Hello all! Welcome back to my weekly reviews of Infinity Train. Last week we reached the halfway point of Book 3 with ‘The Color Clock Car’ and ‘The Campfire Car’. This week we barrel onwards with ‘The Canyon of the Golden Winged Snakes Car’ and ‘The Hey Ho Whoa Car’.
‘The Canyon of the Golden Winged Snakes Car’, Season 3, Episode 7 (Premiere Date: August 13, 2020)
Synopsis – Picking up where we left off last week, Amelia confronts Grace, Simon, and Hazel, explaining that she is working with One-One to clean up glitches in the Train’s coding. Grace and Simon are initially wary, but grow even more confused when Amelia takes off her coat, revealing that she has perhaps the highest number on the Train. According to Amelia, she had set up an automated system meant to eject cars that she had tampered with as part of her original experiments – cars with phone booths, university campuses, and, of course, turtles. This sets off alarm bells for Grace, who worries that Amelia is after Hazel. She convinces Simon that Amelia can’t be trusted despite her high number and that they should make a run for it. The trio manages to hide in a cave, where Simon tries to confront Grace about her dropping number. Grace refuses to talk about it and (rightfully) berates him for being so obsessed with it.
Furious, Simon slinks away and makes his way back to Le Chat Chalet Car, where he demands that the Cat explain how to fix Grace’s number situation. The Cat tries to calm him down and convince him that numbers are supposed to go down, but he won’t have it. Realizing that the bigger issue for Simon is that Grace is drifting away from him, she offers him a vial of the tape-making robots from the Tape Car. She warns him that sometimes it is best to not know what our loved ones are thinking, but he rebuffs her, claiming that he knows what he is doing.
My Thoughts – Even though this episode has perhaps the longest name in the series, the titular car really doesn’t play much of a role beyond serving as pretty set dressing for the discussions that take place. Given the discussions that do occur, however, that doesn’t feel like a fault. There is a lot to unpack with this episode, so let’s start with Amelia. I love the way that Book 1’s former antagonist is presented here. She is gruff and no-nonsense, showing no compunctions about puncturing Grace and Simon’s worldview, but she is also clearly trying to become a better person. She does read the introductory index card One-One gave her – although without much enthusiasm – and she is using her expertise to try and undo some of the damage she had caused during her tenure as Conductor. Specifically, she is using the Train’s code to eject the cars that she created as part of her experiments to recreate her life with Alrick. One question that is really bugging me about this, though, is what ultimately happens to the ejected cars? If they are being sent to another part of the Train to be evaluated later, what is the criteria for such an evaluation? Could a car like the Unfinished Car, with its own functioning society and sentient residents, be destroyed?
In any case, Amelia presents a major conundrum for Grace and Simon. Or, rather, a different conundrum for each of them – which is very telling. For Grace, Amelia presents a threat to Hazel that must be avoided at all costs. Simon, meanwhile, finds himself stuck in the paradox of wanting to talk to her because of her high number while also wanting to stay away from her due to the Apex’s longstanding rule about adults being untrustworthy. When he tries to discuss this with Grace, she shuts him down again. Her focus on protecting Hazel blinds her to the extent to which she is alienating Simon. Combine that with her increasing disinterest in her number or the ideals of the very organization they founded together, and it is clear that Simon is teetering on the edge by the time he visits Samantha.
Back in ‘Le Chat Chalet Car’, it was very obvious that Simon and Samantha have a deep connection despite the rift between them. Maybe it’s not as powerful of a connection as Jesse and Lake had, but it is still very strong. This is again evident here. Even with his intense dislike of Denizens, Samantha is the first person he turns to when he needs advice about how to proceed here. She, in turn, appears very invested in trying to get him on the right track. She tries to reason with him, to tell him that the things that he believes are built on lies, but he refuses to see it. This is the point where Simon really begins to feel scary. When confronted with the shaky foundations of his ideology, he seems to grip onto his beliefs even tighter. He is starting to descend into true fanatic mode, and it is disheartening to see. As I mentioned back at the beginning of the season, the writers intended for this season to be viewed as a tragedy, and it is increasingly easy to see why. We began the season with two longtime friends following a misguided belief system. When confronted with obstacles meant to shake their faith, one took the opportunity to change, while the other not only refused to do so but doubled down. This is heading nowhere good, for either Grace or Simon.
Episode MVP – Amelia. She really stole the show in her scenes.
