Just putting this out there at the start: Gravity Falls is my favorite show in the whole world right now. I have watched all the episodes multiple times. There are two categories of shows that I like. Shows that I enjoy but only watch once every several years or only once, and shows that I obsessively re-watch episodes multiple times in a single year. Gravity Falls is the rare entry into that second category. Even shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender only get a marathon of the whole series every couple years.
I can say, before we get into the specifics of the first episode, that Gravity Falls does not have a single episode I do not enjoy, nor does it have a single episode so far that stands out as being “The bad one”. Even fantastic shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender, have episodes that are either of lower quality compared to the rest, or stand out as actually being not good. I’m looking at you The Great Divide. There are more forgettable episodes, but upon re-watch even those actually have multiple jokes that work even the second time around.
So what makes Gravity Falls such an anomaly for me? Well, the fact that the first episode is actually really good helps. Think to yourself, how often do you have a show you like, but say something along the lines of, “The show is amazing, but the first episode isn’t the strongest/kinda sucks.” While I won’t say that Tourist Trapped is the best episode of the show, it is an episode that I will re-watch for reasons other than marathoning the entire show again. Think about your favorite shows, and think about how often you willingly go back to the first episode. That’s how good this show is.
Dipper and Mabel Pines are sent to Gravity Falls, Oregon, to spend the summer with their shyster con-man of a Great Uncle Stan. While there Dipper discovers a book that documents supernatural occurrences in Gravity Falls. The knowledge in the book soon comes in handy as Mabel’s new boyfriend apparently likes her for her brains shall we say.
Tourist Trapped’s biggest draw is that it displays all of Gravity Falls’ strengths from the very first, without revealing its true power. The writing is fantastic, both the comedic writing and the actual storytelling. There is a plot twist, a legitimately surprising plot twist, that I dare anyone to predict. If you claim to have predicted it I will do one of two things, call you a liar, or ask you to introduce me to show creator Alex Hirsch, person who clearly works on the show, because I too would really like work on Gravity Falls.
From the start it is clear that Gravity Falls has an ongoing story, with clues towards a larger mystery sprinkled throughout the show. It’s a classic blend of traditional episodic writing and serialized writing. Episodes stand on their own, while in the background a larger game is being played. Re-watching Tourist Trapped, and any other episode, is a treat because every single time you will notice something new hidden in the background.
The problem for me, as a reviewer, is that I can’t really discuss the episode as much as I really want to without delving into spoilers. That’s not to say that you wouldn’t enjoy the episode if I spoil everything for you, in fact it wouldn’t be re-watchable if enjoyment was predicated on not knowing the story beforehand. However, I wouldn’t dare rob anyone of experiencing it for the first time by writing anything that would give anything away. But, certain things need discussing. So I warn you, in these reviews there are going to be spoiler sections. Read at your own cost.
Spoiler Section (Do Not Read Unless You’re Caught Up)
Light spoilers here for this review. I don’t want to get too deep into a discussion on the first episode, since I would rather readers have a chance to watch the show before reading anything I have to say. I just wanted to take a moment to discuss the writing in the show, and exactly why this first episode is so good.
The thing about plot twists is that they need to be foreshadowed, so that the viewer can come back and see that the true answer was under their noses the whole time. But you also don’t want to ruin the plot twist. And without revealing the final plot twist even here, I’ll say that having Dipper think Norman is a zombie is one of the best uses of a Red Herring that I’ve seen in a while. Because Dipper was so sure that Norman was a zombie, we the viewers never thought that there would be anything more to it. The hints were dropped, such as Dipper opening to the wrong page in the journal, but it came across as just a joke because the focus was entirely on zombies.
Spoiler Section Ended
As I said before. You need to go watch this show. I have not come across a single person that has watched it and not fallen in love after several episodes. I have however come across people that watch one episode and then refuse to watch more for a variety of reasons. But anyone that has actually given Gravity Falls the time of day has discovered that this is one of the best cartoon shows on the air right now.