'Gravity Falls' Finale Decoded: Moments You May Have Missed In The Final Episode

'Gravity Falls' Finale Decoded: Moments You May Have Missed In The Final Episode

Warning: Spoilers Ahead
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Summer vacation just drew to an end for some, even in the middle of February. Last Monday, "Gravity Falls" aired its last episode, an hour-long intense emotional roller coaster of a final battle against the coming apocalypse. "Weirdmaggedon 3: Take Back The Falls" as the perfect, heartwarming and action-packed end to two seasons and one summer of weirdness. The world of "Gravity Falls," which started as such a quirky, sweet comedy, if surrounded by slightly off-putting imagery and creepy themes, has become a clever puzzle of suspense and dark mysteries. Yet, even as the tone of the show turned on its head, though, the show has never forgotten the foundation it finds in the importance of trust, love, and family, all of which was especially prominent in its final hour.

From this point on, this article will have major spoilers for the finale, so if you haven't seen it yet, go watch it and come back.

Of all the things "Gravity Falls" does well, it is, without a doubt, a master of climaxes. Just look back at the final moments of season one, where the show combines the answers to a season's worth of foreshadowing with a plethora of new questions, or the suspense that builds throughout the entirety of "Not What He Seems," as the show forces its audience to question everything they know to the last second. It uses color and animation, music and detail to craft heart-racing moments filled with tension and emotion. And its final episode, as the climax of the entire show, did not disappoint.

The episode races forward from the start and continues to pick up speed, hardly taking a moment to let its audience relieve the slight panic that's building in their chest as Gravity Falls begins to run out of options. But what really makes a good climax in this show is the way it handles its mysteries. No question is solved without two more being asked, and no climax is understood in full until it is taken under a microscope, picked apart and analyzed by the show's fans.

The show's finale features its biggest moment yet, as the Pines' move forward with one final attempt to destroy Bill. Unsurprisingly, this scene is filled with secrets you may not have picked up on the first time around:

1. Clues about Stan and Ford's plan that even Bill missed are dropped moments before the climax.

Some people were eagle-eyed, able to pick out the character design differences between the two in the quick shots they were shown in together. Most, myself included, were not. Upon a second viewing, though, their switch is pretty easy to spot. Ford's iconic six-fingered hands and the cleft in his chin paired with the bumps on Stan's nose give them away. Don't feel too bad about missing it, though. An all-powerful mind demon from a separate dimension couldn't figure it out, either, even with that one, big eye.


2. Bill's last words can only be heard when played backward.

The moments before Stan defeats Bill are unbelievably satisfying. It only makes sense that the trickster could only be beaten by the main con-man himself. But before shattering and disappearing, Bill starts saying something that is a bit indecipherable at first. Fans know that if you hear something on this show that you can't fully understand, it's normally not just your hearing going bad. As Bill finds himself coming apart, his garbled final words can only be understood when played backward:



"(A-)X-O-L-O-T-L MY TIME HAS COME TO BURN. I INVOKE THE ANCIENT POWER THAT I MAY RETURN."

In the days since the episode premiered, there's been some debate over whether or not Bill is spelling "Xolotl" or "Axolotl." Not only is Xolotl the Aztec god of fire and lightning, but he is also the god of twins and monsters. Clearly, a very fitting "ancient power" for Bill to call on in his last moments. However, Alex Hirsch, the creator of "Gravity Falls," said that he would answer any "spoiler questions" during an AMA on Reddit a while back with a picture of an axolotl, as in the small creature Stan keeps in a tank near his armchair. The "A" may be part of the word he spells, or it might just be a part of the scream that is heard before he reaches for Stan. The axolotl is one of the spirit animal forms of Xolotl, though, so the difference between the two is not as distinct as it may seem at first glance.

