Owen Dennis’s animated anthology series Infinity Train stretches as infinite as its possibilities. A new world—or restored—order infuses the adventure aboard the Infinity Train after the events of season one. The rollie spherical droid One-One (Jeremy Crutchley as Glad-One, Dennis as the Sad-One) has reclaimed his rightful place as the Conductor.
As it went in Book One, humans who suffered a trauma like its first protagonist and are in need of life lessons are taken aboard a cryptic train of limitless cars, each housing surreal worlds and inhabitants. Humans are tattooed with a glowing number on their palm that can go up or down. Passengers must do good deeds or mature in emotional understandings to lower their score to zero and activate their exit door so they may return to the normal world as a healed or reformed person. Now that One-One has his Conductor mantle back, he has prepared his human charges instruction videos with more clear-cut guidelines, but his guide isn’t quite clear-cut for some individuals in the ecosystem. The natural order must be that the train denizens must help the human passengers, but one denizen is an individual disruptor of the idea.
Now that the main heroine, Tulip, has concluded her story and made it home, someone else carries her torch, although she wouldn’t be happy to be defined to her proximity to Tulip. Mirror Tulip, or MT (Ashley Johnson), is essentially a train native who doesn’t fit in with her assigned purpose. To recap MT’s debut back in “Chrome Car,” Tulip and her gang found themselves in a chrome world where reflections have agency and life. Using her wits, Tulip smuggled her mirror-counterpart out of the confinement of her chrome car.
MT is left to wander the train to forge her own identity, tired of being a carbon copy of Tulip. However, MT is always looking over her shoulder—or carefully scanning out reflective surfaces—to evade the merciless Mirror Police (Ben Mendelsohn and Bradley Whitford, a humorous and menacing duo) because they have the terrifying ability to burst out of any reflective surfaces she glimpses into.
Luckily, MT grows into less of a loner. She adopts a glazed-eyed deer of unfathomable powers and christens him Alan Dracula. Then she meets one of the train’s human pick-ups, a teenage jock named Jesse (Robbie Daymond). Since humans have a way out the train, Jesse could be her ticket out. So she cuts a deal to help him get his number down to zero so he could earn his exit door and she could tag along with him to the human world.
Season one comprised of a well self-contained story arc shifting from one vibrant set piece to the next like a sci-fi Over the Garden Wall. Season two does the same, except with a different cast and an unraveling world. A wider array of human passengers wander the train, having their own interiority and journeys separate or converging with the from the main heroes.
Most intriguingly, the heroes encounter a cult of humans—the Apex—who oppose One-One’s rule as the rightful Conductor. Considering the questionable kiddie ethics of dragging souls into trains to teach them lessons, it’s inevitable that passengers like the Apex, who missed out on One-One’s era would feel at loss with One-One’s well-intended designs. The Apex’s fanaticism and myopic comradeship go hand in hand with the Mirror Police’s wicked order-for-the-sake –of-order fundamentalism. Their disdain of the train’s sentient natives–calling them “Nulls”—share a parallel to the Mirror Police’s mission to literally dehumanize MT.
Sometimes you want to dwell in each outrageous set-piece for a while longer, whether it’s an autumn realm with bickering family trees, a puzzle realm where you have to assemble a map and fresh landscapes will manifest, or a vesseled network where celluloid film strips stream from the skulls of in-stasis humans. Like an Alice in Wonderland journey, colorful personalities pop up on the odyssey. BeBe Zahara Benet pops up as a fashion diva who teaches them a runway walk. A poor toad (Owen Dennis) has to be kicked to pass through a train car, but doesn’t want to be kicked. The cat (Kate Mulgrew) comes back too.
The themes remain breezily simple for children, with Jesse fighting his hubris to fit in. But it is MT’s journey for emancipation that anchors the entire season. Any time she reckons with her existentialism hits like a ton of bricks. “The Wasteland” takes the trope of the hero-and-adversity-trapped-in-one-space and elevates the dialogue into a visceral identity crisis about MT’s fight for existence and individuality in a world both illusory and real at once. Is MT serving a purpose that she’s trying to run from? How would she even fare in the human world if she makes it out?
These harsh questions surprisingly help cap off its coda. While never stating it aloud, MT’s final lesson is learning to take these uncertainties in stride as she moves forward. Every swirling sensation of turmoil, terror, and relief feel earned, especially when MT and Jesse receive their happy ending. It is a poignant conclusion, not just because it is an earned happy ending but because it administers a dash of optimistic reservation when MT stares at her own reflection—on an external source, not her own reflective body—without fear and behold her entire personhood. I imagine her journey in the human world would be just as enthralling as her struggles in the fantastical Infinity Train.
While a Book 3 has yet to be announced, Infinity Train is the kind of show designed to continue beyond MT’s ending, considering the loose threads left behind. Not unlike the Gravity Falls fanbase, viewers might love to hunt for freeze-frame details that could clue in the future. The Apex will likely resurface, but what of the dormant human passengers MT glimpsed in the penultimate episode? Wherever Infinity Train rides off to, there are more worlds to explore.
/Film Rating: 8.5 out of 10
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