This is Your Conductor Speaking: Infinity Train – “The Color Clock Car” + “The Campfire Car”

Hello all! Welcome back to my weekly reviews of Infinity Train. Last week we made some progress on Book 3 with ‘The Debutante Ball Car’ and ‘Le Chat Chalet Car’. This week we reach the halfway point with ‘The Color Clock Car’ and ‘The Campfire Car’.

‘The Color Clock Car’, Season 3, Episode 5 (Premiere Date: August 13, 2020)

Synopsis – Grace, Simon, Hazel, and Tuba arrive in a car consisting of a large white room filled with a maze of red walls and a door with a red lock. A clock-shaped Denizen named Roy periodically changes color, prompting the maze to change color to match and to shift position. Grace and Hazel head one direction to find the key, forcing Simon and Tuba to reluctantly team up and search the other direction. They initially get on each other’s nerves, but after Tuba frees them from a cage trap they begin to see eye-to-eye for the first time. After noticing that Tuba seems to be following the green maze’s path despite the color currently being red, Simon realizes that Tuba is red-green color blind and consequently unable to tell the difference. Using this newfound knowledge, they are able to find the key and get it to the lock.

As the quartet leaves the car, it begins to shift position. The bridge between the car and its neighbor retracts, leaving Tuba and Hazel stranded on the ejecting car. Tuba throws Hazel across to Grace, who takes her inside the next car while Simon promises to help Tuba, who is left dangling from the ledge by one hand. Using his harpoon pack to cross the gap, Simon appears for a moment like he is going to grab Tuba’s hand. Instead he smashes it with his foot, causing her to drop down into the Train’s wheels. Returning to Grace and Hazel, he brags about how he killed Tuba. Filled with grief, Hazel flees back outside. Angry at Simon, Grace follows her – just in time to see Hazel transform into some kind of turtle hybrid.

My Thoughts – In its first two seasons, the series always ended the eighth episode with a shocking death or apparent death – Atticus in ‘The Ball Pit Car’ and Agent Mace in ‘The Wasteland’. This season shifts things forward a bit, giving us Tuba’s death in only its sixth episode. Ultimately it is ‘The Ball Pit Car’ that this episode most resembles with its cheerful adventure to total disaster tonal whiplash, although unfortunately it pales somewhat in comparison. Part of that comes down to the setting. The Ball Pit Car was unsettling from the get-go, with the largely abandoned mass of slides, dark carpets, and numerous ball pits giving the whole place a creepy liminal vibe that already made it feel like everything was slightly off despite the high spirits of our protagonists. The Color Clock Car just feels a bit bland compared to that. Additionally, the car’s central puzzle comes across as kind of nonsensical. How does not being able to tell the difference between red and green allow you to interact with both sets of mazes at once? There was little indication beforehand that the mazes were a matter of perception rather than physical barriers. Additionally, how would someone be able to solve it if they didn’t have someone who was colorblind with them?

There are a few other issues with the episode as well that hold it back just a bit. For one thing, it doesn’t feel to me like the show has done quite enough up to this point to fully flesh out Tuba as a character. We’ve had sprinkles of information here and there but, unlike Atticus in Book 1, Tuba has felt more like a secondary character than a main one. Even with the additional background about one of her children in this episode, Tuba’s death doesn’t have quite the impact it might otherwise have had if we had spent more time with her. I also feel like the shift from the lighter tone in the first part of the episode to the darker tone of the last section occurred a bit too late in the episode to maximize the effect.

Despite my complaints, there are still a lot of things this episode does well. Tuba’s death is very upsetting, even if the emotional effect wasn’t fully maximized at this time. The fakeout of Simon appearing to gain an appreciation for Tuba before turning around and murdering her is powerfully done as well. Even though we’ve seen him becoming increasingly troubled over the past few episodes, the events in the Color Clock Car really did make it seem like Simon was starting to turn over a new leaf. To have him then turn around and commit perhaps his most heinous act yet is a real gut punch. It also helps to illustrate some of the season’s themes surrounding redemption and when it is possible (or not possible). Additionally, it makes it all but certain that Grace and Simon are heading toward a major rift. The ending cliffhanger is also really strong, finally setting us up to potentially get some answers as to who and what exactly Hazel is.

Episode MVP – Tuba. She gets some nice moments in this episode prior to her death, and we do get some more information about her past (although perhaps a little too late for that).

My Totally Arbitrary Car Ranking Color Clock Car (C+)

My Totally Arbitrary Episode Ranking – A solid B. I was quite meh about the actual Color Clock Car portion of the episode, but the ending and the impact on Simon’s character arc are enough to partially counteract it.

Cast Additions – The only new character this time is Roy, voiced by writer Justin Michael.  

Trivia/Stray Observations

  • “Yeah, let’s all take a nap on a rusty outdoor bridge when we’re almost home.” “Okay.”
  • “You can call me Roy, ‘cause I’m your boy!”
  • “You can call me Roy, ‘cause –” “You…are our boy.” “Huh, I guess word gets around fast.”
  • “So I’m stuck with Tuba?!” “No, I’m stuck with you!”
  • “You are a child. Even Bugle is more mature than you.”
  • “Roy is at a ten, and I need him to be at about a six.” Wholeheartedly agree, Tuba.
  • The sound effect used when the color shifted was also used in the Adventure Time episode ‘Vault of Bones’. My guess is it was pulled from the same sound library rather than being used as a direct reference, but you never know.
  • Apparently, in reference to fan speculation at the beginning of the season about the ‘episode 8 curse’, Owen Dennis responded, “It takes three to make a pattern. There’s only been two.”
  • Kirby Howell-Baptiste generally recorded her lines separately from the other actors due to her schedule. This was the only episode where she was able to record her lines with the rest of the cast.
  • According to Kyle McCarley, it was very difficult to record Simon’s lines to Hazel about killing Tuba.

