Every serialized show has to juggle the weight of its plot with the needs of its characters and viewers. Unless a show has a shorter season- say, ten or thirteen episodes- it’s often illogical and tiring to have every episode be a large, bombastic affair. That’s especially true for Gravity Falls, which just had what may be its two most massive and game-changing episodes ever, and was in deep need of a little downtime. Luckily, it doesn’t squander the opportunity, and makes the episode worth watching for viewers more invested in the plot by using its time to develop the relationships between the two sets of Pines twins.
It’s no secret that Dipper and Mabel, for all the love they share, don’t get along about everything- they may have been born at the same time, but they couldn’t be more different. That’s even more true for Stan and Ford, who seem just as prone to spats over their opposing personalities as they were thirty years ago. It may seem a bit odd to hear that their first fight since their fateful reunion is about a board game and a television show about a duck, but that’s a reflection of their similarities to Dipper and Mabel, something fans noticed long before we were even sure Ford was a real character. Ford and Dipper don’t only share bookworm-ish-ness and weird physical traits; they’re also both big fans of the shameless Dungeons and Dragons parody that graces this episode’s title, and their sheer passion for it puts their normally milder personalities in direct conflict with Stan and Mabel (and Grenda)’s desire to watch the season finale of Ducktective. It’s a standard introverts vs. extroverts/nerds vs. socialites situation, compounded by the fact that Ford’s passion for the game made him ignorant enough to improperly secure his dangerous infinity-sided die, and that Stan’s desire to find out what happened to Ducktective made him start throwing Ford’s stuff around.
In other words, it’s a mess-up from both sides, a refreshing change from the usual take on this concept. It’s common to make fun of nerdy interests relentlessly, and it’s recently also become common to challenge this by hoisting those interests above everything else. But people can be passionate about pretty much anything, and neither side of this issue’s central argument comes out superior in the end. To save Ford and Dipper, Stan and Mabel are forced to embrace the game that bores them so heavily- but they use their own skills they have to save Ford and Dipper, rather than playing straight like their twins would. Dipper may be smart, but he doesn’t have Mabel’s imagination; Ford may have years of anomaly-fighting skills, but he’s probably never gone gambling like Stan has. Defeating their new enemy Probabilitor (voiced by Weird Al, in role that I could see being created just for him) requires synthesis of all the twin’s ideals, and the acknowledgement that each has their own valuable strengths is an important point. Gravity Falls may have developed a reputation as a nerdy, odd show, something this episode nods to relentlessly, but no one could ever say all of its fans fall directly under the umbrella of Dungeons, Dungeons and More Dungeons fan or Ducktective fan.
“Dungeons, Dungeons and More Dungeons” doesn’t advance the plot like the previous two episodes, and it doesn’t have the emotional strength of some of the show’s strongest fillers (ie. “Blendin’s Game”), or even the greatest humor the show has displayed, but its passion and placement certainly make up for it. Since Ford may be one of the show’s darkest characters, integrating him within the main cast worked best within a lighter episode, and this episode provides that in spades. It’s probably the least serious episode the show has had all season, but it’s not useless- it’s a much-needed break from the chaos of Gravity Falls life, one that reinstates the bonds between the characters. It’s obvious that the dangerous direction this season is heading will test those bonds, but now we remember why they’re so important.
- I’m liking the increased prominence of Mabel’s art. That picture I used up there should be framed.
- The addition of Soos’ LARPing- I mean, uh, FCLORPing- was a lot of fun, although the credits stinger sort of went against the point of the episode, and seemed a little off.
- “Only a game designed by nerds would have ‘charisma’ as a fantasy power.”
- I think the reason I don’t think this episode has the show’s best humor is because it mostly strays away from the absurdity that usually surrounds GF‘s biggest laughs- see the “giant fiery Stan head falling onto the ground” scene in “The Love God”, for example. That’s why the funniest bit of this episode for me was probably the “Centaur-taur”, and Stan’s bemused reaction.
- Grenda’s addition to this episode mainly functioned to bring in the jokes, and it worked well, all things considered. “There’s no cops in the forest. We take this to our graves.”
- Both of the meta jokes in this episode- Stan saying Ducktective isn’t just for kids, and the cast being disappointed by the reveal of Ducktective’s twin brother- fell a little flat to me, probably because they were a bit too on the nose, and because they came after the also meta-joke-filled “Tale of Two Stans.”
- So the climax of this season will involve Dipper messing with that interdimensional rift, right? That’s a given?