Mark Watches ‘Over the Garden Wall’: Chapter 3 – Schooltown Follies

In the third chapter of Over the Garden Wall, I remain amused and confused by this show. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Over the Garden Wall.

I feel certain that there’s a parody happening here, but I also can’t escape the sensation of how truly random this show is. Greg, Wirt, and Bluebird are bound by a very simple conflict: get home. Granted, we don’t know where home is for any of them, nor do we know why Bluebird needs to get there. Yet even something as simplistic as, “Go home,” becomes hopelessly complicated by these characters and their motivations.

Here, Greg wanders off again into the darkest part of the forest because… that’s what he does, y’all. There’s a neat trope subversion in this, though; once he sees the schoolhouse, he doesn’t immediately see what’s in it, unlike his brother. Instead, he decries school and… wanders off into the darkest part of the forest. Well, at least he’s consistent. I’ll give him that. Wirt, on the other hand, seems ruled by his fears, so much so that even Bluebird notes how much he comes off as a pushover. So, while Greg is doing whatever the fuck he wants because he is pure ball of joy and silliness, Wirt spends the vast majority of this episode being – to quote Bluebird – a “stubborn jerk.” His pettiness motivates him to become exactly the kind of pushover that Bluebird claims him to do, so he refuses to do anything unless he’s ordered to.

Which brings him to the schoolhouse, and… look, I don’t know. I don’t know what to tell you. I DON’T EVEN KNOW HOW TO WRITE ABOUT THIS. For nearly ten minutes, we watch a teacher, distraught over her partner leaving her, try to teach a classroom full of animals wearing human clothing. Oh, they’re not anthropomorphized animals at all. They can’t speak or write. Apparently, though, they’re well-versed in musical expression? And this isn’t explained at all?

It’s in that that I feel like “Schooltown Follies” is referencing old Southern musicals. Baize thought this episode was a callback to the Shirley Temple film Curly Top; I thought it was a parody of the old Br’er Rabbit stories and the (horribly racist) films that came of it. Either way, there’s something here, or at least that’s the sense I got. I mean, you could also read that sequence as poking fun at musicals by having a character (Miss Langtree) break into song while another character (Bluebird) is utterly annoyed to be a part of it. Honestly? There’s just SO MUCH GOING ON HERE. And we haven’t even gotten to Greg’s hilariously spot-on “Potatoes and Molasses” song, which sounds exactly like the sort of thing you’d have in a musical from this period.

There is a story here, though, that’s about more than these people trying to get home. Greg’s imagination and kindness provides joy to every character involved in this schoolhouse. He gives the power of music to the farm animals; he raises money for Miss Langtree’s father so that the school doesn’t shut down; and if he hadn’t done this, Wirt wouldn’t have tripped and revealed that the gorilla that terrorized everyone in town was actually Jimmy, the same man Miss Langtree was distraught over. Now, there are about a million logistical questions I have. (Like… why didn’t Jimmy just talk to people through the costume instead of roaring at them? Why was Miss Langtree’s father so intent on getting farm animals to read and write? Why is no one in this town flipping their shit over animals playing musical instruments?) Guess how many of them will ever get answered?

None. That’s the magical weirdness of Over the Garden Wall. I find it compelling because the show just asks us to accept it without any justification, and I respect that. This is a bizarre journey, but I can’t lie: it’s a whole lot of fun.

The video for “Schooltown Follies” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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