My Totally Arbitrary Car Ranking – Canyon of Golden Winged Snakes Car (B+)
My Totally Arbitrary Episode Ranking – A strong B+. We got some answers about the issues plaguing the Train, but it was the forward momentum on the various character arcs that carried the episode.
Cast Additions – No new cast members this week. Lena Headey returns as Amelia for the first time since Book 1, and Kate Mulgrew returns as Samantha (aka the Cat).
Trivia/Stray Observations –
- “One, like One-One?” “One, One…One?”
- “One has no idea you exist, Short-Pants.”
- “In a very real sense, we’re just numbers to him.” Explains a lot about how the Train operates.
- “All aboard the growth train, toot toot. Wee.”
- “Sincerely, your Conductor, One.” Turns card over. “One.”
- “The highest number we’ve ever seen. Maybe the highest number there’s ever been!” “Rude.”
- “Have there been objects that didn’t match the environment? Phone booths, college campuses, a lot of turtles, too many turtles, a number of turtles that makes you think, ‘Why, why turtles again?’”
- “Is she looking at us?” “What?”
- “Oh, I hate children.”
- “This interface is garbage.”
- “I need something that can tell me what is wrong with Grace.” “Oh, piffle. I can do that. One, she is very sure of herself. Two, she has no respect for personal property. Three –”
- “I am who I am, Simon. I can’t give you more than that.”
- “Numbers are numbers, and they’re supposed to go down.”
- “I never lie when I’m telling the truth.”
- Nice to see Amelia putting her experience with the Train’s code to good use.
- One of the Apex’s number one rules is to never trust adult passengers. That’s going to get very awkward at some point, given that Grace and Simon are almost adults themselves.
- How does Simon know exactly where the chalet car is now? Couldn’t it have moved in the meantime?
- And finally we get the Cat’s name – Samantha.
- Giving Simon the tape bots does not feel like a very responsible move on Samantha’s part.
- Book 1’s theme, ‘Running Away’, makes a brief appearance with Amelia near the beginning of the episode.
- This car made an appearance in Lake’s montage at the start of Book 2.
‘The Hey Ho Whoa Car’, Season 3, Episode 8 (Premiere Date: August 13, 2020)
Synopsis – Grace and Hazel awaken to find Simon gone. As they prepare to leave the cave to look for him, they are attacked by one of the golden winged snakes. Amelia knocks the snake out with a shovel at the last second and cooks breakfast for them. As she does so, she explains that she needs their help in finding out what is wrong with the Train. Remembering that the car is scheduled for ejection, the three of them leave to head on to the next car. On the bridge between the cars, they are approached by Simon, who warns Grace away from Amelia on Samantha’s advice. He attempts to attack Amelia but is rebuffed by a ‘sonic shield’ on her belt that displays a sine wave exactly like the one that had adorned her Conductor helmet. Indignant, Simon accuses her of stealing the Apex’s symbol. Amelia, amused, reveals the truth – that she was the false Conductor, not One-One. Simon refuses to believe her but Grace is more open to the idea. The four of them enter the next car, containing a large pit between the two doors that is slowly being filled up with cuboid Denizens. Frustrated, they decide to wait until the pit is filled.
Simon eventually confronts Amelia again, attempting to break through her shield. Hazel becomes so upset that she transforms into her turtle form, shocking Simon and Amelia. Amelia realizes that Hazel is actually the result of one of her attempts to recreate Alrick and that any car Hazel enters will be marked for ejection by Amelia’s pulse code. She says that as soon as they are able to move onward she will take Hazel to be quarantined. Simon tries to convince Grace to abandon Hazel to Amelia and move onward outside the car with his harpoon pack, but to his dismay she says that they should wait too. Frustrated, he waits until she is asleep and uses the tape bots that Samantha had given him to look into memories. He witnesses Grace telling Hazel that they should keep her Denizen status secret from him, and he breaks down in tears.
My Thoughts – This episode actually parallels the plot structure of the previous episode in some respects – Amelia speaks with the trio (minus Simon in this case) about the issues with the Train, Grace and Simon argue over whether Amelia can be trusted, Grace makes decisions that baffle Simon, and the episode ends with them hunkering down to rest until morning. This isn’t meant as a criticism. The episode uses the similar structure to continue to escalate the tensions that began to flare in ‘The Canyon of the Golden Winged Snakes Car’ as we make our way toward next week’s finale. To that end, there are two major revelations that shape this episode.