3. Bill knew exactly what was coming for him in his final moments.

This show has always liked to tease us with flashes of images that allude to what is to come later on. Blendin Blandin's suit changes to a scene from the beach Stan and Ford grew up on in "Blendin's Game," and Bill's body changes to an image of Ford and the mark that would later cause Stan's "tattoo." Bill's body does this one last time as it begins to glitch, changing to this:

An image that is kind of hard to make out until you see this image, moments after Bill is defeated:

4. You may actually be able to find his body.

Not just in the cartoon. In real life. If you watched the finale on television, you might have turned it off during the credits as a new show began. If you stayed until the end, you would have caught a glimpse of this:

Bill, no longer animated, in the same position as he is in the show. When combined with the decoded message found on the bus as Dipper and Mabel go home - "Hidden deep within the woods a buried treasure awaits / Secrets lost and statues found beyond the rusty gates” - it starts to sound like this isn't just a quick gag to make you feel like the events you just witnessed are real. "The rusty gates" is too odd a detail for that, considering there are no rusty gates worth noting in the cartoon. Fans have already begun searching, checking tourist traps around Oregon like the Oregon Vortex and the Temple of Oculus Anubis. The show was able to turn its viewers into conspiracy theorists, and makes sure to take its final moments to make them into explorers, essentially making them into honorary members of the Pines family.

BONUS:

5. The episode features two very special guest stars.

"Gravity Falls" isn't the only odd town out there, as the show was extra aware of that when casting this episode. Cecil Baldwin, the narrator of the "Welcome To Night Vale" podcast, a series focusing on a small desert town filled with odd creatures and anomalies, made a return appearance in the episode as Tad Strange, the only normal person in all of Gravity Falls. He only has one line, but it is exciting to see the two towns collide for a moment. The episode also had a guest appearance by Kyle Maclachlan, otherwise known as Special Agent Dale Cooper from "Twin Peaks," a show that has been an influence on "Gravity Falls" since the beginning. He voices the bus driver who takes Dipper and Mabel back to California.

It's all very fitting, to say the least. The voice of an inspiration for the show carrying the Pines twins to the end of their journey while they watch "Gravity Falls" flick past the bus windows, a nostalgic version of the cartoon's opening theme playing as Dipper opens the letter to find the words, "See you next summer!" ties the entire show together so cleanly that it's almost impossible to finish the episode without feeling 100% satisfied.

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The Differences Between 'A Quiet Place' And 'Truth Or Dare'

One is great. One is not.
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I don’t usually like to rate movies out of ten. People see movies for different reasons, and personally, I believe that most movies can be enjoyed as long as their viewers go in with the right expectations. But despite this gracious philosophy of film, I also believe that there are some films that do things well and some that do things poorly. Such objective standards can be rated on a scale from one to ten.

Over the last few weeks, film fans have been graced by at least two fans that paved the way for future original creative endeavors, and at least one that has continued to establish my cynical outlook on the Hollywood machine. A Quiet Place, one of the more optimistic offerings, was one of the best-written films to come from the horror-thriller genre in the last few years. This weekend’s Truth or Dare was one of the worst written. And the key areas where they diverge are quite obvious.

1. Basic Premise

A Quiet Place, in addition to elegantly expositing slowly, carefully, and of course, quietly, contains a premise that can be summarized in one word: shhh. There are few, if any, rules except “be quiet.” And there is no grand summary of how the sound-hunting creatures came to plague the planet; we are only told what is relevant to the plight of the Abbott family, our protagonists. Understanding the monster allows us to wrap our brains around it. We fear that which we do not understand.

In comparison, Truth or Dare establishes nonsensical rules that are so far from logical that they cannot possibly be threatening. The context for the events we’re witnessing is so contrived that it is near impossible to feel tension or fright. And there’s no ambiguity, despite your desperate pleas for the cringe to end. They lay out everything you need to understand the “threat” so it’s no longer threatening.

