The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

“Infinity Train” pulls into the station one last time with Book Four

Book Four of “Infinity Train” is like a warm hug. Relatable protagonists, fun new denizens and a rewarding, uplifting arc make it the softest season yet of the critically-acclaimed animated series from Owen Dennis. We just wish it wasn’t the final one.
Book Four may not have had the same hard-hitting train lore as Books Two and Three, but Min and Ryan are such big softies that their story has become my favorite anyway. (Cartoon Network/Infinity Train)

It’s like senior year of high school. “One last ride,” they call it.

Freshman year: new places, new faces, overwhelming uncertainty. You’re on your own for the first time in your life. How are you gonna figure this out and make a name for yourself? Tulip did it with a backpack full of onions and the unparalleled wit of a 13-year-old computer dork. With her, we learned what it meant to say school was in session.

Sophomore year with Lake and Jesse threw us for a loop. We had to prove ourselves—and prove to ourselves that we were worthy of our own identities. The uphill climb began, but Book Two let us find the people we knew would stick beside us through it all. We peeked behind the curtain, learned how to work smart, not hard and finished that chapter of our lives together.

In junior year, we became the very thing we feared with Grace and Simon. Not even our extensive knowledge of how we believed the world worked could save us from the rapidly deteriorating toxic relationships we didn’t know we were a part of. We had to leave some people behind. Book Three tested our mettle, and we came out the other side grizzled, toughened, desperate—yet softer and wiser for it.

Episode one’s split-screen narrative concludes with this tension-laden shot, where Ryan returns from his travels to find Min working the late shift at a boring diner. They’ve got some serious emotional reconciliation to do. (Cartoon Network/Infinity Train)

This leaves Book Four: senior year. We know how this works. We know how we work. We’ve been through it all before, three times now—travel through the train cars’ pocket dimensions, solve your problems and you’ll get your exit. And this foundation allowed the crew behind the modern masterpiece that is “Infinity Train” to send us off with something truly special (even though we can sense it wasn’t intended to be the last season).

Our familiarity with the train has a number of manifestations in Book Four, the most evident being a focal shift from train lore to the hardcore emotional arc of our new passenger duo: Min-Gi Park (voiced by Johnny Young) and Ryan Akagi (voiced by Shekai Murashige). The lifelong best friends from small-town British Columbia, who promised each other from a young age that they’d one day become rock stars and tour America, find themselves aboard the train together after it becomes evident their dream may require a huge leap of faith—one Min isn’t willing to take, despite Ryan’s insistence.

The first episode, titled “The Twin Tapes,” introduces us to their rocky history in a bold storytelling move, utilizing a split-screen format to walk us through Min and Ryan’s stories side by side. Their duet is beautiful, tender and precarious, and it balls itself up and throws itself at us, with so much pinching tension we might explode. That’s where the train comes in.

Kez the concierge-bell (voiced by Minty Lewis) is by far the funnest character this season, always stirring up trouble — and never without a plan to get herself and her friends out of it. Min and Ryan are in for quite the ride with her. (Cartoon Network/Infinity Train)

Along their tumultuous path to reconciliation, we meet a new cast of denizens that push at the boundaries of our expectations and create all kinds of new mischief. At the forefront is the flighty, flirty Kez, a magical floating concierge-bell with a history of pissing people off (voiced by Minty Lewis, or “Regular Show’s” Eileen). We’ve seen talking dogs, a superpowered deer and all sorts of wacky creatures, so Kez being a Book Four mainstay raises no eyebrows. Good thing too, as she’s probbbbably the best character, with Lewis never missing a beat among plentiful one-liners and laugh-out-loud moments. She even gets her own passenger-worthy arc too, which is way past due for a non-human denizen. Also, #Kezmantha. Just for the record.

While it pains me to speak ill of show creator Owen Dennis’s perfect starchild, the final season’s heavy reliance on our familiarity with the train does have one negative component: Book Four takes advantage of us as the audience a little, opening some windows that it doesn’t close. We’re definitely thrilled to see Amelia and One (before he split into One-One) animatedly discussing the mechanisms of the train, but then we’re left with a deflated feeling when we witness her hostile takeover from a distance. We’re not surprised to encounter other familiar faces like The Cat, but then we stare wistfully into the distance and sigh when we realize she’s not that relevant to the plot this time around. And what’s up with that horrifying arm abomination from “The Art Gallery Car”? It felt like the kind of sneaky introduction of a future season’s arc that we’ve grown accustomed to, like Lake’s appearance in Book One or Grace and Simon’s antagonism in Two.

