Monday, July 11, 2016

Review: Gravity Falls "Fight Fighters"

I hope Dipper learned his lesson in this episode. Video games are not to be used to play god.

Except for the Black and White games, but you know what I mean.
One of the thinnest that this show will ever see.

The plot flows forward at a good pace until Rumble McSkirmish appears at the end of Act 1. From there, the majority of Act 2 is made up of Dipper diddlybopping around and waiting until 3 PM while Mabel tries to help Grunkle Stan in a very loosely connected B-plot that seems like it was included to pad out the episode. And the final act is one long string of video game references.

But honestly, even apart from the thin plot, this was a hard episode to talk about.

There are two things that are a nightmare to review. The first is bad comedy. There are only so many ways I can say "This is not funny," while hoping that I actually am being funny. The second... is good comedy. And this episode is already filled with great humor. The parody elements are top-notch, which buoys the episode up despite its less-than-stellar character elements.

I mean, seriously, this is one of the most quotable episodes. Stan, Mabel, Dipper, Soos, and especially Rumble all get great lines that never fail to crack me up.

The main conflict of the episode, between Dipper and Robbie, has no real resolution, and that seems to be by design. The reversal of having Dipper try to protect Robbie works well, but the "Cold War pact" doesn't exactly finish the episode on a satisfying note. And, again, that's by design. The conflict is meant to be ongoing, but the episode sacrifices short-term satisfaction for the ongoing story arc.

And worse, we're supposed to feel sympathy for Robbie when Rumble starts going overboard, but Robbie's annoying enough to make Rumble's treatment of him kind of cathartic.

But the biggest problem with this episode is the lesson. Everybody keeps pushing those gender norms when telling Dipper to fight like a man... despite the fact that refusing this kind of peer pressure was the whole point of "Dipper vs. Manliness."

It seems as though the moral was supposed to be about taking responsibility for yourself and finishing what you start, instead of hiding behind other people to do your dirty work for you... and that might have worked if "Dipper vs. Manliness" came after this episode. As it is, it seems more like Dipper is forgetting his character arc.

Dipper Pines
I pretty much already covered him while discussing the moral. But while we're talking about him, how is he still a weakling with noodle arms when he was tough enough to fight a Multi-Bear a few episodes ago? Maybe this episode was supposed to go before "Dipper vs. Manliness"?

Robbie Valentino
His relationship with Wendy is cemented as the status quo, although the Cold War pact doesn't actually change anything. Robbie and Dipper will still have trouble getting along, no matter what walls they erect between themselves.

But still, the ongoing continuity from the shakeup last episode is appreciated.

Mabel Pines
Her meddling personality begins to show as she attempts to cure her Grunkle. Lucky for her, it all worked out in the end. This time.

Again, I can't help but feel like his subplot was added in to kill time in this episode. Other than a gag or two, his quest to enter a video game goes nowhere.

Wendy Corduroy
Again, she's a prize. Again, it bugs me, since she's an amazing character when they let her be a character.

Rumble McSkirmish (Brian Bloom)
Brian Blooms caps lock hamminess makes the perfect meatheaded video game fighter. The endless cliches, broken English, super attacks... There's some influence from Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, and plenty more. Too many to list, in fact. This episode is chock-full of video game references to the degree that as long as you've played at least one single video game ever, you're bound to at least get one joke.

Hadou... I mean, fireball!
Rumble's presence is the main source for video game-related gags here, and it helps buoy the episode up, despite the weaker parts of the plot.

The amazing pixel art was done by Paul Robertson, who also did the art for the Scott Pilgrim game. And his work is smooth, stylized, and manages to look different from the real world while also fitting within the same visual style. I've dabbled in pixel art before, and I have to say, this is pretty much spot on.
That shimmy is the best walk cycle I've ever seen,
But while I'm talking about the visuals, I have to say that Why You Ackin' So Cray-Cray? contains an interesting choice. The title itself sounds like something a stereotypical sassy black lady would say, and the main host sounds like a stereotypical sassy black lady. And she's drawn to look like a stereotypical sassy black lady... with one tiny detail changed.

An important detail, though it is.
Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but... is that on purpose? Is that the joke? That's a weirdly meta bit of humor for this show.

Final Thoughts
In the end, this manages to be a memorable installment of Gravity Falls, despite its faults. But the thing about Gravity Falls is that its high level of quality guarantees that even the bad episodes are still pretty enjoyable.

So even with the numerous flaws, I still absolutely love this episode.

Next time, big plans go awry... in the most literal way. See you then!

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