Gravity Falls Season 2: The Horrors of Family

The second season of Gravity Falls premiered on August 1, 2014, nearly a full year after the Season 1 finale. Things pick up immediately, which isn’t a surprise given that the entirety of the show comprises one summer.

The short version of the mythology of Gravity Falls is that Grunkle Stan’s twin brother opened a portal to another dimension and brought forth the series’ villain Bill Cipher. It’s ultimately up to the show’s main players to deal with Bill, close the portal, and save the day.

This would be complicated enough if not for the fact that the Pines family (both blood-related and extended) have a lot to deal with concerning one another in Season 2. Dipper and Mabel’s personal horrors take a back seat for much of this season, allowing for characters like Grunkle Stan and his brother Ford, Soos, and even Pacifica a chance to explore their own horrors. While Season 1 was very much about the horrors of adolescence, Season 2 of Gravity Falls explores the horrors of family.

All that said, this does not mean that Dipper and Mabel are no longer the main characters of the show. Rather, it is through them that viewers can witness up close the journeys the other characters take this season. As for the Mystery Twins’ horrors, they creep back up one last time in the three-part series finale “Weirdmageddon,” which I will tackle in the third and final part of this in-depth analysis of Gravity Falls.

For now, I want to highlight the horrors that come with family, which I believe to be the running notion of Season 2. As I covered in my look at Season 1, in life, there are bullies, corrupt authority figures, and unwanted advances, but there is something even scarier about the horrors of those closest to us. A family is supposed to be caring and supportive, but what happens when that isn’t necessarily the case?

Dipper, Mabel, and the audience discover the answer to that very question in Season 2.

Young Stan and Ford sit on swings in Gravity Falls.

Grunkle Stan and Uncle Ford

In the Season 2 premiere episode, “Scary-oke,” Grunkle Stan finally reveals to Dipper and Mabel that he is aware of the strange goings-on in the town of Gravity Falls. It’s a big moment that moves the mythology along quite well, but more than that, for the first time, Stan is open to his nephew and niece. This is important because it’s not a secret that Stan is a conman. Being secretive and emotionally unavailable is almost a given in this respect.

This comes to a head in “Not What He Seems,” when Agents Powers and Trigger (first introduced in “Scary-oke”) reveal to Dipper and Mabel that Stan has been doing some seriously shady stuff that goes beyond swindling people out of their money at the Mystery Shack. At first, they try to clear his name, but ultimately, thanks to some security footage and a box of incriminating evidence, it becomes clear that their Grunkle Stan is not the person they thought he was.

It can be frightening to discover something dark about someone you love. I don’t blame Dipper and Mabel for ultimately turning on Stan.

In a climax worthy of a season finale of Lost, Dipper and Mabel find Stan’s secret lab and realize that whatever their uncle is doing must be stopped. As Mabel holds her finger over the button that will bring whatever is happening in this lab to an end, Stan is held back, begging for his niece to not press the button.

In a totally Mabel move, she decides to trust her family and does not push the button, something Dipper just can’t believe. But it turns out that all Stan was trying to do was open a portal so that his twin brother could return from another dimension.

Mabel floats in front of a portal in Gravity Falls.

It turns out that Stan, the lying, cheating conman, had his family at the forefront all along. However, he soon realizes that having his brother back isn’t the happy reunion he was probably expecting.

In “A Tale of Two Stans,” we get to see the story of twin brothers Stanley and Stanford (Grunkle Stan and Uncle Ford, respectively). It’s really quite an episode. It turns out that Uncle Ford built the portal many years ago while he and Stan had fallen out of touch. Stan was jealous of Ford’s brilliance, and Ford resented Stan’s carelessness. Still, Stan came to Gravity Falls after Ford reached out to him because apparently, Stan was the only person Ford trusted.

Unfortunately, Ford vanished, and Stan, being Stan, took his brother’s identity and turned his home into the Mystery Shack, a place where tourists can see fake mythical creatures and buy overpriced merchandise. This might explain why, once he returns, Ford isn’t all that happy to see Stan and later have him around. Their relationship is the reason Ford was saved (Stan loves his twin brother), but it is also the reason they just can’t seem to get along (neither has changed much since childhood).

For Dipper and Mabel, seeing Stan and Ford gives them a possible glimpse into their future. Will their relationship turn out the same way? Will they stay close or drift apart? These can be scary questions, and the end of the series will answer them.

A young Soos is sad on his birthday in Gravity Falls.


The character of Soos, short for Jesus, is introduced in the show’s first episode as a loveable doofus who works at the Mystery Shack. He quickly becomes Dipper and Mabel’s friend, helping in their adventures from time to time. He’s a big part of the show’s humor, and for the most part, that’s kind of all he is, until his episode “Blendin’s Game.”

Time travel was presented in the show in Season 1 through the character Blendin, a time traveler from the year 207012. Dipper and Mabel basically got him into trouble, so when he returns in Season 2, he wants his revenge. In one of the show’s finest episodes, Blendin challenges them to Globnar, an insane future game where losers are wiped from existence and winners are given a time wish.

In this episode, Dipper and Mabel learn that Soos’ father left when he was a child, constantly promising to visit and consistently breaking that promise throughout most of Soos’ life. Perhaps, the twins’ reason, if they can win Globnar, they can give their time wish to Soos, and maybe he can finally see his dad.

And they do win. However, Soos realizes that Dipper and Mabel have done more for him than his father ever did. He decides to not waste this wish on someone who never cared about him, even if it is his father.

