Gravity Falls

Rating: ★★★★★

Ostensibly a kids' show, all about childhood, growing up, and family drama, with some 'mystery' elements as dressing. On the face of it, I should hate this show. But I didn't, because the creators of Gravity Falls actually gave a damn, and it really showed.

When kids 'misbehave' in other shows like this, they always get their comeuppance and learn to toe the line by the end of the episode. Gravity Falls explicitly rebukes this. The kids and their great-uncle routinely break the law, are always seeking out dangerous situations, and the lessons they learn are not always the schoolmarm-approved maxims -- one episode concludes with Dipper learning that revenge feels amazing, in another Mabel gives up on meeting a unicorn's standard of 'pure of heart' and just beats the crap out of it instead.

Nobody is without flaws. Their guardian is a professional con-man holding on to some deep-seated resentment. Dipper's crush Wendy is an ass-kicking tomboy, but also a typical workshy teenager, and part of a normal horrible teenager pack dynamic. People are people, and the show doesn't pull punches.

But at the same time there are genuinely good things being communicated. Dipper's struggle with how to become a man, conducted throughout the series, has to be one of the best versions of this story I've seen. It includes learning to rely on your own judgement, learning to lose a fight, and understanding why Stan keeps the pressure on him -- so that when the world comes after him, he will fight back.

It's a good show because it avoids saying what it's expected to say, and instead tells you something funny or true. There are great lines in this show, both in the sense that it will make you laugh and in the sense that some of them will stick with you for a long time.

And like all good shows, it ends, tugging on your heartstrings as it wraps itself up. It feels too soon, until you realise that it's done all it intended to do. And you can always rewatch it -- I certainly have.