Over the Garden Wall

Autumn is in full effect, as far seasons go these days. In my area some trees are bare, some still have leaves of various browns and reds. Often the mornings are foggy and grey, the light hidden somewhere else for the moment. This is the time of year when seasonal traditions come out. Yes, yes, the “holiday season” is when people think of for traditions, but really it’s fall when they start to emerge. Drinks become “seasonal”, cinnamon and clove and nutmeg take over everything from coffee to ice cream to apple cider. People start to light candles, or put out blankets, and various other things to generally make a cozy atmosphere.

One thing I like to do around now is break out the show Over the Garden Wall. A single season of 10 11-minute episodes, it is really more of a mini-series. However you choose to frame it, the story follows two brothers, Greg and Wirt (Greg has the teapot on his head). They travel through the woods, trying to find safety and their way home. The characters are great; Greg is a lovable chaotic good goof, and Wirt is ever-exasperated but lovable, and voiced by Elijah Wood.

The art is absolutely lovely. There’s a macabre edge to everything, with an Americana rustic quaintness to balance out the looming shadows and desaturated backgrounds. It looks exactly like how a humid, foggy fall day would smell. Just watching this show feels like participating in autumn. The music is a very odd mix that I can only describe as folk-opera.

There’s a magical darkness to everything as well, but it never veers off into anything that would be called horror. The show lives this liminal space between genres, and is probably neighbors with Ray Bradbury. There are elements of horror and elements of folk fantasy, but there’s also a strong sense of mystery. The two brothers are lost in the woods called the Unknown, trying to find their way home. But there’s also a mysterious and puzzling part of the story that is missing initially, and that is how they ended up there in the first place. The road ahead and behind them is metaphorically shrouded in the unknown as well as the Unknown. This puts the viewer in a place where they have to trust the world of Over the Garden Wall, while at the same time constantly coming up against the fact that nothing is quite as it seems and the setting absolutely cannot be trusted. The narrative is suspect and yet there’s no other reference point with which to orient yourself. It’s a beautiful kind of madness.

I think it’s that mystery, combined with a handful of characters you’ll trust enough to follow, that is the beating heart of the show. People show up whose motives are sometimes clear, sometimes not, and sometimes revealed to be something completely different. Magical items seem destined to be used one way and may end up being used completely differently, though it’s impossible to call it wrong. The world of the Unknown ends up feeling like a very real place, for all of the shadows and monsters and magical frogs. Wirt and Greg feel like very real people, though they too can come across as sometimes anachronistic and sometimes impishly at home. So if you’re looking for something to watch, I urge you to seek out this show before winter comes. This show is some of the most creepy-cozy fun you can have. And that’s a rock fact!

About Adam

Adam is a Jewish American who's sick of the white Christian male being America's "default" setting. For money he works in a public library because free books and information access are wonderful things. For love he writes here for his pet project, The Chaotic Neutral, which is always looking for more writers. You can follow him on Instagram, Goodreads, and at his oft neglected Twitter where he will try to post more, and probably live-tweet the Eurovision Song Contest.

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