I know what you’re thinking: “‘Gravity Falls’? Isn’t that a kid’s show? Why would anyone older than 13 want to watch it? I’d prefer to watch something more worthwhile like ‘The Bachelorette.’” But before you completely shut me down, just hear me out.
At first glance, “Gravity Falls” seems innocent enough. The show follows the numerous adventures of twins Dipper and Mabel Pines in Gravity Falls, Oregon, where they’re sent to spend the summer with their Grunkle Stan — “grunkle” being a mash-up of great uncle, of course.
The characters of Dipper and Mabel are based off of creator Alex Hirsch and his twin sister, Ariel. The main setting of the series, the Mystery Shack, is also based off of a real life roadside attraction called the Oregon Vortex, where gravity-induced optical illusions are claimed to be caused by paranormal forces.
Grunkle Stan is the narcissistic proprietor of the Mystery Shack, which is advertised as a “world of wonders” but, in reality, is a dilapidated tourist trap that houses hoaxes like the Sascrotch (a Sasquatch in underwear) and the Unicorn-corn (a unicorn made out of corn). Dipper is the serious, detective-minded protagonist of the series, while his sweater-loving sister Mabel serves as the comedic relief.
In spite of its bubbly, colorful animation, “Gravity Falls” is brimming with dark supernatural plots, causing it to deviate from the typical kids show into more adult-friendly territory. Immediately after arriving at their new summer home, the twins are warned that nothing in Gravity Falls is what it seems and that no one can be trusted. It doesn’t take long for these prophecies to prove true.
The woods are brimming with supernatural creatures and strange happenings are a trademark of the town. Dipper and Mabel, along with the handyman Soos, seem to be the only people aware of the weird goings-on as the townspeople prove to be extremely ignorant. The twins encounter murderous ghosts, manly centaurs, pig-stealing dinosaurs and many more zany creatures.
Among the nefarious paranormal beings encountered by Dipper and Mabel is the child psychic Lil’ Gideon. After falling in love with Mabel, the cherub-like Lil’ Gideon pursues her relentlessly. Yet when Mabel rejects him, Lil’ Gideon reveals himself to be a sadistic psychopath by kidnapping Mabel and using his psychic powers of levitation to torture Dipper. Lil’ Gideon’s villainous behavior is more like that of a murderer on “Criminal Minds” than that of a typical children’s show antagonist. One of the series’s running plot lines is the conflict between Lil’ Gideon and the twins.
“Gravity Falls” is notorious for creating complex storylines that transcend individual episodes. Hirsch created these plots by dropping hidden Easter eggs throughout the series that eventually piece together into a whole. Not only is the resolution of the plot mysteries extremely satisfying, but the intricate details undoubtedly fly right over the heads of any viewers under the age of 18.
Another of the show’s main antagonists, Blendin Blandin, is involved in one of these overarching mysteries. Blandin is a bald time traveler from the future who works for the Time Squadron cleaning up time anomalies. He seeks revenge on Dipper and Mabel after they create a string of time anomalies using Blandin’s time traveling measuring tape.
The bumbling time traveler is forced to clean up their mistakes in a montage that reveals Blandin appearing in the background of scenes from previous episodes. By re-watching earlier episodes, eagle-eyed viewers can spot Blandin where you didn’t notice him previously. This is an act of genius on Hirsch’s part, requiring him to fully plan out the first season of the show down to the tiniest detail.
The show’s most intriguing and all-encompassing mystery isn’t fully revealed until the end of the second, and final, season of “Gravity Falls.” In the very first episode of the season, Dipper finds a mysterious journal detailing the supernatural creatures of Gravity Falls. Although the author of the journal is unknown, he has six fingers, which is an important clue. Dipper relies on the journal in every episode to fight supernatural creatures and to help solve the mystery of why Gravity Falls attracts weird phenomena.
After a string of suspenseful events, including an FBI hunt and the discovery that Grunkle Stan is living under a stolen identity, it’s revealed that Grunkle Stan has a twin brother who — guess what — has six fingers. Stan’s brother Stanford was sucked into a man-made wormhole that transferred him to a different dimension where he has been fighting dream demons for 30 years.
Oh yeah, and one of those dream demons, named Bill Cypher, was summoned by Lil’ Gideon to destroy Dipper. It’s a lot to take in, but the complexity of the story is what hooks viewers. The plot sounds more like an episode of “Stranger Things” or “Twin Peaks” rather than a children’s show, but that’s one reason why the series is so intriguing for adults.
But the show’s darker side isn’t the only aspect that makes it appealing to older audiences. As a 12-year-old boy going on 13, younger viewers can relate to Dipper’s pubescent awkwardness, while older viewers can empathize with his character when remembering their own adolescent years. Dipper’s unrelenting crush on an older girl named Wendy combined with his constant sweatiness and cracking voice make for hilarious punchlines.
The show also perfectly captures the nostalgia and freedom of childhood summers spent at camp. The adventures of Dipper and Mabel reflect the magical nature of the world as seen through the eyes and imagination of a kid. For any grown-up longing for simpler times, before having to pay taxes or make their own doctor’s appointments, “Gravity Falls” provides a healthy dose of sentimentality. The show is comedic, suspenseful and provides an escape from adult responsibilities, making it a necessary watch for people of all ages.