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The Ending Of Over The Garden Wall Explained

The cult hit animated miniseries "Over the Garden Wall" has become a Halloween classic since its 2014 release, getting revisited by fans every Autumn. The beautifully illustrated landscapes and gently spooky tone give the episodes the impeccable vibes of an old-timey gothic fairy tale that'll entertain kids just as much as adults. In the world of the Unknown, nothing is quite what it seems, and the show has surprises at every turn.

Brothers Wirt, the teenage worrywart (Elijah Wood), and Greg, the cheerful young optimist (Collin Dean), wander through a forest called the Unknown, coming across a strange assortment of characters. There's a town of skeletons who dress up as pumpkins, a ferry full of frogs, creepy ladies of dubious intent, and a mysterious beast stalking their every step, to name just a few. With only 10 episodes — of about ten minutes in length, each — it's a quick watch and tightly created by Patrick McHale, who was a writer on Cartoon Network's "Adventure Time."

The stakes rise in the final episodes: Wirt has been trying to get them home, but after their bluebird friend Beatrice (Melanie Lynskey) betrays them, he loses hope and is nearly claimed by the Beast (Samuel Ramey). To save his brother, Greg offers himself instead, but Beatrice and Wirt come to his rescue. Finally, they go home.

But, it wasn't as simple as all that, was it? So, here's the ending of "Over the Garden Wall" explained.

Beatrice made a dark deal for her family

The talking bluebird Beatrice is the first indication of the fantastical when Wirt and Greg stumble into the Unknown. She offers them help then, and once again after Greg untangles her from a bush. She says she's honor bound to help him in return, and becomes their guide through the Unknown, leading them to a woman called Adelaide. Along the way, we learn that Beatrice was once human, but she and her whole family have been turned into bluebirds because of her mistake.

While almost everyone whom the brothers meet on their journey turns out to be less threatening than they originally appear, Beatrice is the opposite. She seems trustworthy, but she actually has a hidden agenda: She made a deal with the creepy witch Adelaide to exchange a child servant for a pair of scissors that could turn her family back into humans. However, after spending time with Wirt and Greg, Beatrice grows to care about them, and thus tries to keep them from becoming trapped by Adelaide.

Beatrice is plagued by the shame of hurting her family and refuses to return to them until she can fix things. After her betrayal of Wirt and Greg is revealed, though, she doesn't run away but instead saves Wirt from the icy lake and goes looking for Greg. Sticking around pays off, as Wirt gives her the scissors and she turns her family back into humans. They're seen together in one of the final scenes, which reveals that the wolf monster from the first episode was actually her dog.

Wirt admits responsibility and faces his fears

Wirt may be a romantic and an artist, who knows his architecture, but he also acts like a jerk, especially to his little brother. It's in the very first episode that the Woodsman (Christopher Lloyd) tells Wirt he needs to take responsibility as the older brother. Wirt takes charge as the one trying to get them home, but all throughout the series, he continually blames Greg for getting them into trouble. Then, after they learn that Adelaide isn't going to lead them home, he loses all hope and gives up.

It's Greg, then, who puts himself in danger to save his brother. He gives himself over to the Beast, who tries to make him lose hope in order to turn him into an Edelwood tree. When Wirt discovers Greg is missing, he acknowledges that he hasn't been very good to his little brother. Upon finding Greg becoming an Edelwood, Wirt apologizes and says it's his fault they're lost — taking that responsibility. Then, in a sweet moment that shows him playing along with Greg for the first time, Wirt finally joins in the frog-naming game. This one, "Jason Funderberker," sticks.

Based on the flashback episode, it's clear Wirt struggles with confidence, insecurity, and facing his fears. The other students are welcoming of him, but he's sabotaging himself at every turn. However, the fantastical Unknown forces him to face his fear of the mundane unknown. After getting home, he invites Sara (Emily Brundige) to listen to tapes with him. By the end of the series, Wirt has come out of his own dramatic introspection to be more engaged with those around him.

The Beast had been tricking the Woodsman

While many of the odd characters the boys meet come and go, the Beast and the Woodsman are part of Greg and Wirt's story from Episode 1 to the finale. It's ambiguous for a long time whether or not the Woodsman can be trusted, as he sometimes appears benevolent ... and yet, is mysterious. The Beast, meanwhile, has been the unknown threat haunting them through their journey.

In the finale, Wirt nearly gives himself over to the Beast for Greg's sake before he realizes the Beast is manipulating them all: The Beast told the Woodsman that he needed to keep the lantern lit with oil from Edelwood trees to keep his daughter's spirit alive, but in reality, the lantern is keeping the Beast's spirit alive. When Wirt recognizes this, he gains power over the Beast and saves Greg. He gives the lantern to the Woodsman, who blows it out. This whole time, the Woodsman didn't know that the trees were made of lost souls, but now the Beast is gone for — hopefully — good.

At the end of the episode, the Woodsman returns to his house and is reunited with his daughter, who's perfectly alive. More of his story is revealed in the comics: The Woodsman's wife died after something in the woods attacked her. Then, much later, his daughter went into the forest at night to gather firewood, where she narrowly escaped from the Beast. The Woodsman went after her, discovered her cloak, saw the Beast, and came to the conclusion that the Beast had killed her — that's when he took the lantern from him. The Beast took advantage of his misunderstanding, but all along the Woodsman wanted to protect children from him.

Wirt and Greg were drowning the whole time

It isn't until the penultimate episode that we learn how Wirt and Greg became lost in the Unknown. It was Halloween night: Greg gave Wirt's crush Sara the tape he made for her, so the two spent the night trying to get it back before she noticed. They ended up in a cemetery, but ran over a wall when a cop showed up. The brothers tumbled into a river.

The whole story comes together after Wirt saves Greg from the Beast. They part from Beatrice and then it flashes back to them in the river — Wirt wakes and swims to Greg. He pulls them both out of the water, with the frog, and they're rescued.

From early on, it's hinted that the brothers are near death. A skeletons dressed as a pumpkin tells Wirt he's a little early. Another asks if he wants to stay, and when Wirt says no, he says, "You'll join us someday." The Beast, then, is akin to death trying to claim them, which is why giving up hope is what makes them susceptible to him. That would mean they stop fighting to avoid drowning and give in to the water. Throughout the series, there are parallels to Dante's "Inferno" (as explained by CBR), the epic poem that details a journey through Hell.

However, the ending doesn't turn the whole series into a strange dream: Both Wirt and Greg remember what happened. Secondly, the frog still has the glowing bell within his belly when they're in the hospital. Ultimately, the Unknown seems to be an afterlife, or in-between state. Just look at the grave Greg hides behind in the cemetery: It's Quincy Endicott's, the man in the mansion they visited. Evidently, he was the ghost all along.