Spooky Season Retro Review: Over the Garden Wall

BY JOHN CARTER JR

Launching on Cartoon Network on November 3, 2014, and ending in the same week, Over the Garden Wall became a spooky season staple for creepy animation lovers everywhere. Over the Garden Wall is the story of Wirt (Elijah Wood), his younger brother Greg (Collin Dean), and their newfound acquaintance Beatrice (Melanie Lynsky) as they traverse the Unknown, a place seemingly separate from our own world, looking for a way home. The mini-series is packed with wonderful music, Disney-like art style, sinister stories, and more. 

To examine the facets of what makes this series standout viewers must look at the basic forces that influence the main cast of characters. Wirt, who is arguably the focal protagonist of the series, seems to convey characteristics that are typical of the older brother dynamic – as Greg does the same for the younger brother dynamic). Wirt’s character is driven by a desire to be respected and to be brave. 

Greg seems to be driven by his love for spending time with his brother and in the end, his will to help him. While the character Beatrice, the bluebird, acts as a sort of guide for the boys to follow as they try to find their way home, however she herself has also lost her way. 

The seeming afterlife inspired environment of the Unknown is filled with creatures, locations, and objects from different times throughout history. It is also home to different representations of the moral spectrum in its people.  For example, the woodsman (played by Christopher Lloyd) is a genuinely good man trying to save his daughter, while characters like the Beast are evil and self-serving. 

This representation of competing forces of morality makes for both eerie and light moments in the story. Arguably it is the reason for the final conflict with the Beast because Greg thought he was doing the right thing giving in to the Beast. Over the Garden Wall was able to take the light in Greg’s innocence and the Dark in the Beast’s malevolence set the conflict of mood in the final act. This adds to why this mini-series was so impressive.

Moreover, what made the show great was its horror elements. This was not just concerning the unsettling villains that inhabited the Unknown, but also the realization that characters like Quincy Endicott were dead the entire time, or simply the music – one of the major components in all the scenes. This story was able to establish its core elements to the level of other Cartoon Network shows, not only in plot, but in a way that made the experience completely new and hard to look away from. 

The tone over the entirety of the show is well balanced in its delivery, not just in funny scenes, but scenes that had real danger associated with them. However with the penitential indication that they were in an afterlife the whole time and retroactively looking back at the series from that vantage point instead, it begs the question, what kind of danger were they really in if they had been actually dead? 

The mystery of Over the Garden Wall adds to its impressive performance. Because the Unknown is still mysterious at the end of the series but viewers don’t feel incomplete in their journey. 

Over the Garden Wall is one of Cartoon Network’s Best watches for spooky season. It is filled to the brim with an interesting narrative concerning an older and younger brother dynamic, has a creative cast of characters that represent and the moral dichotomy of Good and Evil and the world is mysterious and contains both horrifying and jubilant locations. It is an annual must re-watch and is recommended to any viewers looking for an engaging spooky little story to watch with your family.

 I give Over the Garden Wall 10/10  Edelwood twigs.

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