible employee, so it's going to be tough going trying to convince her to let him operate a piece of equipment he's not cleared for.
Dipper: "I need to borrow the golf cart so I can save my sister from a zombie!"
Wendy: "Try not to hit any pedestrians."
And that, dear readers, is the reason why Wendy is awesome.
|One of the reasons. One of the many reasons.|
Soos: "This is for the zombies."
And a bat.
Soos: "And this is in case you see a piñata."
Meanwhile, Norman and Mabel are alone in the woods. And he has a terrible secret he wants to share with her. As "Please be a vampire" plays on a loop through Mabel's head, Norman unzips, revealing....
Gnome: "Is this weird? Is this too weird?"
|No, I think this is the regular amount of weird.|
Gnome: "So. We're gnomes. First off. Get that one out of the way."
Gnome: "I'm Jeff, and here we have Carson, Steve, Jason, and... I'm sorry, I always forget your name."
Jeff: "Shmebulock, yes."
Yes, these majestic forest denizens (mostly) have mundane names, following in the tradition of J.R.R. Tolkien, who named the three Trolls from The Hobbit Tom, Bert, and Bill Huggins.
Jeff explains that the gnomes need a new queen. And I really hope that queens don't serve the same function for gnomes as they do for bees. I'm not seeing a lot of female gnomes is all I'm saying.... And let's not even get started on what might have happened to the old queen.
Mabel lets them down as eloquently as we've come to expect from her.
Mabel: "You're really sweet, but, I'm a girl, you're gnomes... and it's like, 'What?' Yikes."
Jeff: "We understand. We'll never forget you Mabel. ...Because we're gonna kidnap you."
Well, looks like I'm going to have to buy a hat and eat it.
They take her to the deep, dark part of the forest. You can tell it's magical because the mushrooms there are huge. Dipper soon pulls up as the gnomes are busy trying to tie his sister down.
Jeff: "The more you struggle, the more awkward this is going to be for everybody!"
|Let's, uh, not read too much into a Gulliver's Travels homage. For the love of Odin.|
|Oooh, the rainbow only tastes good going down, not up....|
Jeff: "This is all really just a big misunderstanding, you see? Your sister's not in danger. She's just marrying all one-thousand of us and becoming our gnome queen for all eternity. Isn't that right, honey?"
Mabel: "You guys are butt-faces!"
Whoa, harsh language, Disney.
As Jeff waxes on about the ancient power of the gnomes, Dipper remembers that he has a shovel and the advantage of height. Within seconds, Mabel is free and the Pines twins are escaping. But Jeff has a trick up his sleeve. He summons all the gnomes to him, and they all merge like Constructicons into Devastator. A gigantic gnomeish shape emerges from the forest and chases after the twins, bringing us back to where we were at the beginning.
The chase takes them through the forest until they return to the Mystery Shack. The cart is wrecked. The shovel is useless.
|And for some reason, there's a bald guy over in the bushes. I'm sure he's not important.|
Mabel: "Just this once. Trust me."
Dipper obliges and stands back while Mabel tells Jeff that she'll go with them. Jeff exists the gnomes' gestalt form and slips the ring on her finger.
Mabel: "You may now kiss the bride."
As Jeff puckers up for a little sugar, Mabel whips out the leaf blower she had out here earlier and sucks him up like this was Ratchet and Clank. And just like in Ratchet and Clank, she aims her sucked-up smaller enemy at a larger enemy, namely the gnome-colossus. It bursts into hundreds of smaller gnomes, which are all blown away. Except for the one that gets stuck in some litter and is taken away by Gompers, the true hero of the day.
|This night, Gompers dines on gnome-flesh.|
|Yep. That's accurate.|
Grunkle Stan: "Yeesh, you two get hit by a bus or something?"
As they head to their room, Grunkle Stan calls them back. He badly lies about having overstocked inventory and tells them that they can each have something from the store for free. Dipper grabs the hat that he was wearing in the show's intro, and Mabel does a Legend of Zelda-style spin before holding her new grappling hook above her head.
|You got the Grappling Hook! Set it to and use it with Y, Z, or X.|
|Huh. Mabel's putting out the light and putting out the light.|
|His vending machine is full of secrets. And Snickers bars.|
|Yeah, yeah, Kltpzyxm.|
And that's just scratching the surface of the tip of the iceberg. Today, we've seen subtle foreshadowing for things not only in the first season, but also the second. And the as-of-yet-to-be-produced third season, probably.
But for now, let's review the first episode and see what it tells us of things to come.