Over The Garden Wall – TV Series Review
“Leave if you wish, but remember: the beast haunts these woods, ever singing its mournful melody…”
When I was young, I loved the fantasy section of the library. Not content with just the typical My Teacher Is A Werewolf! or Vampires in Space titles, I’d comb both the kids and adult sections alike for books on classic fairy tales, legends, mythology, and all things supernatural. There was a sense of wonder and mystery there no normal fiction book could present me, at least not in the kids section. These were wild tales, where monsters ate children, heroes plucked their eyes out in order to gain knowledge, and deadly phantoms stalked every shadow.
The Emmy nominated Over the Garden Wall is perhaps a bit more upbeat and family friendly then that, but it has every single bit of pure imagination and wonder those old tales had. Where animals could talk, witches were real, and the woods were the most mysterious place of all. After so many years of Harry Potter, where magic was predictable, and society still behaved more or less normally, it’s refreshing to indulge in a tale of wild magic, unpredictable adventures, and the dark unknown.
It’s technically a TV show, but the entire series is slightly less than two hours, making it more like a movie, despite its episodic nature. You can watch it in 15 minute episodes, or all at once. Either way, it’s easy to follow, and enjoyable from start to finish.
I love its art style, which matches its fairy tale motif. Every scene looks like it was plucked straight from a collection of Brothers Grimm tales. Muted colors and a minimalist style, but with great focus and care on the monsters, makes it a beautiful series to watch.
Elijah Wood (Wirt), Collin Dean (Greg), Melanie Lynskey (Beatrice), and Christopher Lloyd (Woodsman) make up the core cast of voice actors, and their performances are all top notch. Especially Collin Dean, which is amazing, considering he’s just a child himself. My only criticism is Christopher Lloyd, in an attempt to sound mysterious, can sometimes be very difficult to understand. I turned on subtitles for some of his scenes.
As for the story, I love that instead of wasting time on preamble, the series just tosses you in with a simple, yet timeless premise: a pair of young brothers, trying to find their way home, through a forest filled with magic.
How’d they get there? What are the circumstances? That’s to be discovered along the way. All we know are their names and dispositions: Wirt, the nervous and logical teenager, not quite yet a man, but acting as if he already contains all the knowledge and experience of a lifetime. He’s accompanied by Greg, the carefree and charming younger brother, not even ten. Greg passes the time singing songs, making new friends, and rushing headfirst into danger as his brother shirks away.
Which one is right, and which one is wrong? It’s rarely ever that simple, even in the real world. The boys have to deal with a lot more than just the normal uncertainty and dangers of the woods. They also have to contend with countless talking animals, dangerous witches, not so scary scare-crows, and of course, a dark beast, the dark heart of the woods itself.
It’s not all goofy fun and random monsters, of course. As with every true fairy tale, the story is really about the boys growing up, facing the fear of the unknown, making friends, learning to trust, dealing with failure, and above all, sticking together through it all as a family.
Saying any more would give too much away, so without any further explanation or backstory, I highly recommend you make the journey along with Wirt and Greg, Over the Garden Wall. It’s a journey well worth making, for kids and adults alike.