Over the Garden Wall: Journey into the Unknown

Protagonists Wirt and Greg wander through the Unknown in the Cartoon Network miniseries Over the Garden Wall. Photo credit: Courtney Mcclure

Over the Garden Wall is a ten-episode miniseries, created by Patrick McHale, premiering on Cartoon Network in November 2014. The series centres on two half-brothers, Wirt and Greg, as they experience numerous adventures while they’re lost in the Unknown.

Over the Garden Wall has something for everyone.

McHale expanded the miniseries from his award-winning pilot Tome of the Unknown.

Over the Garden Wall is a new-age classic, with a carefully crafted, aesthetically pleasing background. The characters are made out of easily blended shapes.

Greg looks like he is drawn out of circles and Wirt looks as though he is made out of triangles. The main antagonist of the series is a shadowy creature referred to simply as the beast.

The opening sequence starts with a cartoonish frog playing a sable upright piano. The tone throughout the entire show bounces back and forth between childhood whimsy and the stinging bitterness of reality.

Wirt is anxious and overly-cautious whereas Greg is immature and optimistic — in the best way possible.

The show is filled with approximately one song per episode. Whether it be the beast’s rendition of Come Wayward Souls hauntingly ringing in the deepest parts of the Unknown, or Greg’s upbeat and silly Potatoes and Molasses.

There have been many inspirations behind this work of fiction, such as Babes in the Wood, an 1879 children’s book. After their parent’s deaths, and a lot of other events, two child protagonists end up wandering around in the woods.

At the end of the book, the children give in to the wicked cold of winter and lay down to die at the base of a tree.

The same scene is depicted in Over the Garden Wall’s second last episode also titled Babes in the Wood.

Wirt is close to giving up the hope that he and his brother will find their way back home. Tired and ultimately defeated, Wirt submits to his fate and lies down at the base of a tree.

At this point in the story, the leaves are changing, and snow is blanketing the forest.

Greg lays down with his brother, saying that they just have to wait, and they’ll be able to get home. He chants an odd mantra, “We just gotta wait to die or go back home,” to himself as he falls into an even stranger dream.

The episode in its entirety is extremely weird and rather off-putting.

Aside from the mild stray from the plot, the episode is preceded by a flashback episode, further explaining how the brothers reached the Unknown and the problem that led them there.

The visuals in the miniseries are aesthetically pleasing to many viewers. For example, the orange leaves of the trees in the forest gives the bleak, grey sky vibrance since grey is typically used to display flat tones of gravel roads and dreary skies.

The variety of colours sets the tone for the show. The colouring starts bright and brilliant but progressively gets darker — as many episodes are based in late fall, and early winter.

Over the Garden Wall is a fantastic miniseries that explores the literal unknown and can be interpreted in many different ways. The fact McHale is secretive about the actual origins of some aspects of the show — such as the reoccurring black turtles — allows room for fans to broaden the fictional world.

There are many fan theories surrounding what the Unknown actually is beyond a harmless forest. One fan theory was discussed by an official YouTube Channel for the company, Channel Frederator which is an American animation Multi-Channel Network, the Unknown is supposed to represent purgatory.

Although there are a lot of loose ends to tie up and unanswered questions about multiple characters and aspects of the show, Over the Garden Wall is a great miniseries.