There’s no feeling quite as sad as knowing that one of your favorite shows is getting canceled. While many shows are able to reach the natural conclusion that they asked for, others are cut all too soon. Maybe it’s from budgetary concerns from the studio. Maybe it’s just not getting an audience. Maybe it’s self-sabotage because you’re NBC and you hate Hannibal for some reason. Whatever the case, all shows end, and now is the time for Cartoon Network’s/HBO Max’s Infinity Train to come to an end.
What’s this? You’ve never heard of Infinity Train? Well it’s a little too late for that now is it! And that’s kind of the problem here. Infinity Train was an animated series that premiered on Cartoon Network before moving to HBO Max that was very mature for a Cartoon Network series. The show dealt a lot with complicated themes about self-discovery and presented them in a complex yet family-friendly way for the most part. The series lasted for four seasons (or books as they’re known) before sadly getting the ax, with the fourth season premiering last week to not much fanfare. In fact, most of the show didn’t really get a lot of fanfare despite its quality.
So I wanted to take some time to just introduce you to the world of Infinity Train and hopefully open your eyes to a neat little show that you most definitely have missed, but it might not be gone forever. Maybe. Hopefully. Please God let it continue.
Infinity Train is an anthology series with every season taking place on the eponymous train. The train’s origins are wrapped in mystery, but there are an infinite number of cars on them with an infinite number of worlds. One car might have an entire civilization of corgis on it, another might be a carnival complete with games, with another car being an art gallery home to horrifying nightmare creatures that want to rip off your arms. The reason for the train’s existence is unknown at the start, but each season stars a new main character who appears on the train with a number etched onto their hand and through their actions on the various cars, their numbers decrease more and more, unaware of what will happen when it reaches zero.
As is usually the case for most anthology series, your mileage with the show will vary heavily based on your thoughts on each individual season. While all of the seasons follow the same general plot, we follow the main character and their adventures throughout the train, everything else is wildly different. Season one is centered on a girl named Tulip who ran away from home and winds up on the train, season two follows a mirror creature named MT as she discovers her purpose on the train, season three centers around a religious cult dedicated to the conductor of the train, while the final season is about two childhood friends who are aspiring musicians with very different personalities reconnecting after being separated for years.
Along the way each protagonist will assemble a hodgepodge of companions, some of whom become recurring characters through the entire show, like a shifty cat named Samantha and a delightfully bipolar robot named One-One. There isn’t a whole lot of action in the show and most of the series is more focused on exploring character drama than anything else. Sure, the world of the train is fleshed out quite a bit and it’s still kid-friendly, though it can get really dark at times, but the core of Infinity Train is to explore the psychological and emotional problems of our protagonists and it oftentimes does not hold back.
Some seasons do this much more effectively than others. Season two arguably has the best character arc for MT and her companion Jesse (no relation), while season four, despite being centered on the friendship of two passengers instead of one, never really delves into their arcs in any meaningful or original way. In fact, that’s one of the reasons why Infinity Train worked so well; it felt original. There have been numerous kids’ shows in the past decade that really dive into what makes each of its characters tick, my go-to example for this will always be Catra from She-Ra, but to do this in this strange and imposing sci-fi setting that isn’t afraid to be goofy and serious at times is unique.
But therein lies the biggest problem with Infinity Train, and one of the main reasons why it was probably canceled. It was never really clear who was the desired target audience. The show was at times very dark for children with season three unquestionably being the darkest to a kind of uncomfortable level. There’s cult of anarchists who took joy in the murder of the train denizens because they “weren’t real,” a deeply troubled side character with very clear sociopathic tendencies, a little girl developing anxiety at the fear of being straight up MURDERED, and ends with the villain of the season being dissolved by ravenous insects. Yeah, season three is all kinds of screwed up. Plus its setting can be foreboding in a way that is eerily reminiscent of Silent Hill, just minus the horrors custom-tailored to its central characters.
Yet its characters were almost always children or teenagers and the problems centered around adolescence. Parents getting divorced, realizing you’ve been a bully to someone, or two friends drifting apart because of circumstances. These are all problems that children can relate to and would feel fresh to them, but not so much to adults. Plus many of the jokes in the series aren’t exactly reaching the high bar in terms of comedy excellence. Season four has a lot of comic schtick to it that didn’t hit with me at all, but for someone younger would probably leave them very entertained. Plus the train cars all have random and silly things in them! What’s not to love about a reverse gravity car full of turtles?
This confusing tone is probably what led to the strange broadcast history this series has had. The first two seasons premiered on Cartoon Network as weeklong events, while the third and fourth seasons bypassed TV in general and released on HBO Max. While we may never know just how well the series did in terms of viewership, the fact that series creator Owen Dennis was concerned that a fourth season might not be made due to low numbers on past seasons speaks miles more than any numbers could.
So with the fourth season releasing last week, that’s the end of the show for now. Dennis has gone on the record saying that he had enough ideas for eight seasons, allowing the show to end with a lovely little homage to its infinity-based symbolism, but getting halfway there is no small feat. From being a simple pilot released on Cartoon Network’s Youtube page back in 2016, Dennis and company should be proud of the fact that they were able to tell the stories they wanted to.
Is there hope for the series? Well, there’s always a possibility that it could be revived or picked up by another distributor, but the odds don’t seem all that likely at this time. With the last finale being so soon and awareness of this series being pretty low on a good day, we may never get the four other seasons Dennis had planned. But for what it’s worth, Infinity Train is a show that really shouldn’t have been made.
In a world where new original properties are becoming rarer, we need more shows like Infinity Train. The series isn’t afraid to take risks and even when they fail, like the mismatched tone and the varying quality of the seasons (the first season is the best in my opinion), having this series still feels like a net positive in many ways. If you have HBO Max, I do recommend checking it out, especially if you need to justify spending $15 a month on it now that the Snyder Cut has been released. Give it a watch and hopefully we may see more of the train in the near future.