Holy doo-doo, what an episode!
First of all: CALLED IT! Figured I knew what Stan's utlimate motivation was for a few weeks now, but just like the best shows do, they made me call everything I thought I knew into question in this episode. THAT'S HOW YOU WRITE A SERIES, FOLKS! CAST REASONABLE DOUBT AND DON'T LET THE AUDIENCE TAKE THE MYSTERY FOR GRANTED!
Otherwise, WOW. This silly little show that started simply by introducing us to small (in hindsight) mysteries resolved in one episode and focusing on the relationships between the characters and developing them so that things feel like the MATTER, so when all the main plot, mystery and darkness takes center stage in season 2, it RESONATES!
And... It HAD to be Mabel to make the final call on the ultimate decision! It HAD to. And even though in the back of my mind I knew what she would do (because she's MABEL, of course, being guided by heart), the show still managed to pull her enough in the other direction (at Dipper's insistence, as the one guided by logic, and as her sibling, the one she's most inclined to trust, and not for no reason; the show has repeatedly shown us the extent these two will go for each other. In fact, the idea of sibling bond has become even more striking as the show's ultimate theme given this episode's revelations). And yes, I got misty eyed when it happened. Palpable internal conflict and world-imperiling stakes plus characters you care about will do that. Time will tell what the full extent of the fallout of that decision will be, but I'm figuring it won't be entirely good or bad, but it will be driving the events from now until the end of the series. And someone is going to have to pay a price.
The tone of this episode is a complete 180 from where we started, but because it gradually has been introducing us to more and more serious elements this season, it doesn't feel abrupt, but rather a natural extension of where the series was going. We are deep into Sci-fi action-drama territory now. You can almost track the changes in tone from 85% humor to 15% danger/drama in season one (and in some cases season one had episodes that were 100% humor) to now the exact reversal. Humor us used as occasional tension relief instead of setting the tone.
Bill Cypher was right. Everything is going to be different now.
WHEN DOES THE NEXT EPISODE AIR!!!!?!?!?