Monday, August 31, 2015

Review: Gravity Falls "The Hand that Rocks the Mabel"

Fun Fact: Gideon’s appearance was technically spoiled before this episode aired by Dipper’s magazine from “The Legend of the Gobblewonker.”

Well played, Hirsch.
The debut of Gideon. Not only does he provide a pretty good monster-of-the-week story, but the last minute of the episode sets up a new chapter in the show’s myth arc. There are indeed more Journals, and Gideon has the second. But how many Journals are there? Who wrote them? Who has number 1? All in good time.

As for the stand-alone plot, it was nice to see Mabel getting another episode instead of keeping the focus on Dipper forever. After all, they’re both protagonists. It was also nice to see a twist on Mabel’s usual boy-crazy attitude by having her reject Gideon’s advances.

There are a few VERY good lessons to learn from this episode.
  • You don’t have to be involved in something that makes you uncomfortable. Stranger danger, kids.
  • If you don’t want to be in a relationship with someone else, tell them. Drawing the situation out can only end badly as you dig yourself deeper.
  • Don’t be a creepy stalker like Gideon.
  • Don’t send other people to take care of your problems.
One of the things this show does well is integrate morals without stopping the plot to speechify. And this episode has a bunch of good lessons, none of which are explicitly spelled out.


Though Dipper is a large player in the beginning and end of the episode, this isn’t his story. It’s Mabel’s

Mabel is a genuinely good person who never wants to hurt anybody’s feelings. But as she learned this episode, sometimes you have to. To see her struggle with hurting the feelings of someone she genuinely wanted to spend time with (at first) showed just how much of a caring person she is underneath her goofy exterior. Hidden depths, and all that.

Bud Gleeful (Stephen Root)
I love Stephen Root. From Newsradio to Oh, Brother, Where art Thou he always injects such bombastic energy into his performances. And his portrayal of a used-car salesman who’s completely subservient to his own maniacal son is pitch perfect.

“Lil’” Gideon Gleeful (Thurop Van Orman)
Gideon is a twofer when it comes to the character’s appearance. Not only does he resemble (and parody) child evangelist Larry Hal Larimore….

Either that, or Larry here's wearing some amazing cosplay of a character that didn't exist yet.
…but he also bears a bit of a resemblance to the Man from Another Place from Twin Peaks.

Albeit with an inverted color scheme.
This episode marks the beginning of the Gideon/Pines family feud, which is actually foreshadowed by Gideon’s very name. It’s not just a pun on “Giddy and Gleeful,” but the name Gideon means “tree-feller.” How appropriate for the Pines’ nemesis.

Stan hates Gideon because Gideon can make people willingly put money in a sack without the use of blatant trickery. Gideon promises a show, and he delivers. Dipper and Mabel hate Gideon because he’s a little creeper. And Gideon hates the Pines for all the myriad ways they’ve “wronged” him. For this very personal vendetta, and because Gideon has a certain book, Gideon is shaping up to be the big bad villain of the season… despite the fact that he can be hard to take seriously.

Gideon strikes a balance between being funny and threatening, and sometimes, it’s a bit hard to take him seriously because of that. I mean, the first time we see him, he’s doing a musical number. Sure, telekinetically threatening Dipper with shears is pretty intense… but the effeminate mannerisms, the voice, the hair…. It can be hard to make Gideon stay menacing. And honestly, he isn’t inherently menacing. It’s only when he gets his hands on things like that amulet, or the second Journal that he stops being 100% nonthreatening.

In a deleted scene (I’m not sure as to the episode, unfortunately), Gideon would have been shown as a normal little boy until he stumbled upon the second Journal in the woods. In a way, this could have made him into a dark mirror of Dipper. Somebody on a journey to uncover secrets after a book changed his life. The parallel is still there, but it’s not as pronounced.

While a few inevitable mistakes creep in, the animation is still as technically good as the preceding episodes. And I’ve got to say, I love the visual shout out to Twin Peaks.

They know who's really watching this show.
Final Thoughts
Whether or not you enjoy this episode hinges on whether or not you like Gideon as a villain, it’s as simple as that. Personally, I didn’t know what to make of him or the episode at first. But as the series went on, I got used to the character, for lack of a better way of putting it.

While I still don’t rate it as one of the best episodes of the season, it’s still not the worst. It’s certainly an important episode, setting up several plot points for both the season and the show in and of itself, but it’s not one I often rewatch just for the heck of it.

Next time, demonic possession meets romantic obsession. See you then!


  1. I kinda what drove Gideon to villainy. Was it his parents using him like Marjoe Gortner to sell cars (as seen in season two, an ad has baby Gideon on it, saying "Just had a baby sale!", could lend credence to this). Was it something he found from the book? Was he always this nuts but his parents couldn't or wouldn't do anything to help him?

    1. Who knows? I really hope that they go into it in future episodes. Maybe he was just a bad egg, maybe he was driven mad by what he saw in the Journal.