Dipper and Mabel come to understand this, too. There is the family we are born into and the family we choose to become a part of. For Soos, he chooses Dipper and Mabel to be part of his family and rejects his father. As for the twins, they welcome Soos into theirs, as he becomes more than the hilarious, fun, and weird adult they knew. I mean, he’s still all those things, but the important part is that they’re now all family.

Of course, as we already know with Stan and Ford, as well as Soos and his father, being family isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. And in the season’s most horror-centric episode, we get a reminder that even unlikeable individuals have familial horrors of their own.

A sad Pacifica hears a bell in Gravity Falls.

Pacifica Northwest

When we first met Pacifica, she was presented as one of Mabel’s adolescent horrors. She’s a bully, and in Season 2, we get a look as to why she is the way she is.

In the delightful “Northwest Mansion Mystery,” an episode that definitely pushes the boundary of animated television of kids, we get to spend time with Pacifica in her home, a mansion atop a mountain overlooking Gravity Falls. This isn’t the first time we’ve met Pacifica’s parents, but it is the first time we get a sense of their relationship with their daughter.

They aren’t very loving. In fact, they’re pretty horrible people. As parents, they treat Pacifica more as a prop or a pet than a daughter, even ringing a bell to keep her in line. She doesn’t seem all that happy, most likely faking it whenever out in public. That isn’t to say she isn’t a bad person. She understands right from wrong, but constantly makes the wrong choice between the two.

At one point in the episode, Pacifica has a chance to do the right thing, but she doesn’t. Dipper, who has begun bonding with her, loses all respect for Pacifica. It isn’t until she finally makes a radical change and defies her parents that she becomes a new and better version of herself, essentially conquering the demons inside her. She’s no longer the version of herself that her parents forced upon her. She’s now herself.

The ghost of a lumberjack haunts Gravity Falls.

This is very much a good thing, but in addition to being horrible parents, the Northwests are also concealing a horrible truth. The Northwest Manor was built by a group of lumberjacks who promised attendance at the yearly parties that were to be thrown at the mansion. However, once construction was completed, they were denied attendance and ended up dying in a mudslide. The head lumberjack swore to return in 150 years to exact his revenge on behalf of himself and all who perished unless the Northwests kept their promise. None ever did, despite knowing this curse.

Pacifica knows that defying her parents holds consequences, but she fights through that fear. Thankfully, the new and improved Pacifica opens the Manor gates and lets the townsfolk into the party. The curse is lifted, and Dipper decides there’s good in Pacifica after all. Sometimes, defying one’s family is a scary but necessary action.

As the second season winds down, we come to an episode that sets up “Weirdmageddon,” but one that also holds the key to Dipper and Mabel’s future as siblings.

Dipper and Mabel are scared in Gravity Falls.

The Mystery Twins Revisited

Dipper and Mabel get along for the majority of Season 2, having learned their lessons regarding one another in Season 1. There are highs and lows, as in any sibling relationship, but for the most part, they are there for one another in big ways.

Until the episode “Dipper and Mabel vs. the Future.”

At this point in the season, Dipper has made friends with Uncle Ford, a nerdy kindred spirit who likes all the things Dipper does that Mabel doesn’t. This is a good thing. While Mabel has her friends Candy and Grenda, Dipper is kind of a loner. He’s given up on pursuing Wendy, and both her and Soos are more grown-up compared to Dipper, who is just now about to turn thirteen.

Having a close relationship with Ford is great. Mabel is even happy for Dipper until she overhears this exchange in this episode:

FORD: Listen to me, Dipper. This town is a magnet for things that are special. And that includes you and me. It brought both of us here for a purpose! Stay here with me, Dipper. Become my apprentice. Don’t let anyone hold you-

DIPPER: I’ll do it. I’m gonna stay.

FORD: Excellent. Now, who wants to save the world, apprentice?

Mabel is, of course, shocked and heartbroken about this. What she missed, though, was this exchange a little earlier in the episode:

FORD: What would you say to staying in Gravity Falls after the summer ends and becoming my apprentice?

DIPPER: W-what about school?

FORD: Dipper, I have 12 PhDs. Your parents would be thrilled I could give you such an advanced education.

DIPPER: There’s also Mabel. She’d be all alone in California.

FORD: Mabel will be fine on her own. She has a magnetic personality. I watched her become pen pals with the pizza delivery man in the 60 seconds he was at the door.

DIPPER: Gosh, we’ve never really been apart before.

FORD: And isn’t it suffocating? Dipper, can you honestly tell me you never felt like you were meant for something more?

Dipper clearly thought about Mabel during this initial conversation. So, what ultimately made him say yes? Well, it’s because Dipper has seemingly found his purpose as Ford’s apprentice. Dipper began the summer as Mabel’s dorky twin brother. Now, he can be someone like Ford, a heroic genius, not unlike Indiana Jones.

That’s all fine and dandy for Dipper, but regardless of how Mabel spent more time with her friends than with Dipper this summer, she still loves her twin brother very much. She begins the episode excited to plan their birthday party and ends the episode scared of what her life could be without Dipper.

Mabel and a walkie talkie in Gravity Falls.

Growing up has plenty of horrors, as previously discussed. One of the scariest is losing loved ones, not just to death, but also because they leave. Or decide to not move on with you. Mabel has dealt with real-life horrors like unwanted advances, corrupt authority figures, bullies, as well as evil gnomes, possession, ghosts, and all different kinds of fantastical horrors.

Losing Dipper might actually be the one horror that destroys her. In “Weirdmageddon,” we find the Mystery Twins facing off against so many kinds of horrors, but it ultimately comes down to facing the very reality of growing up. And, despite everything else, that might actually be the scariest thing.

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Written by Michael Suarez

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