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GRAVITY FALLS Season 2, Episode 8 Review: ‘Blendin’s Game’

Probably the least-explored aspect of the Gravity Falls mythos has been the far future. It really only appeared in ‘The Time Traveler’s Pig,’ but since that episode was more focused on Dipper trying to win Wendy’s affection and Mabel bonding with the Internet’s favorite pig, Waddles, Blendin Blandin and his bizarre, dystopic, Time Baby-ruled future was pushed to the background.

In ‘Blendin’s Game,’ while it’s still secondary to the main plot–and what a heartrending main plot it is–the year of 207̃012 in all its weirdness gets highlighted a lot more, with Blendin coming back as a maniacal, yet sympathetic villain. It’s another neat area for the series to take things to, but the show still focuses this episode around one of its core characters: Soos. The world’s greatest handyman and all-around cool dude gets his back story fleshed out tonight, and it’s some very touching stuff, hitting some sweet emotional notes in between bouts of laser tag.

The Plot

Alarms sound at the Infinitentary as Blendin Blandin (Justin Roiland) commits a jailbreak, but is quickly cornered by a squadron of guards led by everyone’s favorite action-movie-star gag, the taciturn Lolph (Dave Wittenberg) and Dundgren (Diedrich Bader). Before he can be taken back to jail, he invokes the right to globnar AKA future gladiatorial combat, and challenges Mabel & Dipper.

Back in the present, Soos shows the twins how to bust open the door of the vending machine. When he’s called away and leaves his wallet behind, Mabel insists they rifle through it. They find not only emergency salami (“Soos, my respect for you has grown!”–Mabel), but his driver’s license. In addition to learning Soos’ full name is Jesus Alzamarino Ramirez, Dipper realizes Soos’ birthday is today, July 13.

They resolve to hold a surprise party for Soos with the help of Greta (Carl Faruolo) and Candi (Niki Yang), complete with cake-flavored pizza and pizza-flavored cake, but after being surprised, Soos gets incredibly sad and walks away. Wendy (Linda Cardellini) and Stan explain to the twins that Soos has always hated his birthday ever since he was a kid, and they have no clue why (Stan reveals that he tried to get the government remove July 13 from the calendar, and now he’s banned from airplanes). Wanting to make things right, the twins and the gang take Soos to laser tag, one of his favorite things.

Dipper & Mabel promise to stay by Soos all day, but wind up walking through a future portal instead of the laser tag arena. Blendin reveals himself and explains that after the events of “Pig,” he was stripped of his job in the Time Paradox Avoidance Enforcement Squad and given 10 squared life sentences. He tells the twins about globnar and that the winner gets both a time wish– the ability to alter or cause anything in time, paradox or consequence free–as well as decide the fate of the loser.

However, Mabel jacks Lolph’s time travel device and they travel back to Gravity Falls. But they’ve arrived ten years too early. After navigating through the town and all the past versions of everyone, they arrive at the Mystery Shack where they find a 12-year old Soos. They follow him home and, on accident, find out the awful, sad truth of just why Soos hates his birthday.

The Execution

Gravity Falls has always been great at combining the fantastical with the emotional. See “Fight Fighters” and “Boyz Crazy’s” Wendy subplot from last season. The same goes here; we’ve got a very heartfelt, small-scale story that happens to involve time travel. And what a cool use of time travel it is; the future setting is only featured for maybe half the episode, but it’s still revealing, funny stuff. We learn that the ominous looking Time Baby (who seems to have all the powers and regality of Uatu the Watcher, but still has the mindset of a baby) is actually the ruler of this time period.

Speaking of Blendin, let’s talk about Justin Roiland for a second. Although he started out in live-action before moving into animation with the little-discussed Disney Channel series Fish Hooks (which Alex Hirsch was a storyboard artist for) as the voice of one of the main characters, these days he’s best known for being the psychotic Earl of Lemongrab on Adventure Time and as the voice of both title characters of Rick & Morty on Adult Swim, which he co-created with Community‘s Dan Harmon. Basically, the roles he plays are united by how shrill and annoying they require his voice to be. His characters become provoked very easily and act out their rage to an over-the-top extreme that’s rooted in real anger.