‘The Campfire Car’, Season 3, Episode 6 (Premiere Date: August 13, 2020)

Synopsis – Discovering her transformation – and still filled with grief after the news of Tuba’s death – Hazel begins to panic. Grace immediately steps in to soothe her, telling her that she is still herself even if she does turn out to be a Denizen. As Hazel calms down, she reverts to her human-like form. Promising not to tell Simon, Grace leads Hazel back into the car. Reunited with Simon, they begin to make their way through a forest-themed car populated by camp-themed Denizens. Hazel eventually gets them to stop, saying that she wants a funeral for Tuba. Simon predictably chafes at this request, but Grace convinces him that it would be best for her to get the grief out of her system before returning to the Apex. Hazel leads Grace up a tree to watch the sun rise as she eulogizes Tuba. Hazel convinces Grace to also speak a few words, during which Grace realizes that Tuba meant more to her than she previously would have admitted, before Hazel sings Tuba’s lullaby and places a glowing rock (that Tuba had been carrying with her) in a knot in the tree.

Grace and Hazel find Simon and exit the car. As they proceed toward the next one, they pass by an older woman going in the opposite direction. Using his number tracker device, Simon is convinced that the Apex is in the next car due to what appears to be a large collection of numbers in one place. Instead, they find the car devoid of Passengers. At that moment, the door opens again behind them and the woman – clearly Amelia from Book 1 – pokes her head in to confront them.

My ThoughtsDon’t be a worry baby,

No need to hurry, baby,

When you’re with me.  

This was a surprisingly low-key episode given what preceded it, but that ended up working out in its favor. It took its time to explore what Tuba’s death means not just to Hazel but to Grace as well, and it resulted in one of the most affecting episodes of the series. The funeral scene up in the tree was particularly well done between the ambiance of the forest, Hazel and Grace’s speeches, and Hazel’s singing. I can no longer hear Tuba’s lullaby without feeling tears start to well up, the scene is that powerful. I am glad that the writers kept that moment to just Grace and Hazel, as I think Simon’s presence would have dampened the effects.

Speaking of Grace, this is an extremely important episode for her personal journey. We’ve watched as her adherence to the Apex’s ideology started to crack over the first half of the season. It seems almost completely severed now. Not only does she react to the revelation that Hazel could be a Denizen with *ahem* grace, she also comes to the realization of just how much Tuba meant to her over the short time they knew each other. Tuba treated her with respect despite the distrusting manner in which Grace and Simon acted toward her. Watching Grace break down in tears during Hazel’s song, it is difficult to imagine her ever going back to the way she was at the start of the season.

As a consequence of Grace’s softening stance toward Denizens and Simon’s stubbornly hardline views, the rift between the friends continues unabated. Grace repeatedly finds herself having to call Simon out and shut him down, and it is clear that his impatience and hatred toward ‘Nulls’ is starting to get the best of him. Now that Grace is keeping Hazel’s secret from him (for obviously good reason), a collision has gone from likely to inevitable. Simon feels more and more like a threat looming on the horizon, a volcano ready to blow. Even when he is attempting to be nice to Hazel, promising to name a character in his book after her, he comes across as ominous.

Beyond the emotional stakes and strong character moments, this episode also delivers on a plot level. Not only do we start to get some answers about Hazel’s identity and number – it is almost certain at this point that she is some kind of Denizen, which would explain why her number doesn’t work (although not why she has it in the first place) – but we also get the return of a familiar face. Given that the Apex has devoted itself to a warped version of what it views as the philosophy of ‘the True Conductor’ (aka Amelia), it only makes sense for the Apex’s founders to come face-to-face with their idol. Amelia’s motivations had nothing to do with numbers; she had only cared about recreating her life with Alrick. Combine that with the fact that she is wearing what appears to be some kind of official uniform (hinting that she might be working with One-One to undo some of the damage that she had done), and this is unlikely to go the way Grace and Simon would expect.

Episode MVP – Hazel. She displayed some great maturity when confronted with the one-two punch of Tuba’s death and her own nature and had some of the most affecting moments of the episode.

My Totally Arbitrary Car Ranking Campfire Car (B)

My Totally Arbitrary Episode Ranking – An excellent A-. This episode works well on pretty much every emotional, thematic, and plot level.

Cast Additions – Prolific voice actor Phil LaMarr cameos as a talking lantern, while the pinecone scout leader is played by Edi Patterson (Knives Out, The Righteous Gemstones). Lena Headey returns after a season’s absence as Amelia.

Trivia/Stray Observations

  • “Bright out tonight. Or is it just me?”
  • “We’re rocks, Martin, we can’t swim!” “I love it when you get angry.”
  • “Grace?” “Yeah?” “I have to go to the bathroom.”
  • The way the background music was phased out prior to Hazel’s singing really helped the lullaby hit harder.
  • I didn’t realize it, but this episode didn’t have the opening titles – the only episode of the series without them.
  • It’s been a few weeks since I posted music from the show, so here is a nice piano remix of the theme that plays at Tuba’s funeral. (They only officially released the soundtrack for Book 1, so I have to mostly rely on remixes for the rest. Luckily John G. has done a ton of them.)

That’s it for this week! We’re now halfway through Book 3, and next week we are off to ‘The Canyon of the Golden Winged Snakes Car’ and ‘The Hey Ho Whoa Car’.

Please share any thoughts about these episodes below. Make sure to spoiler tag any references to future events in the series in case anybody is stumbling across the show for the first time, and follow all of the Avocado’s rules and guidelines.

Thanks for reading!