It’s no secret that I was beyond thrilled learning that, after an uncertain fate, the fantasy/sci-fi series Infinity Train was green-lit for a fourth season (referred to as “Book 4”). The plot for Book 4 was kept pretty much under wraps with the exception of an enigmatic teaser trailer accompanying the announcement. Shortly before its April 15th premiere date, HBO Max casually released an exclusive clip that told us both nothing and everything about the newest entry in this anthology series:
The basic premise of Book 4 remains much the same as the previous Books: a person who’s dealing with some personal issues winds up on a mysterious train with a seemingly infinite number of cars. Each of these cars possesses its own theme that abides by its own reality, whether it’s a simple room with an unsolved puzzle or a sprawling kingdom. The person who boarded the train has to contend with each of the cars’ challenges, as well as the situations and lessons that affect the strange green number that has been etched into their hand. For this season, however, there is a change in the system: Book 4 is subtitled Duet, because not one but two people have simultaneously boarded the train and their ability to find a way home rests on the bond they have with one another.
Min-Gi Park (Sekai Murashige) and Ryan Akagi (Johnny Young) have been best friends since birth. Growing up the two were inseparable, spending much of their time laughing and making music together. But as high school draws to a close, a rift begins to emerge. The impetuous and creative Ryan wants to hit the road and tour Canada with his guitar in the hopes of making it all the way to New York. But Min-Gi, smart but far more reserved, feels compelled to stay at home and work before heading off to university. When Ryan finally makes his way home, it’s a happy reunion at first, but when things go wrong, the two end up on the Infinity Train. As they begin to navigate the train, they’re forced to examine themselves and their friendship.
While the core values the show has become known for are all here, this season has a different feel to it. This is due in part to the fact that only two familiar faces pop up, which can be explained by the sneaky time setting sleight of hand done with the season (a few vital clues are provided to situate viewers as to where it falls in the show’s timeline). Tonally, it’s a much lighter change of pace than the previous season, which was far and away the darkest in the series. The voice cast, as always, is stellar. Young and Murashige breathe life into Ryan and Min-Gi, with both of them being equal parts sympathetic despite their opposing points of view. Minty Lewis (The Regular Show) is a delight as Kez the floating, fast-talking, glitter-trailing desk bell (yes, you read that correctly), who’s well-meaning but prone to making blunders. She acts as Ryan and Min-Gi’s guide as well as attempting to be a peacekeeper when the situation calls for it, which is often. Because the two friends have repressed their feelings so long, their arguments are almost as bitter as their assumptions about one another. It’s an authentic representation of the stresses and strains that can be found in long-term friendship. Kate Mulgrew and Lena Headey reprise their roles as The Cat and Amelia respectively, with newcomers such as Character Actress Margo Martindale as a revenge-fueled Old West butterfly judge and J.K. Simmons as a giant tumultuous pig-baby that feels like something straight out of Hayao Miyazaki’s imaginings.
It’s a lovely season though, sadly, is well and truly the last as HBO Max has decided to not renew the series. As I mentioned back in February when the unexpected season four announcement happened, HBO Max was already on the verge of cancellation, though nothing was confirmed at the time. Writer Lindsay Katai strongly implies that the final cancellation came as surprise to the crew:
Sadly, we did not know this was to be the final season when it went into production and, in fact, had every reason to think it would continue.— Lindsay Katai Bot (@lindsaykatai) April 14, 2021
Fans have tried long and hard to get the word out about this brilliantly imaginative show, including myself. There’s a reason for that, which is that story-telling like this is exceedingly rare. Beyond the intriguing plot or the fantastical beings that inhabit this world—many of whose stories we’re unfortunately never going to learn—few shows are this skilled when it comes to inviting audience members to examine their own emotional intelligence. For me, it falls among the television ranks of The Good Place and Steven Universe, the only difference being that those series were able to come to completion on their own terms. I dearly wish the same for Infinity Train, especially since creator Owen Dennis has said on numerous occasions that he had many more stories in mind (including more insight into the train itself).
It’s easy to feel mournful at the moment, though there is a measure of comfort in knowing that we had this series at all. I’m endlessly charmed and pleased with having known the likes of One-One, The Cat, Amelia, Atticus, Alan Dracula, Hazel, Tuba (oh, TUBA!), Kez, and more. I hope every person that was touched somehow or another by the creativity and heart in this show finds a way to channel that out in the world, whether it be learning how to forgive oneself, apologizing to a friend, or simply being inspired to make fan art.
Though I’m human enough to admit that more than anything, I wish that this amazing ride didn’t have to end.
Books 1 through 4 of Infinity Train can be streamed on HBO Max.
Kaleena Rivera is a tv and film writer. When she’s not petitioning to have Kate Mulgrew cast in absolutely everything, she can be found on Twitter here.
Header Image Source: HBO Max