Given that the previous mini-series experiment of Cartoon Network in Over the Garden Wall became something that tickles a soft spot in my heart. A show that I’d consider to be one of my favorite animated series; you know I was certainly interested in another mini-series. Following with another simple frame structure narrative and a slant of mystery and spooky content, Infinity Train is another great tale I certainly appreciate. In a pilot that opened to a ton of intrigue, Tulip a nerdy yet adventurous girl stumbles into an extraordinary mode of transportation known as the Infinity Train and must travel from cart to cart hoping to find a way off and unravel the mysteries the train has to offer.
Infinity Train was a hyped-up pilot, it gained quite a bit of traction that I’m worried it failed to live up to the hype. When the mystery elements where revealed, there was hope that this would be possibly as ambitious as Gravity Falls or prestigious as Over the Garden Wall. I think I heard that there wasn’t a fully convoluted plan behind the entire lore of the series beforehand, and while that might be what you hoped for, it’s still a great series regardless. Infinity Train works as a great extended metaphor set up and uses some enjoyable to watch characters to portray a satisfying drama, mystery, and journey.
Tulip goes through a journey and has to encounter challenges and personal struggles a like with a trusty companion one-one (I love One-one, it’s just Pinky and the Brain as robots and it’s fun seeing that dynamic again). So how about we break down each episode and crown the best. This is every episode of Infinity Train ranked. (SPOILERS AHEAD…CHOO CHOO)
The Grid Car
The Grid Car is the first episode of the series and it’s the worst of a great group. My problem was that there was a great mystic when the pilot started en media res, thrusting you into the action wondering how Tulip got where she is. So, when the show just gives you everything you need to know out of the gate…huh? Especially when some of the emotional baggage stuff seems like it would work well being constantly teased and re-contextualizing moments with info from later in the series.
When a character is sort of reserved and dismissive of their personal baggage, I wish I was sort of prompted to be reading that out of the character instead of them coming out this episode and giving us the inciting incident and character motive that propels the plot. Maybe it is just me but, I really think her parents being divorced and that being the inner turmoil she has to come to terms with should not have been revealed episode 1.
To me that just reeks of some focus testing or executive discouraging it because they thought it was confusing. The first episode does set the stakes, and introduce the characters and the train well so by no means was it a bad episode but it’s the one that I think impacted the series in the most negative way… honestly might be a better series if you remove this episode sadly so it ends up on the bottom of my list.
The Unfinished Car
While it has its moments, this episode feels that it stalls and kind of drags before reaching a thunderous climax. This cart feels like it has the less cohesive identity. there’s: turtle people, weird goop, gravity manipulation, and buildings missing walls or infrastructure. I never felt that exploring this cart was all that interesting given that its lacking tension (until the end) and could maybe have used more aspects of mix-match elements to feel like a cluster of unrealized ideas.
There’s a lot of elements that further explain how the train operates and is important in the larger scheme so it not all for naught. This episode does with its climax exemplify this show’s best quality which is relating outer conflict with inner struggles to make a strong case to witness character growth and introspection. Tulip being able to convince One-One that you shouldn’t take so much personal responsibility for things out of your control feels earned as a moment that shows how Tulip is adjusting and maturing through her journey with each cart.
The Crystal Car
It’s that one episode of Adventure Time where the gang must open the magic door by singing a song that opens the door. I appreciate this episode however, it is a very low energy and tedious episode. The scenery is well designed, Tulip has a great multi-layered conflict that is about: testing your patience, logic vs irrationality, the necessity to open up emotionally and be vulnerable in some instances and appreciate the little things that we cherish along the way.
Admittedly, I think watching a group of heroes solve an escape room puzzle for 11 minutes and sit around and theory craft is a tough premise to pull off. The Adventure Time episode is in my opinion a much better episode because it was less about the characters solving the puzzle and instead an excuse to have characters confront one another. There’s unrest and tension within the group (I’m Just Your Problem showcases this) but you can see how this predicament is handled very differently for each character (Princess Bubblegum treats this like a solvable equation, while Jake the Dog is sort of just playing a character and clowning around as a Rockstar diva).
For Infinity Train the characters just kind of sit there and wait for Tulip to answer the problem besides for providing a couple gags. Not the best episode but it’s still an interesting concept that they do achieve some character moments with.
To Be Continued…