A week into her journey, Tulip and One-One begin to quicken their pace speeding through the cars, including a music car, a duck-duck-goose car, a Monster Mash car, and a Secrets of the Hidden Temple car, but her hand number is still stuck at 109. This leads her into the Corginia, land of talking Corgies and ruled by Atticus (voiced by Ernie Hudson!). It’s all very peaceful and cute, but Tulip is eager to rush to the next car. But to her fright, there’s some sort of shadow monster on the horizon that’s been raising their water levels, so they’ll have to face it to continue their journey.
After a speedy hike, they eventually find the “monster”, which turns out to be just a spider creating a shadow over a weird orb. It’s “defeat” also doesn’t bring down Tulip’s number, which frustrates her almost to tears, but Atticus reassures her that answers will come eventually. As for where the orb came from, it seems there’s a REAL monster stealing them from panels in the walls, but when Tulip approaches it, it attacks and tells her to “return to her seat”, then abruptly leaves. This leaves more questions than answers, but the 109 goes down to 101, and Atticus joins their journey to find out what that thing was.
Later, Tulip tries a logical approach and tests out a theory that the number goes down by helping people in cars with their problems and fighting bad guys, but she’s still stuck at 101. The next car takes her to a land of crystal trees, but the next door is placed too high to reach. They ask a mustachioed crystal guy for help, but he can only respond in gravely grunts and charades, indicating that a stairway to the door will come if they put their hands on a nearby crystal and sing. But it can’t be just any song, it has to be something that makes the singer feel something.
The crystal man suggests picking the first song that comes to mind, which turns out to be the 1986 song “Word Up!” by Cameo, a song that Tulip and her parents used to sing on road trips. Turns out that level of personal connection was enough to summon a crystal giant, who brings his own staircase and a key to open the door! As well as bring Tulip’s 101 to 89.
It should be a surprise to no one who was looking forward to this series that the third episode as more or less a remake of the original pilot, which follows basically the same plot with some slight tweaks. Having rewatched said pilot before rewatching this episode, it’s interesting to see how some things have been refined in detail, while others have been switched out to give the story a bit more of a mysterious feel. Most notably is that, while the pilot was mainly about introducing the premise of this nerdy girl jumping weird train cars, the proper third episode is mostly about Tulip learning that she doesn’t need to rush her process to find the right answers, which feels like an important life lesson for kids and adults alike. In terms of the overall plot, there is the mystery of what that weird wirey thing with the face that was stealing orbs was doing, or why said something more like a train employee, but it certainly leaves something to ponder over while these episodes manage to also feel stand alone.
The fourth episode plays with Tulip’s programmer mindset a bit by having her focus on solving problems through logical sequence and separating emotion. It feels only natural that what worked in the last car would work the same in others to similar effect, which is why the episode opens with her testing it in the “Straight Up Italy Car” as if we’re watching the end of an episode we missed between the commercial break, but that would probably make this series feel a bit too formulaic. It also offers the lesson that different problems are going to require out of the box thinking, which is crucial to understanding programming and everyday life alike. It also shows Tulip opening up more about how she misses her parents being together, seeing how her 80’s music memories were likely only helpful because she has such fondness and connection to them. Also helps my theory that the number goes down when she opens up about her feelings.
Infinity Train is two fifths down, but it seems to be on track for a pretty good run. I’m having a great time both watching and thinking about it, which is a great sign that this ride will hopefully be one of Cartoon Network’s best. Or an underrated classic that geeks can talk about forever, whichever works.