The hit animated mini-series Over the Garden Wall aired in 2014 and has captured the hearts of thousands ever since. It’s clever writing, phenomenal soundtrack, and impeccable vibes have won it a cult following. But the question remains: which episodes are the best? Today I’ll put the matter to rest with my OBJECTIVE and INFALLIBLE personal ranking.
#10: ‘Mad Love’ (Episode 5)
Alright we had to start somewhere. Now even this episode, low ranked as it is, is still a great time! But there are a few nagging things about it that keep it from greatness. For one, in a series so notable for its stellar music, this episode is almost devoid of it. The pieces it does have stray from the timeless Americana the rest of The Blasting Company’s soundtrack exudes. Its primary one-off characters, Endicott and Fred, are both fine but pale in comparison to some of the others. And while Wirt and Beatrice have some nice interactions, Greg is separated from the main group which is a bummer! Solid but forgettable.
#9: ‘The Ringing of the Bell’ (Episode 7)
Alright my pretense of not liking episodes is over. I love this episode. Lorne is a delight, Auntie Whispers is well and goodly terrifying, and the episode’s lyric song “Like Ships” is wholly pleasant. Admittedly, it does feel like a weird shift in pace following the climax of Episode 6 and the finale-setup of Episode 8. Still it serves the important purpose of bringing Wirt even lower. Oh and “We’re here to burgle your turts!” is probably the best line in the show.
#8 ‘Babes in the Wood’ (Episode 8)
This one took a while to grow on me. The episode is almost entirely a bizarre dream sequence in Greg’s mind. With its cartoonish, cotton-candy aesthetic and cues taken from early 1900s filmmaking of all things, it serves as a dramatic departure from the rest of the show. The more I watch it however, the more I appreciate its nuance. The lyric songs, “Forward, Oneiroi,” “Everything is Nice and Fine,” and “Old North Wind” are all bangers. And the weird cinematography and early filmmaking conventions help create the same unsettling tone the viewer has come to expect: albeit in an unexpected way. An acquired taste to be sure, but an undeniably solid episode.
#7 ‘Schooltown Follies’ (Episode 3)
Now I’ll be the first to admit that in terms of character and plot development this episode falls a little short. Not much actually…happens. No, it secures its number 7 spot by the strength of its two songs. “Potatoes and Molasses” is the earworm to end all earworms. It’s adorable, it’s catchy, it perfectly conveys Greg’s persistence in his mission of cheering folks up. And “Ms. Langtree’s Lament” has, bar none, the cleverest lyrics on the entire soundtrack. Doesn’t hurt that it’s a bop, too. Of all the extraordinary parts of this show, music is the strongest. And this episode illustrates that perfectly.
#6 ‘The Old Grist Mill’ (Episode 1)
‘The Old Grist Mill’ is a masterclass in establishing tone. Never before have I seen ten minutes of television so succinctly and thoroughly convey the mood of an entire series. With its haunting atmosphere, persistent use of musical leitmotif, and fantastic voice performances, the first episode of Over the Garden Wall is the perfect primer for what’s to come.
#5 ‘Lullaby in Frogland’ (Episode 6)
‘Mad Love’ belabored its relationship building, buying development with time. ‘Lullaby in Frogland’ accomplishes as much—if not more—far quicker. This saves precious minutes for fun hijinks in a bizarre setting and a stirring performance by Jack Jones, one of the cited inspirations for showrunner Patrick McHale. The eponymous track, “Over the Garden Wall,” never fails to tug at the heartstrings. The song alone would be enough to catapult this episode up the list. But the fateful and long anticipated climax at Adelaide’s house is what really seals the deal.
#4 ‘Songs of the Dark Lantern’ (Episode 4)
What this episode lacks in plot, it makes up for tenfold in world-building. What’s more, as the title suggests, it’s chock full of songs. And oh what songs they are. “A Courting Song” and “The Beast is Out There” are easily two of the best in the whole show. And nothing can beat the “The Highwayman” sequence which is absolutely enthralling and wholly chilling. This song alone is a perfect thesis on the tone of the show writ large.
#3 ‘Into the Unknown’ (Episode 9)
For a show whose effectiveness relies on its aesthetic, it seems odd to rank this episode so highly. This penultimate prequel episode explains away all the remaining questions from the first 80 minutes of the show. At last our suspicions about the boys’ situation are confirmed. But rather than an exposition dump, the episode is charming, relatable, and full of hidden details for the observant viewer. Top it off with musical hits like “The Fight is Over,” “Tiny Star,” “Halloween Halftime,” and the impeccable “Old Black Train” and you have a recipe for near perfection.
#2 ‘The Unknown’ (Episode 10)
All of the thematic and narrative threads are pulled together in this bombastic final episode. The episode is spooky, thrilling, and heartwarming in equal measure. It loses points for being a bit rushed to meet the ten minute time limit. But it is otherwise the perfect send off to this perfect series. And the simple loveliness of “One is a Bird” lets it hold its own amongst the best songs of the series.
#1 ‘Hard Times at the Huskin’ Bee’ (Episode 2)
If Episode 1 puts in the legwork to set the stage for the series, Episode 2 hits the ground running with ten of the most atmospheric and enjoyable minutes of the show. Autumnal, rural vibes drip from every shot. Enoch and the residents of Pottsfield are as goofy as they are terrifying. The main characters’ personalities are well established, and subtle hints at the series’ true meaning are sprinkled throughout. And of course it boasts the best track in the entire show, “Patient is the Night.” This episode could exist in a vacuum, and would have the same impact and cult fandom as the entire show. It is the quintessential episode of Over the Garden Wall and as such earns the coveted number one position.
Thumbnail image from The Dot and Line.
Which is your favorite episode of ‘Over the Garden Wall’?
‘The Old Grist Mill’ (Ep.1)
‘Hard Times at the Huskin’ Bee’ (Ep.2)
‘Schooltown Follies’ (Ep.3)
‘Songs of the Dark Lantern’ (Ep.4)
‘Mad Love’ (Ep.5)
‘Lullaby in Frogland’ (Ep.6)
‘The Ringing of the Bell’ (Ep.7)
‘Babes in the Wood’ (Ep.8)
‘Into the Unknown’ (Ep.9)
‘The Unknown’ (Ep.10)