Tread lightly. There are spoilers ahead.
What do you think of when you consider the grilled cheese?
The simplicity of a childhood meal. The warm, silky comfort of melted cheese. The toasty, buttery crunch of fried bread. It’s a balm for the soul and stomach. It can be a quick mid-day fix to stave off the afternoon rumbles or a full-bodied satiation for a more ravenous hunger. At its worst, it’s bread and cheese. At its best, it’s a golden hit of nostalgia. It’s a treat for the picky eater, the foodie and the sensory indifferent.
So, when I say that Infinity Train is the grilled cheese of all-ages animation, it’s all of the above and more.
Getting The Gist
Infinity Train is an animated anthology that follows various characters aboard a mysterious and never-ending train that exists outside of time, reality and general logic.
The train forces its passengers to confront their emotional troubles and personal shortcomings in order to lower the glowing, green number imprinted on their palms. At zero, they are granted a portal that returns them to their life, armed with all the knowledge and character development they needed to move forward.
In the first season, we follow Tulip as she grapples with a fractured family life, accompanied by Atticus, king of the corgis, and One-One, a confused little ball with two distinct personalities. In the second season, a young man’s journey to resolve his people-pleasing nature serves as the B-plot to MT, Tulip’s reflection from season one, as she tries to uncover her purpose in life.
In both seasons, each car the protagonists enter promises a whimsical new miniverse with its own rules, challenges and, occasionally, villains.
The show formerly aired on Cartoon Network, but currently streams on HBO Max. Season three of Infinity Train is slated to air on HBO Max in mid-August.
But A Grilled Cheese?
Since each train car poses a unique set of problems for the heroes, the show lends itself beautifully to episodic binging. At 11 minutes apiece, you can scarf down an entire episode on the train ride home. With 20 episodes currently live on HBO streaming services, you can while away half an afternoon grazing on Infinity Train’s boundless worlds.
Whether you watch one episode or 12, you’ll come away wholly satisfied.
The train’s central mechanic revolves around character development, so it should come at no surprise that the characters dreamt up by Owen Dennis (Regular Show) contain multitudes. Every primary character is written with depth and emotional complexity, and recurring minor characters – such as One-One and The Cat – get similar treatments.
Perhaps the most well-wrought of these is MT, a reflection who escapes from the mirror car in season one and spends much of the rest of her screen time pursued by her world’s law enforcers. MT’s journey from sinister trickster to wide-eyed independent feels as natural a progression as you could ask for.
The mix of sincere personal growth and outlandish comic relief results in a many-textured experience, much like our crunchy-soft-buttery-salty grilled cheese.
The Final Verdict
If you enjoyed Over The Garden Wall, you’ll find a strange oneness in the show’s dream-like alternative universe and its constant fluttering between the somber and the boisterous. Fans of shows like Regular Show can find solace in the constant rotation of new settings, each one more ridiculous than the last. Character addicts like fans of Adventure Time can get their kicks here too.
For more reviews of all-ages animation, check out my review of Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts.