In the tenth and final chapter of Over the Garden Wall, Wirt faces the Beast. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Over the Garden Wall.
Maybe I’ve had this all wrong. Maybe this show isn’t making fun of fairy tales as much as it’s telling one of its own, albeit a tale that’s exceedingly strange and ambiguous. There is a lot left unanswered at the end of Over the Garden Wall, but only if you don’t accept it as a fairy tale. Once you do… well, it’s all just magic and fantasy, isn’t it?
That’s not exactly the most satisfying explanation, of course, but this show also hasn’t been very literal, either. It exists in two states, defined by the two worlds we get to experience. There’s the relatively normal life that Wirt has, and the extensive fantasy environment that he… well, the more I think about “The Unknown,” the less certain I am that he created it. It appears to exist entirely independent of him, which leads me to theorize that the Unknown is always there. It’s just that Wirt’s despair, coupled with that plunge in the lake, sent him temporarily to a world that is tormented by the Beast.
So what would the Beast represent in this context? The Beast terrorized the people who lived in the Unknown by feeding on their fear. The arrangement it had with the Woodsman exploited that man’s fear that he had lost his daughter. It’s easy to see how readily the Beast terrorized other people, too. Therefore, you could examine the Beast as both an external force that Wirt defeated, provided the people in the Unknown with peace, and you could see it as the manifestation of Wirt’s fears. Both are compelling theories, and “The Unknown” is ambiguous enough that there’s not exactly information to openly contradict either analysis. Still, I’m inclined to believe that this place wasn’t created by Wirt; he simply traveled there. It’s like a parallel world or some other dimension, and Wirt’s mind made him susceptible to it.
Which means that Greg wasn’t actually there, I guess. So… was this just Wirt’s perception of Greg or was Greg’s consciousness there, too? OH GOD, I STILL HAVE SO MANY QUESTIONS.
It was clear to me, however, that Greg and Wirt’s time in the Unknown had had a positive effect on the people who do live there. The closing montage ties together the show in a way that “The Unknown” otherwise does not. It’s perhaps the only part of this that gives us information directly. But that’s not a criticism; as strange as this show has been, watching Greg and Wirt do good things for absolute strangers has been a delight. No matter how weird things got, no matter how badly they (mostly Wirt) wanted to go home, they found the time and compassion to care about others. Knowing what Wirt was going through at the time, that means this was even harder to do!
I found this show charming and hilarious and perhaps more perplexing than anything else I’d seen. (Maybe Baccano or Neon Genesis Evangelion was weirder, but those are a different kind of weird.) It was a challenge to write about, but I dug the animation style, the humor, and particularly Greg, whose joy seemed to know almost no bounds. I WAS SO HAPPY TO SEE BEATRICE REUNITED WITH HER FAMILY! (They live in the Unknown, too, further confirming that that place exists independent of Greg and Wirt.) It’s great when a story as short as this still gives other characters development and closure as well.
What a ride. I hope you’ll join me for my next Double Features project: Gargoyles seasons 1 and 2. Thanks for getting me to watch Over the Garden Wall!
The video for “The Unknown” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
Mark Links Stuff
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