That’s definitely the case with Blendin. Dipper even admits at the end of the episode that yeah, they did ruin the man’s life in “The Time Traveler’s Pig.” His opposition towards the twins is pretty justified. But it’s his finickiness towards them that makes it really funny. Roiland sells it to the extreme, amping up his voice to the ludicrously high pitches and really venting his anger. There’s a nice little gag about how Blendin can actually be muted by a future device and for anyone who’s put off by the aggressiveness Rouland can bring sometimes, it’s pretty funny.

(Before I continue, I should talk about Rick & Morty for a second. I’ve only seen the pilot episode and wasn’t that impressed, but it is, by all accounts, a fine, funnily dark show and I can easily see it being enjoyed by the same adults who like Gravity Falls. Plus, those gags connecting the two shows that was discovered after “Society of the Blind Eye” aired was pretty cool.)

Enough about the future. Let’s talk about the past. The fact that Soos’ 12th birthday apparently occurred ten years ago–making him 22 in the present–is a little weird because yeah, I always thought Soos was older, the Gravity Falls of ten years ago is full of some pretty hilarious past versions of characters. Turns out tiny Robbie (T.J. Miller) was a Dennis-level Menace, Lil’ Gideon was a baby, Sheriff Blubs had an afro, and the bouncer guy (Kevin Michael Richardson) was just getting his first tattoos. It’s really fun seeing what these characters used to be like.

There’s also an INCREDIBLY awkwardly adorable moment where the twins meet a 5-year old Wendy and she thinks Dipper is cute that pretty much serves to get Dipper firmly over his old crush on her. This was pretty well-covered in “Into The Bunker,” but it’s still interesting that the show firmly repudiate it here, showing that that storyline is dead and done.

Lil’ Soos is definitely the lynchpin of this episode, and finding out what makes him so bummed about his birthday is some truly sad stuff. I don’t want to say what it is exactly, but trust me when I say it’s territory familiar to anyone who’s watched a lot of Disney. That said, the show handles it deftly and honestly, and the optimistic innocence Hirsch gives to lil’ Soos really tugs at the viewer even more. One of the funniest characters of modern TV is revealed to have some depth here, and while that could have rung as false, it doesn’t.

Overall

Dipper & Mabel also shine this episode. While the past instance they messed with time travel was for their own selfish reasons, here, they realize the change they can bring to their friends’ life. The twins also own up to how crummy they can be to others sometimes; to quote Mabel, “He [Blendin]’s just too pathetic to be a bad guy.” This is a nice way to show the kids in the audience that yeah, not everything the heroes do is right. On top of that, they have that typically awesome chemistry that only Jason Ritter & Kristen Schaal can bring.

Finally, this is an exceptionally gorgeous looking episode. The storyboard team (Emmy Cicierenga, Luke Weber and Chris Haughton) and director Matt Braly really make the visuals pop here. Both in the shiny, Tron-ish future and the subtle variations of characters in the past are rendered really well and are very visually pleasing. There’s a real depth to the visuals here and it shows just how skilled the show is at depicting its world.

This is a fun, funny episode that expands the show’s universe while also shining some light on one of its key characters. It’s wonderful stuff and I really hope we get more insightful episodes like this in the future.

4.5 out of 5 stars

4.5 out of 5 stars

Cover image via

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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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One Comment on “GRAVITY FALLS Season 2, Episode 8 Review: ‘Blendin’s Game’”

  1. 11/14/2014 at 1:10 PM #

    Reblogged this on tomtificate and commented:
    Another gem, and a lot funnier (at least for me) than the last episode was. Great stuff.

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