The arrival of 2020 may have been all about the masterful return of Doctor Who, but hidden in the shadows another series popped back into our lives. Cartoon Network has unveiled the first episode of Infinity Train’s second season (now available on its website), putting a mysterious but familiar character in the conductor’s seat.
The debut season of Infinity Train (which was picked up at Cartoon Network after a test pilot wowed critics and audiences) surprised me in all sorts of ways. Tulip, the protagonist, found herself on the train because she was having trouble dealing with her parents’ divorce and the story was short but impactful, using the train as a metaphor for coping with trauma. She managed to not only solve the problems of the train, thanks to her critical thinking skills, but also heal.
However, the biggest surprise came at the end of the season, when Tulip left the train and went home (without her reflection, which was a hint). This decision made sense for the plot, but left me confused at where things would go. Infinity Train clearly wasn’t a one-and-done series, because the show had already announced it was coming back. But it couldn’t live without its star, right? How would Tulip find her way back to the train to go on infinite adventures? It turns out that, in a way, Tulip never left.
That’s because the new star of the show is Mirror Tulip, the reflection of Tulip from the Mirror World train car who managed to escape and is now on the run in the real world.
“The Black Market Car,” which made its surprise debut during a New Years Day marathon of Infinity Train, sets up the new direction for the sophomore season. The train appears to be back to normal, as we see One-One instructing new passengers on the purpose of their stay, but that couldn’t be further from Mirror Tulip’s mind. She’s on the run from the Mirrorverse good cop/bad cop duo, who remain just as adorably wicked as they did during the first season. She’s sprinting through train car after train car, evading her pursuers and spray painting any reflective surfaces so they can’t track her. When the cops do find her, like in the titular Black Market car, the fight scenes are inventive and tense.
Mirror Tulip continues to flee until she finds herself in a peaceful woodlands train car occupied by a single deer that turns invisible, shielding her from her pursuers. Now able to catch her breath, she spends a great deal of time with the deer, feeding it leaves and forming a bond. It’s why she’s left shaken when she discovers another passenger—an energetic young man named Jesse with a 32 on his hand—playing with the same deer after she wakes up from a nap. She has a hard time accepting that someone else could form a bond with something that’s become so special to her, showing a need for companionship that’s on her own terms.
There’s also a curious moment when Mirror Tulip chides Jesse for naming the deer Alan Dracula, as she believes creatures should be allowed to choose their own names. As of now, we only know her as Mirror Tulip, a reflection of someone else. She’s made changes to her appearance and seems to be searching for her own identity, but she’s clearly haunted by the fact that she only exists a copy who, for all intents and purposes, isn’t supposed to exist on her own. Who is Mirror Tulip? I imagine this season’s going to try and find out.
In our previous roundtable, I expressed interest in the second season diving into Mirror Tulip as a character, because it would give the series a chance to explore the nature of humanity and personhood. The first season was about trauma and healing, this one is about someone who’s lived in the shadow of another learning to forge their own identity (I’m using the term “forge” literally, as the episode starts with Mirror Tulip changing her appearing by drilling ear gauges and shaving her head by swan-diving into some machinery). Luckily, it looks like Mirror Tulip won’t be alone on her path to self-actualisation—as she’ll have Jesse alongside her, who will surely be going through his own journey.
The episode ends on a cliffhanger, with Mirror Tulip and Jesse’s deer companion crashing through the forest floor and falling down a giant tree, bouncing back and forth like a plastic lawn ornament caught in the wind. What new puzzle awaits us, and when can we solve it? Cartoon Network hasn’t announced when the rest of the series will air.