Aug 25, 2012

Gravity Falls: "The Time Traveler's Pig"

A disclaimer before I begin my review of the new Gravity Falls: If you combine a heartbreaking tale of unrequited love with the sci-fi concept of time travel, I am officially, 100% on board. Considering the level of quality this show is consistently at, there was really no way for this episode to not be terrific. “The Time Traveler’s Pig” may be the best episode of the show yet, or at least the one that’ll get you the closest to tearing up.

Dipper’s love for Wendy, the cool older girl, voiced by Linda Cardellini, is responsible for most of the show’s best moments. This relationship represents what the show does best: there’s an honesty there, which consistently balances out the fantasy concepts and wacky humor. A 12-year-old boy’s first love can run deep, at least while that feeling goes unrewarded. It doesn’t fall victim to the cliché “will they won’t they”, because they almost definitely won’t (he’s 12, she’s 15), unless the show ages the characters, which would be yet another way to set it apart from every other cartoon.

One of the major qualities setting it apart is the relationship between Dipper and his sister Mabel, the other centerpiece of the episode. Unlike an overwhelming majority of TV siblings, they don’t constantly squabble. They genuinely love each other, and care about the other’s well being. It’s an interesting dynamic, because when they do begin to fight (for the first time if I’m remembering correctly), it feels that much more sincere.

And of course, there’s the time travel. All three of these elements come together when Grunkle Stan throws a fair in town, full of scarily cheap rides, and impossible to win games. Dipper finds out just how impossible when he attempts to win a duck/panda looking thing for Wendy. Instead of succeeding, his ball ricochets and hits Wendy in the eye. Her other courter, the skinny-jean wearing, acoustic guitar playing teenager Robbie, is there to comfort her, and she passively agrees to go out with him.

Dipper and Mabel, who was busy winning the world’s most adorable pig, Waddles, then bump into a man named Blendin Blandin, a time traveler sent from the future to fix an unknown paradox. The twins steal his time-traveling device (it mimics a tape measurer, only with time increments in place of length) and Dipper spends a good long time attempting to win Wendy her stuffed animal without bruising her eye, thus stopping Robbie from taking her on the Ride of Love and Corndogs. Eventually, Dipper succeeds, but his actions cost Mabel her pig.

This is where the fight begins, and it takes them back to pioneer days (where they impress Oregon Trail travelers with light-up shoes and high-fives) and through the background of several previous episodes. Eventually they land in present day, and we arrive at the first of two heartbreaking moments: Not only has Mabel lost Waddles, but also he has been taken by her archenemy, Pacifica Northwest. Mabel, completely distressed, begins banging her head on a totem pole. Dipper believes she is overreacting, so he travels a day, a week and eventually a month into the future, to find she’s still there, banging her head. Being the good brother that he is, he sighs and sends himself back in time, knowing exactly what he has to do.

Back at the game with Wendy, Dipper attempts to explain to her that he’s going to lose and make a mistake. Of course, unaware of the time travel, this makes absolutely no sense to Wendy. “Dude, you lost me,” she says with a smile. “I know,” he replies, bowing his head in despair. Cue heartbreak number two. It’s such a tiny, observed moment, but beautifully played by the animators, Linda Cardellini and Jason Ritter.

Given that it is a children’s show, and they have plenty of time to grow into the belief that true love cannot exist and we are all destined for eternal loneliness, the episode ends on a cheerier note, one of sibling bonding. It’s not at all a cop-out, and it doesn’t shake the feeling of the previous two scenes. Gravity Falls is a great show because while being one of the funniest programs on TV, it never forgets that its characters are people. People have their hearts broken, sure, but they also have somebody to help them back up.

Grade: A

  • Are you prepared for this insane attention to detail? So, during the tag over the credits, the time traveler Blendin Blandin is sent to clean up items that Dipper and Mabel dropped while running through the background of the show’s previous episodes. If one were to go back and watch the episodes he interferes with, one would see that he was actually in the background of the episode. That means that every single piece of “Time Traveler’s Pig” had been in place from the very beginning. That’s a level that few adult shows go to, and absolutely no kid shows do.
  • Kristen Schaal’s squeals of delight concerning the pig Waddles serve to prove that she is the best at what she does, bar none. (Or maybe bar H. Jon Benjamin, but I digress).
  • Jason Ritter’s nervous laugh and hushed “I love you” is one of his best moments on the show so far.
  • The casualness with which the man at the pigpen says, “Well, time to round up the mob” and lights his torch is easily the comedic highlight of the episode.
  • It’s a small detail, but the fact that Mabel and Dipper are smiling when they travel through time and both ask “The question is, when are we” in the middle of a fight, goes to show the undying appreciation they have for each other.
  • I hope this is not the last we see of Time Baby. Because Time Baby is my new favorite (Time Baby was also referenced in last week’s episode, though in a blink-and-you-miss-it fashion. This show is incredible)


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