HBO Max’s ‘Infinity Train: Book 3’ Season Premiere Review

Photo credit is Courtesy of Cartoon Network Studios, Inc./Warner Media

All aboard! Infinity Train returned for a third trip on the mysterious train we’ve come to know. The series’ first two seasons, or “books”, aired on Cartoon Network. The series has since officially moved to HBO Max as an original series. The transition was seamless and brought us right back into the ever-expanding universe. Books 1 and 2 aired all 10 episodes over the course of a week on Cartoon Network. Book 3 on HBO Max will be released over the course of three weeks. On August 13th, HBO Max released episodes 1-5. On August 20th, HBO Max will release episodes 6-8. Episodes 9 and 10 will release on August 27th, completing Book 3.

In Book 1, also known as The Perennial Child, we meet Tulip (voiced by Ashley Johnson), a bright eyed, young girl who loves computers and video games. She is dealing with her parents’ divorce at home and one day on the way home from school, she stumbled upon the train. Once on board the train, she learns that the key to the train is to discover how she processes her personal issues and more along the journey. When people get aboard the train, they all get a glowing green number on their hand. As they go through train cars, solving puzzles and opening new doors to other cars, their number will either go up or down, depending on how they handled the car they were in or the choices they made. Once a passenger gets their number down to zero, essentially coming to terms with their traumas or emotional issues, a door appears where they can get off the train. Tulip is able to get off the train with the help of friends she makes along the way including One-One (Jeremy Crutchley and Owen Dennis), a small robot with dual personalities, and Atticus (Ernie Hudson), a talking dog.

In one of the train cars, The Chrome Car, Tulip meets a mirror version of herself, who tricks and traps Tulip in the mirror world and tries to escape the car she’s been stuck in. Eventually Tulip and Mirror Tulip work together to both make it out of the car and go their separate ways. In Book 2, called Cracked Reflection, one of the main protagonists is Mirror Tulip, now going by “MT” to give herself her own identity separate from Tulip. While trying to find a way off the train, she meets Jesse (Robbie Daymond), a new passenger on the train, and Alan Dracula, a mysterious deer who silently travels with them. Together, MT, who some on the train call a null because they don’t see her as an actual person, and Jesse team up to get off the train. MT tries to get a number to appear on her hand and hopes that getting Jesse’s number down will allow her to get off the train. After getting into tricky situations, escaping police officers from the mirror car trying to capture MT, and lots of frustration and disappointment, the two successfully escape the train, returning to the real world together.

Asit is with every new season, we have seen two of the main protagonists before this season. Grace (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) and Simon (Kyle McCarley) appeared in Book 1 in an imagine that Tulip sees showing passengers currently on the train. We also meet them again in Book 2 in The Mall Car as antagonists, this time in person, as MT and Jesse run into them. MT and Jesse are horrified by how they choose to ignore their issues and how high their numbers are.

Photo credit is Courtesy of Cartoon Network Studios, Inc./Warner Media

Book 3, known as Cult of the Conductor, begins with the episode titled “The Musical Car”. We open up with Grace and Simon, still in The Mall Car. Grace and Simon are the leaders of a group of young kids called The Apex who all fight against the train conductor and intentionally disregard the numbers on their hands. They strive to get the number as high as they can, and make it a competition. They think all of the non-humans, or nulls as they call them, on the train are expendable. Grace, Simon, and the rest of The Apex raid cars and damage everything inside them. In this episode, Grace and Simon suit up to go raid another car and enter a car called The Musical Car. Inside of this car, the “nulls” are performing on stage. Once The Apex arrives, Grace tells all the kids to take what they want. The Apex destroys the stage and attacks the performers on the stage. All of the kids’ numbers go up on their hands, becoming larger numbers, some going up their arms because they are so long they can’t fit on their hands any more. Grace and Simon playfully trade insults, watching the car burn and the kids wreck more. Grace whistles that it is time to go, but they find the door is still locked, annoying Grace that they have to do another train puzzle. The Apex all hold hands together and take a bow. The door opens and the group exits, leaving behind burning wreckage in the car

Back in The Mall Car, the kids each present their looted items to Simon and Grace, telling each kid how good their gifts are even when they’re broken or worthless to them. One child offers a kidnapped “null”. We see a scared and broken light fixture that is begging for its life. Grace says the child can keep it and the child accidentally refers to it as a person. Grace reminds her that it isn’t a person and Simon says, “It’s another toy the train made to amuse us.” Simon says he’ll take the null and use it to light up his toy battlefield recreation display he has in his room.

Simon and Grace cheer on The Apex shouting “down with the false conductor.” They are pumped and excited and decide to raid another car together. We come upon a car we’ve encountered before in Book 1, The Unfinished Car. Everything is calm in the car until The Apex arrives, instantly making a mess and attacking the town. Turtles try to defend against Grace and Simon when suddenly a loud noise causes everyone to pause. We find out the car is a shifter. That means the car is about to move to another position on the train. Grace orders everyone back to The Mall Car before it shifts.

Simon loses his footing and gets pulled back by the uneven gravity in the car. Grace sees the bridge begin to close between cars and looks back at Simon who still can’t get back. The car suddenly shifts with Grace and Simon still inside, sending everything flying, and Simon getting crushed by a wall. Grace jumps on flying objects and floating turtles to reach Simon. Grace pulls Simon from the rubble. She shoots her rope launcher out the door to attach to another car below before they get too far away from The Mall Car. As Grace and Simon are pulled out the door to escape, a Turtle gets in their way. Grace shifts her angle to avoid the turtle, weakening the ropes. As they fly out of the car, the rope breaks. Losing her grip on Simon as they flew out of the car, Grace sees that Simon is dangling off the edge of the train. He almost slips off the edge, but Grace saves him in time. Now back on solid ground, the two are confused because the train cars aren’t supposed to shift when there are people still inside them. The two think the “false conductor” is the one behind it, intentionally shifting it, making his first move against them. Simon takes out his map device and says they’re currently 47 cars away from their home. Grace opens the next car door saying it’ll be just like old times, the two of them together going through cars one by one. They enter the door, ready for the next adventure on the way back to their car.

That was an exciting first episode with all the chaos that set the tone for the third book! It was interesting that the first episode focused almost solely on two characters we’ve already met and not a new passenger. It was especially interesting that the characters they chose to focus on were antagonists and the first episode focused on their bad behavior and destruction of the train. It’ll be interesting to see if and how these characters get redeemed and how long it will take to get their numbers to hit zero and possibly get off the train seeing how high they currently are.

I love when we visit places or people we have already met, helping to put this world into context, and we got a lot of that in this episode. We should probably meet a new passenger in the next episode. Hopefully they won’t be corrupted by Grace and Simon’s influences! I’m excited to continue this ride and even more excited that we even got a third book in this story! Spreading out the season into 3-week chapters is a fun way to draw out the suspense of the season. Onto the next car!

You can stream Infinity Train Books 1-2 and Episodes 1-5 of Book 3 on HBO Max now!

Lee Arvoy
Lee Arvoy joined the TV Source team in the summer of 2020 as a TV Writer.

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