Oh, so that’s why the show so underuses Wendy: She’s just too damn powerful and awesome. Seriously, never mess with a flipping Corduroy.
I mean, that was just a magnificent half-hour of television, though, as those preceding sentences indicate, it’s the kind of episode that invites analysis from the Chris Farley Show school of criticism: “Remember when Wendy told Gideon precisely how she was going to break his henchman’s arm and steal back the key, then did it without a second thought? That was awesome.” Remember when Bill Cypher welcomed his hellish minions into our reality and proceeded to remake the opening credits in his own image? Remember when Time Baby and the Time Police showed up to save the day, then immediately got incinerated? Remember when Preston Northwest attempted to sell out our entire universe and become a horseman of Bill’s apocalypse, only to have his entire face rearranged? Remember when Louis CK showed up as the most neurotic, put-upon human-devouring monster in this or any plane of reality? Remember when Soos disappeared for most of the episode and reemerged as the post-apocalyptic answer to Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name? Remember when the episode suddenly turned into Mad Max: Fury Road, complete with live-action cutaway to Jason Ritter and Linda Cardellini? That was all awesome. Some of it was pretty disturbing, yeah, but damn if it wasn’t all awesome.
It’s not that there’s no room for deeper analysis here, but it does feel a little beside the point, especially when this is only the first part of a multi-episode arc, and there’s plenty of story here left to be told. While Bill appears invincible at this point, Ford did tell us there exists another way to defeat him, and Dipper lays down the order of operations: Save Mabel, save the town, and save the world. I don’t believe it’s been revealed precisely how many episodes the Weirdmageddon is going to last—it’s easy to see the entire next episode, whenever Disney XD deigns to air it, covering the search for Mabel, with the final battle against Bill only coming in later weeks. You might figure the town as a whole is going to mount a brave last stand at some point, Blendin Blandin appears to still be up to something, and let’s not forget Stan Pines has probably got some sleazily heroic (or possibly heroically sleazy) role left to play in all this.
Given all that, “Weirdmaggedon: Part I” is ultimately setup for what’s still to come. And that’s not a criticism! It’s just that the main takeaway here boils down to, “Damn, Gravity Falls is really going for it, huh?” In particular, the opening section in which Bill unleashes all manner of insanity on the town and its people is some of the most audacious material I’ve seen in what is still ostensibly a kid-friendly show, particularly given how radical a departure it all is from the show’s previous, relatively sane approach to the supernatural. This is Gravity Falls going full Lovecraft, or maybe even full Cronenberg—hell, maybe even full Hieronymus Bosch—and the show relishes every opportunity to recontextualize familiar elements like the goat or the water tower as newfound servants of Bill. But a lot of what we see here has no precedent in Gravity Falls lore, making this a still more shocking break from the universe the show has built up over the past two seasons. It’s telling that one of the first sequences after the Weirdmageddon is all the woodland monsters and mystical creatures running for their lives: The real insanity is now here.
I opened this review just marveling at how awesome Wendy is in this episode, but there’s an actual point worth considering there. This episode pretty much establishes that the ultimate defeat of Bill will lie in Dipper and Mabel’s relationship, which makes total sense to the point that anything else would feel like a violation of what this show is all about. What that does mean, though, is that every other character who is plausibly more powerful or capable than the Pines twins needs to be taken off the narrative chessboard. We see that early on with the removal of Ford, as he is transformed into Bill’s personal backscratcher. While a revived Ford could still have a role to play in the climax, he’s too experienced and too clever to play second fiddle to Dipper and Mabel’s own quest to defeat Bill, so it’s natural that he would be written out. I can’t help but think a similar fate awaits Wendy, considering just how fearsome a warrior this episode makes her. Soos, um, can probably hang around a bit longer.
While this is an episode that invites viewer and reviewer alike just to marvel at the lunacy of it all, there is still some more emotional storytelling happening on the edges that serves to provide more of a backdrop for the story at large. “Weirdmageddon: Part I” doesn’t get too far into the trenches with this, but there’s that lovely moment at the end in which Dipper finally reaches Gideon, getting him to recognize that Mabel doesn’t love him and will never love the person he is now. It’s a mature point that Dipper makes, suggesting that the value of his crush on Wendy should be measured not in terms of its obvious impossibility but by to the extent that it inspired him to be a better person, a person more worthy of love. These are bonds defined not in terms of possession but in terms of mutual respect and caring. And yeah, you could probably argue that Gideon makes his proverbial heel-face turn real quick, given just how entrenched his psychosis has been up to this point, but the episode makes this a little more plausible by suggesting this is as much about taking Bill down and being servant of nobody as it is a legitimate understanding that he needs to prove himself to Mabel.
If this is indeed the beginning of the end for Gravity Falls, then what a way for it all to kick off. “Weirdmageddon: Part I” is both logical extension of and radical departure from everything the show has been up to this point. And all that’s really left for us to do is cower in awe and terror as the whole thing unfolds. Things are going to get worse before they get better, and there really aren’t any characters I’d rather go on that journey with than Dipper, Wendy, Soos, and—if all goes well, which I probably shouldn’t bank on—Mabel.
Oh, and Stan. And Waddles. Waddles! Yeah, that pig has got at least one big heroic gesture in him before all is said and done.