In October of 2012 Gravity Falls’ Summerween episode premiered on the Disney Channel. The holiday of Summerween was not just the town of Gravity Falls’ answer to Halloween, it was an entirely different holiday in addition to Halloween.
“The people of this town love Halloween so much, they celebrate it twice a year!”
Most Disney Channel shows have holiday themed episodes. The Disney Channel loves to create large programming blocks dedicated to a theme, and a holiday is a great theme to bring together a diverse bunch of shows that may not have all that much in common with each other. But what happens when the in-universe timeline of your show doesn’t contain any major holidays? I guess you just invent one that fits into the theme of the holiday whose programming block you’re trying to fill!
For any other show, this could have been a really lame attempt at appeasing an executive order, and while I can’t prove it, I feel it’s pretty likely that this episode was born out of a corporate edict that the writers of Gravity Falls turn something out to fill a Halloween themed time-slot. Mabel’s line of, “Something about this feels unnatural,” really seems to be a wink and a nod to this from the writers. But again, I can’t prove this, so this could just be me reading too much into it. Either way, whatever the reason, we got a Halloween episode set in the middle of summer, and like most episodes of Gravity Falls, it was brilliant.
Summerween opens with the Pines family visiting the Summerween Superstore, while Grunkle Stan and Soos explain the holiday to Dipper and Mabel. Basically it’s exactly like Halloween in every way, except they carve watermelons instead of pumpkins. Any skepticism the kids might have held disappears when they learn they’ll be getting free candy. Though they regard a bowl of off-brand candy with disdain, because it contains brands such as Sand Pop, Gummy Chairs, and Mr. Adequate Bar. (Side note, I don’t know what they’re so disgusted by, I’d eat a bowl of Gummy Chairs in a heartbeat!) Dipper dubs the off-brand candy as ‘loser candy’ and tosses it out the window.
Soos tells the kids that although Summerween is one of the best holidays in Gravity Falls, it’s also a night to be feared, because local legend tells of the ‘Summerween Trickster’ a mysterious figure who eats any children who lack, ‘The Summerweeen Spirit.’ Dipper and Mabel tell him that they have nothing to fear, they have plenty of Summerween spirit! The twins loved Halloween back home because, as they are twins, they can pull off great matching costumes, and “The people eat it up.”
Everything is going great until Wendy and Robbie show up. Being teenagers, and three years older than them, and therefore the obvious authority of all things cool, Dipper suddenly realizes that it would not be cool to be seem trick-or-treating with his sister. When Wendy tells him he should come to a party with them, Dipper quickly tries to think of a way out of trick-or-treating with Mabel. Unfortunately, when Mabel’s friends Candy and Granda arrive to go trick-or-treating with them, his idea is to play sick, which Mabel sees right through.
As Mabel questions Dipper on his Summerween spirit, a knock at the door signals the arrival of a tall, shadowy figure wearing a small smiley-face mask. Dipper tells the figure that he’s too old to be trick-or-treating, and he slams the door in his face. The figure does not take no for an answer however, and tells them that as they have insulted him, they must now pay with their lives. They think he’s joking of course, until a small child named Gorney shows up behind him to trick-or-treat. The figure grabs the child and devours him whole, right in front of the kids. This is obviously the Summerween Trickster of legend.
The Trickster tells the children that the only way to avoid the same fate as Gorney, is to bring him 500 pieces of candy before the last Jack-o’-Melon has gone out. As he leaps into the darkness and skitters across the roof like a spider, he tells them that they must trick-or-treat, or die! Dipper is dismayed, but Mabel is elated, because now he HAS to come with them!
Dipper reluctantly joins Mabel and her friends, along with Soos, but he refuses to dress up, and has a really grouchy attitude. Of course this attitude is really turning off the people they visit, who don’t feel like being generous when they are told to hurry up. Realizing that they’ll never meet their quota if Dipper keeps this up, they force Dipper to dress up, giving him a peanut butter costume, to go with Mabel’s jelly.
It works! Everyone is charmed by their adorable costumes, and they start raking in the candy! By 8:30 that night they have 499 pieces of candy. Since they are so close, Soos leaves the kids to get the truck, and Mabel leaves Dipper to guard the wheelbarrow full of candy while she goes with Candy and Grenda to get one more piece.
Just as they have left, Wendy and Robbie drive by. Thinking fast, Dipper shoves his costume and the wheelbarrow of candy behind a bush, and acts like he’s not out trick-or-treating. He tells them that he’s on his way to the party and he’ll see them there. As they drive off, the girls come back with the final piece of candy. They heard what he said, and Mabel is upset that he was planning to ditch her for Wendy. When they ask him where the candy went, he points to the bush, but when they go to pull it out, they discover that there was a ravine behind the bush. The candy is floating down a stream, and there is not enough time to get more.
