Just a little heads up, what comes next are spoilers so watch the series if you can. There’s only 10 episodes, 12 minutes each, beautifully illustrated, and a very wonderful story to suit.
So the premise of the series is about two brothers, Wirt and Gregory, who got lost and must find their way back home, and along the way they run into various weird creatures and surreal situations. The whole series is laden deep with metaphors on death and purgatory, possible references to Soren Kierkegaard about faith and fear, and complementary but conflicting characteristics of the two brothers regarding optimism and cynicism. These are all really good reads and I highly encourage everyone to look them up too, after you watch the series of course. But that’s not what I’m writing this about though. I’m here to talk about the younger brother Greg and the audiences feelings about him.
Now those of you who have watched the series knows what I’m talking about. There seems to be two camps when it comes to Greg; those who thinks he’s cute with his childlike demeanour and the adorable epitome of the innocence of all children, and those who thinks he’s an insufferable brat. Unfortunately I happen to fall into the latter camp, and the writers of the series spares no expenses in conveying that characteristic. He rarely listens to Wirt, he runs off a worryingly many number of times, and a lot of his actions purely exacerbates the situations the two brothers are in.
First off, I would also like to mention that in my opinion he fully redeems himself towards the end when he made a conscious selfless decision to take the place of Wirt who was slowly dying. He made a deal with the beast, that in exchange and sparing Wirt who is dying to the cold, metaphorically giving up and succumbing to the beast, he submits himself instead. It was uncharacteristically mature of Greg to make such a decision but throughout the scene he never broke character. He still talks and acts like the child he always was, but at the same time it’s hard to tell if he understands the gravity of the situation. Even to the end when Wirt finds him later on half turning into the oily tree that keeps the flames of the huntsman’s lamp lighted, he shows no regrets of his action. No fear of the unknown, no pity to be asked for. Just the disregard of death. But I’m stepping a bit far from topic so let’s get back to how annoying Greg was.
From the beginning you can see too that Wirt was irritated by Greg, and throughout the series even though he sort of cares for Greg’s well being he does it more like the big-brother-who-can-only-go-to-the-concert-if-he-brings-along-his-uncool-little-brother sort of relationship. He puts up with him basically. In fact, Greg is not even Wirt’s real brother in a sense. Wirt’s mom “remarried and then gave birth to [Greg] with [his] stepdad,” so he doesn’t even need to feel like he has a sense of responsibility towards Greg. Well, a full sense anyway, maybe just half a sense, because he’s like his half brother or something. But Wirt does.
In the 8th episode “Babes in the Woods,” you can see Wirt is at his wits end. He’s tired of being lost in the woods and is slowly losing hope of ever finding a way back home. At that point he even lashed out at Greg, blaming him solely for getting them lost in the first place. It was also the first time at which he directly tells Greg he does not care what he does. Which does not sound like such a big deal but trust me it is. Because Over The Garden Wall is not two brother’s story, it’s Wirt’s story.
If you can replay the whole series back in your head, there is no other character who has the full emotional arc such as Wirt, not even Greg. He starts off uncertain about having Greg along with him. Progressively through the story he gets more and more agitated towards him till that point in the beginning of episode 8 where he shows complete contempt for his ridiculous brother. But suddenly makes a full turn when he realises that he has lost Greg. There is no more uncertainty in him anymore and all that was on his mind was to have his brother back and by his side.
“I was never any good to him alive either.”
Writ never treated Greg any lesser than a real brother. Even if he knows he’s only his half-brother. Even if he is a complete nuisance. He doesn’t even know Greg made the trade with the beast to save him. He just naturally cares for Greg. When we could have easily let Lorna’s demon eat him, or left him kidnapped while at the tavern, Wirt did not. Wirt treated Greg like more than family and that is an exemplary example of “being the better man”.
Wirt has shown great acceptance for Greg towards the end, and also has the most character development in the series. Greg wasn’t necessarily a character but the main catalyst for Wirt’s story. Without Greg, yes Wirt wouldn’t be lost, but he wouldn’t have progressed either. He wouldn’t have the courage to face Sara. Wirt would still be pacid and anxious, and would have let Jason sweep Sara away. So he needs Greg, the opposite to his apprehensive demeanour, to shove him into situations he would otherwise never have gotten himself into. Some are bad at first, but some are what shows Wirt who he is, who he can be, and what it can teach us as a whole. And that is why Greg is an important character in Over The Garden Wall.
I still find him annoying though.