Of course, Amelia and One are back in Book Four to provide a bit of larger train context. Per creator Owen Dennis, Book Five would’ve fleshed out her hostile takeover even further. Oh, what could’ve been… (Cartoon Network/Infinity Train)

Then again, this distancing of other elements directs our attention back to Min and Ryan for an emotional journey unlike anything the show’s given us so far. Instead of gut-wrenching scenes of horror and violence that rely on the shock factor and make us do a double take (RIP Tuba, always in our hearts), we get delicate, quiet moments where the boys approach real healing with a single silent look, or raw emotional dissonance and shouting matches that threaten to undo all their progress. This kind of back-and-forth is a testament to the extraordinary talent of the writing team and voice actors, both of which are somehow always tuned-in to the exact emotional frequency necessary for a scene to twist its screw as deep as possible. This made episode six, “The Party Car,” my favorite.

Min and Ryan are what Grace and Simon could’ve been had they learned to trust each other and verbalize their feelings. They’re Lake and Jesse if they had grown up together, their respective snark and caution working hand in hand to form a dream team. They’re Tulip and, well, Tulip—finding their confidence and self-worth together.

In perhaps the best scene of Book Four, Min and Ryan softly jam out in the bathroom of “The Party Car” together. Peep Kez sitting on Min’s shoulder — found family tropes truly are our weakness. (Cartoon Network/Infinity Train)

This long view is what makes senior year an apt metaphor for Book Four. While we know Dennis has more stories to tell (and we’d love to hear them), wrapping up “Infinity Train” with this particular warm-and-fuzzy bow makes a certain kind of nostalgic sense. Min and Ryan aren’t dealing with the hyper-specific trauma of divorce (Tulip) or parental neglect (Grace); instead, they must come to terms with moving on to a new stage of life. That’s it. That’s their whole arc, their Holy Grail, their “My Oeuvre.”

The relative simplicity of this bittersweet ending winds down the show appropriately, but it also sweeps over us with a broader brush than ever. Just as Book Four relies on our familiarity with the train, it likewise cashes in on the knowledge that every single viewer will empathize. Everyone struggles with the idea of time’s relentless forward march. The shot in the dark that scares Min makes us nervous too, as does Ryan’s anxiety about standing still so long that you miss the show. For us even more so than them, their exits from the infinite train are our senior year graduation, and we have to lock hands and walk through the door to our futures too.

As Min and Ryan sing in the final scene, life is a “train to nowhere,” and it’s a train to everywhere. It’s about the experience, the journey, the going along for the ride. We don’t know where we’re headed, so we might as well have fun getting there.

But I certainly wouldn’t complain if “there” meant a Book Five. HBO, take notes.

Book Four of “Infinity Train” is now streaming on HBO Max.

View comments (1)
About the Contributor
Andrew Kolondra Jr.
Andrew Kolondra Jr., Former Life Editor

Andrew (AJ) Kolondra Jr. ('22) majored in English and classics in the College of Arts and Science. He frequently reviews television and movies or covers local events and festivals in and around the city. As a South Florida native, he spends as much time as possible outdoors — more often than not at Centennial Park. He can be reached at [email protected].

More to Discover

Comments (1)

The Vanderbilt Hustler welcomes and encourages readers to engage with content and express opinions through the comment sections on our website and social media platforms. The Hustler reserves the right to remove comments that contain vulgarity, hate speech, personal attacks or that appear to be spam, commercial promotion or impersonation. The comment sections are moderated by our Editor-in-Chief, Rachael Perrotta, and our Social Media Director, Chloe Postlewaite. You can reach them at [email protected] and [email protected].
All The Vanderbilt Hustler picks Reader picks Sort: Newest
Notify of
1 Comment
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
3 years ago

I will never forgive HBO if this is the last season the show gets; the show wasn’t meant to finish after four books, the creator intended for there to be eight. There is a sizable fanbase and its critically acclaimed, I really don’t see why it has to end here.