As they begin to panic, the last Jack-o’-melon goes out, and the Trickster appears under a street light. Dipper tries to explain what happened, but the Trickster won’t hear it. He begins to grow massive, towering over them.
Dipper throws the last piece of candy at him, but he absorbs it into his body, laughing menacingly, while mutating and sprouting more arms. They try to run, but the monster is too big and too fast. He grabs all four of the kids, but before he can eat them, Soos appears in his pickup, and smashes through him! The Trickster explodes all over the street, and everyone is safe.
They are all happy to have survived, but Mabel is still upset that Dipper had been lying in order to ditch her for the teens’ party. Dipper tries to make it up to her, and he notices that she’s hurt her arm, but when he tries to help her, she turns away and refuses to talk to him.
As they drive back home, they suddenly notice that all the debris from the monster explosion is peeling up and flying away. They look back, and all the bits of the Trickster are coming together and reforming to recreate the Trickster. He’s now an even more monstrous version of himself, and he’s wearing nothing but the little smiley face mask.
The Trickster leaps though the air and lands on the truck, causing Soos to swerve wildly. The Trickster ends up smashing through a powerline pole, while the pickup crashes through the storefront of the Summerween Superstore. They all pile out of the truck, but they can see the monster still heading their way, so they all go and hide back in the store.
As they hide in a shelf out of sight, Dipper once again tries to explain his action to Mabel. He tells her he just felt like he was getting too old to go trick-or-treating, but Mabel tells him that that’s exactly why it was so important to her. She knows that they’re growing up, and she knows that there aren’t going to be that many Halloweens left for them. She sadly says that she didn’t realize it was already their last one.
Dipper feels terrible, but there’s nothing more he can do now. They need to find a way past the Trickster and out of the store. Since they are in what is basically a Halloween costume emporium, they all easily find disguises, and they slowly make their way outside. The only problem is, Soos is obsessed with some talking skull decorations, and decides to set one off before he leaves. He presses it, and is devoured almost instantly.
The kids rip off their disguises and charge the monster with prop weapons drawn. They all start hacking at him, but they’re props, so it obviously doesn’t do a whole lot. However, Grenda, who is extremely strong for a little girl, does manage to hack off one of its arms, but as she does, some bits of it get in her mouth. She is disgusted to discover that it tastes like saltwater taffy. The Trickster regrows the arm, and asks, “You really haven’t figured it out yet?”
He grabs all four of them and brings them up to his mask. He peels it off, telling them to look at his face. The children are shocked to see that his face, as well as his entire body, is all made up of ‘loser candy!’
The Trickster explains that every year the children of Gravity Falls throw all their unwanted candy into the dump. He is made of every piece of black licorice and ‘chocolate with that white powdery stuff’ that everyone hates! No one would eat him, so now he eats the children out of revenge!
As he lifts the kids toward his mouth, his stomach begins to shift and distort, and he screams, falling backwards as Soos burst out of him, happily eating his way to freedom. As the Trickster convulses on the floor, Soos offers some of the trickster’s ‘innards’ to the kids.
“Wait, you actually think I taste good?” the Trickster asks him in disbelief. When Soos answers yes, the Trickster begins to cry, candy corn tears of joy. All he ever wanted was for someone to say he was good. As he dies, happy to finally be liked, Gorney, the small child he’d eaten earlier that night, bursts out of his body and happily exclaims, “I’ve been twaumatized!”
Later that night when they finally make it home, Dipper is surprised to find Wendy sitting in their house carving a Jack-o’-melon. She wonders why Dipper never showed up at the party and he admits he was actually trick-or-treating. She tells him that the party was lame anyway, and they all sit down to watch a scary movie together. As Dipper bandages Mabel’s arm, and they all eat candy, Soos casually says, “I ate a man alive tonight.”
One of the best things about Gravity Falls, among the many, many amazing things about it, is the diversity of the monsters, villains, and creatures that they face each episode. The Summerween Trickster was no exception, and I especially loved how much he resembled the terrifying No Face from Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. To this day the Trickster still gives my cousin the shivers, because of just how much she hated No Face.
I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the Grunkle Stan subplot of the episode, as he stayed home to try to scare a couple of jaded trick-or-treaters. The culmination of all his failed attempts, where the children are accidentally sent screaming into the night at the sight of his elderly body in his underwear is really hilarious, and usually elicits uproarious laughter from whoever I watch the episode with.
I’m not always a fan of holiday themed episodes, but Summerween is actually one of my favorite episodes of Gravity Falls. This episode is Gravity Falls at its best, taking a creepy monster story and turning it into a hilarious adventure. It also had just the right amount of heart, and Mable’s little speech about growing up always manages to hit me right in the feels.
All in all, this episode has a little of everything you want in a good Halloween special. Thrills, chills, laughs, and heart. If you’re planning a Halloween party, I definitely recommend adding this to your agenda.