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GRAVITY FALLS Season 2, Episode 4 Review: Sock Opera

The close of the Gravity Falls season premiere, “Scary-Oke,” basically inverted the show’s entire status quo. Grunkle Stan revealed to Dipper and Mabel that he does in fact know about all the supernatural weirdness of the town. In theory, this gives him a more active role in explicitly solving mysteries, rather than being the puppet-master behind some of them (although his crossed fingers as he promises not to hide any more secrets betrays that somewhat).

It’s telling, then, that “Sock Opera” doesn’t even involve Stan in the slightest. He only has a few lines and the first one of them echos throughout the rest of the episode. Walking in on the rest of the Mystery Shack crew making a variety of sock puppets for Mabel’s latest endeavor, he simply says, “Nope. Not even dealing with this.” It’s a deadpan joke, yeah, but it effectively says that Stan, usually a instigator in one plot or another, isn’t even going to be around for this one.

The Plot

Why is Mabel making sock puppets? Simple, really. While at the town library with Dipper as they activate, then try to crack the password for, the laptop they found in “Into The Bunker (an episode I sadly didn’t get around to covering yet),” she gets distracted by the dreamy, ponytailed Gabe (Jorma Taccone), who’s putting on a puppet show for some kids. Instantly in love–because Mabel–Mabel proceeds to introduce herself and, before realizing it, has convinced Gabe she’s a master puppeteer with plans to stage an entire original rock opera with sock puppets in two days.

Dipper’s exasperated because Mabel promised to help and they have about “7.8 million eight-letter passwords” to get through to unlock the laptop. However, Mabel assures him that the two days is all they need and they’ll be back on the hunt in no time. The Pines being who they are, this translates to Dipper helping Mabel during the day and then staying up all night feverishly typing in passwords.

It’s while he’s pecking in one rejected set of credentials after another that Dipper is suddenly visited by Bill Cipher (Alex Hirsch), the triangle demon who teamed up with Gideon Gleeful (Thurop Van Ormen) to destroy Stan’s mind in last season’s “Dreamscaperers.” He tells Dipper that he’ll gladly give him the correct password if Dipper does him a fever. Because he knows what Bill can do, Dipper refuses.

Exhausted and about to collapse, Dipper blows his stack when a last-minute panic by Mabel on the day of the show causes her to forget about helping him. On top of that, he suddenly discovers that he has just one chance left to try and get the correct password, otherwise the laptop will erase all its data. Just then, Bill appears again and repeats his offer, not-so-subtly reminding Dipper of how he’s sacrificed so much for Mabel and she’s seemingly done so little in return.

Hurt and desperate, Dipper agrees. They shake on it. Then Dipper is suddenly pulled out of his body. A ghost on another dimensional plane, he looks towards his old body and sees the yellow, catlike eyes of Bill staring back at him.

It’s a race against time as Dipper rushes to prevent Bill from wreaking havoc with his body and destroying the journal. To get back where he belongs, Dipper has to go on an epic journey involving over 36 musical numbers and the most ambitious puppet musical of all time.

The Verdict

As annoying as it is that Disney XD’s release schedule for this show is so staggered, perhaps it’s a good thing. Otherwise, we’d forget how great this show is. And make no mistake, folks, “Sock Opera” is great. I mean, it’s got the return of Mabel’s friends Greta (Carl Faruolo) and Candy (Niki Yang), an over-the-top series of musical numbers that culminates with a fireworks display and Dipper manipulating a sock puppet of himself. What more does one need?

Well, how about a bunch of Muppet references? Well, okay, there’s not a lot, but there are quite a few. The ones that made me laugh the hardest are puppet-Dipper flailing around in anger like Kermit and Old Man McGucket and Stan briefly becoming Statler and Waldorf at the end. I doubt that Alex Hirsch and co. were told to do this sort of thing, but it’s definitely there and a great, organic in-joke to another member of the Disney family full of anarchic humor. I can’t help but hope that, when Disney stops dragging their feet and greenlights that Muppet Show revival we all want, Kristen Schaal will be a guest star.

Speaking of Schaal, she’s on fire in this episode. Mabel is impulsive and unhinged, but utterly sincere about whatever she’s committed herself to. Schaal plays that to a hilt and is absolutely perfect. So is Jason Ritter, who gets to stretch a little this week by upping Dipper’s own compulsive need for the truth, as well as play up his jerk brother side.

Bill Cipher is still a true wildcard at this point, and that’s exactly how Hirsch plays him. An alternately charming and terrifying figure, Bill is a complete enigma, although he’s still very much a villain. While the bits of him in Dipper’s body lead to some really funny moments, it’s also genuinely disturbing. Couple that with the occasional distorted vocals and warped visuals and you have a purely scary character. Further sign that the team knows what they’re doing.

While he doesn’t really do that much in the end, Taccone–AKA 1/3rd of The Lonely Island–is still plenty fun as the charming and incredibly strange Gabe. Speaking of charming and incredibly strange, Niki Yang is still as terrific as ever as Candy. In a neat twist, we learn in a couple of hilarious scenes that Candy is/speaks Korean. While this is obviously a nod to Yang’s own background as well as her other famous role of Adventure Time‘s Lady Rainicorn, given the use of English subtitles, this probably won’t be a recurring thing. Regardless, it’s still incredibly funny.

This is yet another great episode in a season that pretty much hasn’t slowed down. Hopefully, the next episode–set to air September 22–will keep that hot streak going. Given that it apparently involves Soos playing a Japanese dating sim to learn how to talk to girls, I’m confident it will.

5 out of 5 stars

5 out of 5 stars 

Cover Image Source: Gravity Falls Wiki

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Categories: TV

Author:Tom Speelman

A lifetime of reading comics and watching television has left Tom with an inexhaustible supply of pop culture knowledge from the obvious to the obscure. Rather than keep it all in his brain for use at parties, Tom turned to writing a few years ago to help him share that knowledge with as many people as are remotely interested. Tom writes for several websites including The Mary Sue, Strange Horizons, Loser City and others. For even further rambling, follow him on Twitter @tomtificate.

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3 Comments on “GRAVITY FALLS Season 2, Episode 4 Review: Sock Opera”

  1. 09/10/2014 at 12:58 PM #

    Reblogged this on tomtificate and commented:
    Looks like I’m doing these regularly now. Lucky for me, this show never stops being great!

  2. 09/10/2014 at 5:58 PM #

    I am looking forward to watching it!

    Your review certainly left me even more hyped for it.

  3. 09/10/2014 at 5:59 PM #

    Thank you!

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