The first such revelation is that Grace and Simon finally learn truth about Amelia. Not only was she the one who usurped One-One, not the other way around, but she also cared not at all about the size of her number. This flies in the face of everything the Apex was built on, and Grace and Simon’s divergent reactions are telling. Not only does Simon outright deny what Amelia is saying right to her face, claiming that she is just an agent of the ‘false’ Conductor, but he actually says that it wouldn’t matter anyway if it was true. To him, all that matters is that Amelia isn’t following the Apex’s strictures. This is troubling, because before at least his ideological views were tied to something – Amelia’s reign as Conductor. Now he has essentially unmoored himself from reality, meaning that he no longer needs to justify his actions. Anything that he does is ‘right’ because he is doing it to further the Apex. If that’s not a slippery slope, I don’t know what is.
I could honestly see the Grace of last season or even of ‘The Musical Car’ going down a similar road, but not the Grace that we have now. Through her interactions with Hazel and Tuba, her views on Denizens have gradually but inexorably changed. As we can see in this episode, she has now reached the point where she is willing to accept Amelia’s truth without much, if any, major doubt. This is an incredibly important development for her character journey. She can try to delude herself that things can go back to the way they were – as she attempted when she dismissed Hazel as a ‘Null’ – but based on her uncomfortable reactions that is very clearly not the case.
The other revelation is, of course, that Hazel was created as part of one of Amelia’s failed experiments to recreate Alrick. In hindsight, this makes a lot of sense given the association between Amelia, Alrick, and turtles back in Book 1. That doesn’t make it any easier for Hazel to take. In the way that she wails, “I’m Hazel!” after the reveal, it is obvious that the idea of being a ‘failed experiment’ – even if we know that is no way to describe who she is as a person – is weighing heavily on her. Combine that with Grace’s cruel, if not really meant, words, and Hazel is unlikely to be in a good mental space at this point in time. Simon, on the other hand, seems to take the actual realization with indifference. He is perfectly fine with using the fact that Hazel is actually a Denizen as a reason to leave her behind and move on. The bigger problem for him comes with the discovery that Grace knew Hazel’s secret all along. We’ve seen that Simon believes he has been repeatedly betrayed during his time on the Train – first by Samantha, and then more recently by the rift growing between him and Grace – and that these feelings have curdled into rage and hatred. It seems almost certain that this will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, that will sever Simon and Grace’s friendship for good. After that, all bets will assuredly be off.
Episode MVP – I’m going to have to go with Amelia again. It really was a brilliant move to bring her back, both to show her having to face the consequences of her actions but also to demonstrate that redemption is a long, difficult road.
My Totally Arbitrary Car Ranking – Hey Ho Whoa Car (B)
My Totally Arbitrary Episode Ranking – A solid B. It works well to rachet up the tension as we enter the home stretch, but it does feel a bit uneventful compared to some of the episodes preceding it.
Cast Additions – The only new characters are the Denizens of the Hey Ho Whoa Car, all voiced by Owen Dennis.
Trivia/Stray Observations –
- “You want eggs? I’m making eggs.”
- “How many eggs do children eat?” “Six and a half! That’s how old I am.”
- “Probably should have mentioned I’m not great at eggs. Or any food.” “Nuh-uh! You make the best pancakes.” “It pains me to turn down my first compliment in thirty-three years, but we just met yesterday. You’ve never had them.” “I just know.”
- “If anybody was a false Conductor, it was yours truly.”
- “So, what d’you think?” “I think they’re sticks.”
- “I…I can’t believe it!” Very convincing, Grace.
- “So, Hazel is a clone of your…dead boyfriend?”
- “I’m Hazel!” “Debatable.”
- On re-watch, Hazel’s comments about Amelia’s pancakes and about liking Amelia were clever bits of foreshadowing for her true identity as an experiment to recreate Alrick.
- I didn’t notice it before, but Hazel uses multiple instances of British slang over the course of the season including ‘daft’ and ‘barking mad’. Another subtle hint about her origins.
- That’s the slowest three-second countdown I’ve ever heard.
- Cool tidbit that Hazel’s number was Amelia’s original number.
- Apparently there was a stall in ‘The Lucky Cat Car’ called ‘Hey Ho Whoa Toss’.
- Amelia is the third person to call Simon a child in the past three episodes – following Tuba in ‘The Color Clock Car’ and Samantha in ‘The Canyon of the Golden Winged Snakes Car’ – and he reacts more violently each time.
That’s it for this week! We’re now in the final stretch of Book 3, and next week we finish off the season with ‘The Origami Car’ and ‘The New Apex’.
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