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GRAVITY FALLS Season 2, Episode 6 Review: Little Gift Shop Of Horrors

It’s October and, thus, Halloween and the celebration of all things creepy has come upon us once again. TV has ways to help celebrate the occasion: the annual airing of “It’s A Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” and a new Simpsons “Treehouse of Horror” installment are the go-to choices. But given that its milieu is “Halloween Town, but in present-day America,” it’s fun to wonder just how Gravity Falls is going to honor the holiday that forms most of its core.

Last season gave us the astonishing “Summerween,” which both served the purpose of fitting a network-mandated Halloween story into the show’s eternal summer setting (Summerween is the town’s out-of-season Halloween celebration) while also being genuinely frightening in a couple of great ways.

This year, the show gives us another anthology episode in the vein of “Bottomless Pit!,” with three separate stories. While the results aren’t quite as stellar as last time–one story clearly rises above the rest, which I’ll get to–this episode is still a lot of fun and makes for another great TV show to add to the Halloween mix.

The Plot

A cold open sees a person (from a first-person point of view) approach the Mystery Shack late at night. Stan opens the door, exhorting the traveler to come in. “I see your car broke down,” he says somewhat menacingly. He warns the person that they are about to be subjected to “Tales Designed to Sell My Merchandise!!!”

Stan explains that after hours, the Mystery Shack has its spookiest attractions for sale. He demonstrates by brandishing a severed hand and telling a story called…

“Hands Off”

At a swap meet, among a bunch of lousy items, Stan sees a bunch of nice, shiny gold watches. Refusing to pay full price and ignoring the cursing of the old woman selling the watches, Stan steals the watch. The next morning, he wakes up and, after wondering whether he’s “curse-ugly or normal-ugly,” he realizes that his hands are completely missing.

He tries to hide this from the kids, but they quickly learn what’s going on. After Mabel arms him with a new set of fork-fingered hands and that backfires, they resolve to get Stan’s hands back from the witch.

Back in the present, the traveler isn’t interested in the severed hand. Stan next tries to pawn off a “magic pig (Waddles),” telling a story to support his claim called…

“Abaconings”

Dipper is trying out a new puzzle toy, the “What-The-Heck-A-Hedron,” in the twins’ room, but can’t seem to handle it. Mabel, pretending to run a morning zoo radio show with Waddles and a keyboard, says that maybe he’s simply not smart enough to solve it.

Incensed, Dipper, using his journal, heads out into the woods and finds the “Perceptshroom,” which, when ground up and smeared on the forehead overnight, will increase brainpower. But while he’s asleep, Waddles devours a whole bowl of the stuff as well as what’s on Dipper’s head.

The next morning, Dipper wakes feeling smarter, but quickly realizes he’s not. The twins both get a huge shock when Waddles zooms into their room on a makeshift wheelchair he designed, complete with a voice box. The voice of said voice box is that of none other than Cosmos host, Hayden Planetarium director, and America’s current number one science communicator, Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

Astonished by how smart Waddles has become, Dipper runs off with him to take advantage of this new change. But Mabel can’t stand the thought of her best friend possibly leaving her behind.

In the Shack, the visitor declines to buy Waddles. But Stan, ever persistent, offers up some spooky VHS tapes for sale and spins an accompanying yarn called…

“Clay Day”

The twins, Soos and Stan are sitting around watching an incredibly dopey kids’ movie that only Mabel is entranced by. Frustrated that the movie “put me 90 minutes closer to death,” Stan puts in a VHS copy of The Adventures of Loinclothiclese in: Clash of the Genres, an old-school Ray Harryhausen-esque adventure film filled with stop-motion animation.

When a claymation cyclops pops up on screen, Mabel flips out and runs away screaming. Dipper explains that Mabel has a deep-seated fear of claymation. Annoyed that his niece is reduced to hiding in a laundry basket over an old movie, Stan discovers that the film’s Harryhausen figure, Henry Claymore (John DiMaggio), lives in Gravity Falls.

Arriving at the animator’s secluded home, Stan explains that the man is a recluse…then promptly throws a grappling hook over the fence to get everybody in. But once they get in, they discover Claymore is a prisoner of his own creations, who aren’t only real–Claymore used black magic because “Who would spend one frame at a time, moving clay figures? That’s crazy!”–but are out for vengeance.

The Execution

The casting of such a noted public figure like Tyson as “Smart Waddles” was the big PR push for this episode and that’s understandable. “Abaconings” is easily the best segment of the episode. In only eight minutes, we get a complete story full of great character beats for both twins, particularly Mabel, and a wonderful amount of gags (My favorite is probably the moment where Smart Waddles  shoots Nerf missiles from his wheelchair at the goat that always pops up in the background). Throw in some great performances by Jason Ritter and Kirsten Schaal and wonderfully funny/dry delivery by Tyson, and this segment is one for the ages.

Compared to the high point of “Abaconings,” the other two segments don’t fare nearly as well. “Hands Off” is easily the weakest. The premise is just too slight, the jokes too thin and there’s simply not a lot to remember here. Even the reveal of the witch’s ulterior motives for stealing Stan’s hands wasn’t that memorable. Everything done here has been done elsewhere on this show and done better.

“Clay Day” falls squarely in the middle. I’m a sucker for stop-motion–I can’t even count the number of times I’ve watched Wallace & Gromit in my life — and seeing Alex Hirsch and crew blend that style with their own work is a tremendous melding of styles. Throw in some fun self-deprecation gags — Soos has a great bit where he explains that people who shut themselves off of society “are called An-i-ma-tors (Hirsch’s delivery sells it)” — and an ending that evokes the great South Park episode “Best Friends Forever” and you get some quite funny stuff. Just not as funny as hearing a preeminent scientist say that “There is more to life than making fart noises and then laughing at those fart noises.”

I will say that the framing sequence is particularly inspired. Stan is just a straight-up huckster and we really see that on display here. The episode ends on a really dark note that I won’t spoil, other than to say that it begs the question this show always does: “How on Earth does Disney keep letting them get away with this?”

3.5 out of 5 stars

3.5 out of 5 stars

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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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  1. Best of 2014 Year End Review: Tom | Another Castle - 12/23/2014

    […] GRAVITY FALLS Season 2, Episode 6 Review: Little Gift Shop Of Horrors […]

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