2. Plot Motivators

A Quiet Place’s movie journey genre is known as “monster in the house.” The protagonists are trapped in a confined space with a terrifying brute force that can’t be reasoned with. This is what drives the plot: a compelling antagonist. Creatures with such auditory acuity that they can hear sounds from miles away. Insurmountable obstacles in interesting settings and situations.

Rather, Truth or Dare opted for a character-driven plot, which is a completely legitimate writing decision. Truth or Dare’s problem is that all its characters are idiots. This is a very common horror film trope - overly sexed teens are inebriated, or their brains are underdeveloped, and because of it they fall victim to some horror movie antagonist. The film’s antagonist might be the demon possessing the group’s game of truth or dare, but it seems more that it’s the group themselves and their poor decision-making skills, or their penchant for bringing up intensely personal arguments in the middle of life-or-death situations, or their unrealistically melodramatic responses to trauma.

3. Jump Scares

The idea behind A Quiet Place lends itself to the use of the loud jump scare. Sure, it’s a horror trope, and sure, it made me roll my eyes when I saw it. But the film is more allowed to use loud jump scares than most of its peers because they make sense in the context of the story - most of the film is very quiet (obviously), so any sound is going to seem louder than usual, and the slow-moving landscape has the same effect on the movement.

Truth or Dare, though, would rather use all of its jump scares on fake-outs, which is a well-documented frustration with modern horror films. Jump scares are unrelated to the plot and serve as a very thinly veiled attempt to give the audience a quick jolt of fear. They’re still a cheap method of scaring in A Quiet Place, but at least that film’s context allows the audience to forgive its use. The scares in Truth or Dare are so obvious that, again, they can’t possible come across as threatening.


A Quiet Place was across the board an incredible film. Truth or Dare is not. But like I said, I believe that most movies are good for something. There are objective standards which Truth or Dare fails to measure up to. There are documented writing formulas and genre tropes which the film actively ignores. But if every movie is good for something, what is Truth or Dare good for?

Well, it’s pretty great for noting how not to make a horror movie.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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'Ready Player One' Is Our Modern Day '1984'

The dangers posed by VR and advancing technologies.
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In 2011, Ernest Cline Published his best-selling science fiction novel "Ready Player One." Since then it has become a New York Times bestseller, translated into 20 different languages with a motion picture adaption currently in theaters. "1984" was a book written at a time when everyone was paranoid that the government would be watching their every move. Now that this is a reality, authors and film producers are turning their sites on the newest technological threat to society. Virtual reality.

The plot of "Ready Player One" is fairly simplistic. The United States has been ravaged by climate change and widening wage gaps aided by the disappearance of the middle class have turned the United States into a third world country. The protagonist, Wade Wyatts, plays an MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) for a good portion of his adolescence. The MMO or "Oasis" as it is so called is the last frontier for mankind. The last place left to be traveled and explored at one's leisure. When the games creator dies, a scavenger hunt begins to find a hidden easter egg in the game that will allow users to take over the company and gain access to the creator's fortune (Think Tron Legacy meets Willy Wonka).

While the film is intended to be a sci-fi-action adventure film, its modern context bares more sinister undertones. Today, virtual reality is being utilized on a more massive scale than ever before. Videos of VR chat streams with Ugandan knuckles are all over Youtube. Horror Games utilizing the Occulus Rift are all the rage. We even have VR pornography now. While VR might sound exciting as technology advances, consider this. VR technology is based primarily on the idea of immersion. Most VR games are simulations and in VR chat you can choose an avatar and become whoever or you want to be. But what if technology advanced to the point where your simulated reality was created by your thoughts? Furthermore, what if the technology became so advanced that it could bridge the gap between reality and simulation? This is important because as technology advances, we become less involved with one another. IMVU, Pokemon Go, Second life, VR Chat, all of them prompt us to embrace technology rather than physical interactions. If there is one thing this film can teach us, it's that talking to people and being genuine shouldn't be taken for granted as technological advancements make physical interactions more and more of a rarity.

Cover Image Credit: Flickr

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