Infinity Train’s Lake

jasonseacord 🇵🇸
16 min readNov 23, 2022

The following is a written version of my most recent YouTube video. If you would like to watch that instead, here is the link. Also, if you haven’t already and would like to know the latest situation regarding Infinity Train, I recommend reading Owen Dennis’ substack about it. Also, if you would like to check out my Patreon, I have that as well.

Infinity Train, created by Owen Dennis, initially started as a single animated mini-series for Cartoon Network back in 2019 before being picked up for continuation as an anthology series, with each new season focusing on a new character navigating their issues and traumas to be resolved through trials provided by the titular endless train. Its second season, titled Cracked Reflection, is about a queer teenager who has to escape their society’s law enforcement who wants them dead simply because of who they are and their determination to reach the freedom to be themselves in safety.
And I believe Infinity Train: Cracked Reflection reflects all of the general experiences of queer youth while also providing a cathartic story that is separate from that. So today, I want to explain the merits of this particular season.
Light spoilers for season 1 and heavy spoilers for season two of Infinity Train; it has my strong recommendation.
Part 1: The Case for Lake’s Queerness
The first season, The Perennial Child, introduces Lake, who initially has seemingly malicious intentions as they trick their prime, Tulip, the protagonist of that season, into switching places from mirror world to prime world. Almost like a light-hearted version of Us. However, as the events unfold, Lake’s situation becomes life and death. And after Tulip gains introspection about herself, she figures out a way for them to leave the train car and the mirror world behind before going their separate ways.
We don’t really learn a lot about Lake from these two episodes. They don’t get clearly defined goals outside of things that would have worn out quickly, like smelling and touching a bunch of stuff. And we just get the impression that they are more or less a dark clone of Tulip even when the first season leaves them on a good enough note, seemingly coming out the other side.
The second season challenges this idea by reintroducing Lake as the protagonist of their own story this time, disposing of their Tulip garb and putting together their own look, clarifying that they probably never were Tulip in any capacity outside of their shared resemblance. And by the new aesthetic of this character, the implication in terms of visual storytelling is that they are transmasculine.
Technically speaking, Lake’s queer identity is done so allegorically. But really, Lake is only symbolic for a queer teen in the same way Spider-Man is an allegory for a teenage boy. It’s doing the metaphor while also literally doing the thing.
Let’s unpack this.
The character is not human but humanoid enough to the point where they may as well be human, and the queerness is not confirmed in the dialogue but shown in the visual storytelling. It is up to interpretation but with little room for any other arrangement. It would seem that the creators tried to make the queerness of the character undeniable, even if they couldn’t confirm it. The show-don’t-tell method, if you will.
Lake is also shown to potentially be attracted to both boys and girls throughout their story, possibly developing feelings for their new friend Jesse over time and being quite bashful when a group of mermaids compliment them. So there’s a bisexual reading of the character too.
I don’t like queer rep being presented metaphorically because censorship is the only reason any queerness is shown that way. So despite any limitations put on the people making the show, I appreciate how far they went in depicting Lake.
Lake was assigned to live as a female, specifically as Tulip, at some point in their life. We don’t learn much about how the mirror world society works; Infinity Train, in general, is pretty light on its world-building to focus on the personal developments of the characters. Or maybe I didn’t pay attention. But I saw Tulip as a tomboy, and I wondered if the barrier authorities, also known as “the flecks”, learned about Lake’s transmasculinity and specifically assigned them to Tulip as a compromise. Only for that to not be the right fit for them and the trouble being who they are is illegal in their world because of the authorities’ prerogative to “maintain the barrier”, which could be a stand-in for maintaining gender and heteronormativity. And this is possibly a result of reflecting our world, showing us a darker version of these things.
For most of the story, Lake also doesn’t go by the name Lake. They lament that they don’t have a name aside from Tulip’s in their first appearance. And throughout the second season, they react to the name Tulip, which can only be read as dysphoric, like it’s their dead name. And so Lake, having not chosen the name Lake yet, opts to go by the degendered alias MT for Mirror Tulip until they decide who they are.
Also, several times, the series shows Lake not taking being called a “girl” very kindly. It’s an example of misgendering. While at the same time, the show still withholds saying what Lake’s actual gender is out loud.
Still, despite this part, you can see why a video on YouTube called “Lake being trans for 16 minutes” has well over a million views. Its compiled moments concisely convey a queer story that can’t really be considered symbolic. To do so would honestly be erasure.
So regrettably, we are going to have to talk about pronouns now. So that’s what’s happening.
In the show itself, Lake goes by she/her, and at no point is there ever a change of pronouns. And that’s a little bit frustrating. You can still interpret Lake as a nonbinary person who goes by she/ her pronouns. Still, I feel like that’s a cheat, considering there are a lot of trans and nonbinary people who have expressed that they only tolerate their assigned pronouns as an adage because it’s tiring to insist on their preferred pronouns. It would have been excellent to see that change normalised, at least in their interactions with Jesse. And you could have still had the barrier authorities use she/her as an example of misgendering having narrative utility.
While I will say that Lake being trans and/or nonbinary is undeniable, that’s not the same as confirmed.
And when I watched the show, I felt that it could have been possible to change Lake’s pronouns to they/them organically. And that, for me, would have been enough to confirm that Lake was not cis. A recent example is Jim in Our Flag Means Death, who is only ever referred to with they/them pronouns after getting outed, indicating that the character is not just cross-dressing for survival purposes but for nonbinary reasons.
There is a conversation on Twitter involving the creator, Owen Dennis, essentially talking about media comprehension. On the one hand, he likes things to be up to interpretation and for people to get their own meaning out of a thing. I enjoy interpreting media, too, and because of this admission, I can say Lake’s pronouns are they/them now and he/him later while saying I have the creator’s full permission to do so. But Dennis also agrees with a Twitter commenter about how identity is represented in pop culture. Don’t just confirm it on Twitter; put it in the story and be direct about it.
Dennis, in turn, then brings up a problem that this can cause in some situations. Even if you are in charge of the actual show, the owners, with the money you need to pay you, ultimately control “certain characters” and “ideas”. He then goes on to ask, is the risk worth it considering the consequences?
It should be noted that Infinity Train has since been cancelled after only four seasons for reasons I’m not fully aware of all the nuances. If you know more, put it in the comments. But whatever the reasons were, it should be noted that the season it ended on was about two guys that many fans interpreted as gay.
That and the fact that the show was dark, to begin with, and became darker, developing into a show more aimed at older teenagers, seems to be the main reason it had the plug pulled on it. Something I don’t get about Western entertainment is the lack of a middle ground between media aimed at toddlers that teach reading and counting and drugs and sex dramas for adults. This is why a lot of us get into anime when we’re teenagers because there’s nothing else worth watching at that time. Yet American entertainment just refuses to make anything worthwhile to cover this demographic, and when they do, it’s cancelled.
So despite the fact that Infinity Train doesn’t have confirmed queer representation, I can see that Dennis and his team took many creative risks with the show and paid the ultimate price for it. And considering the revelations that Disney purposely cuts queer content from its projects, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is just an industry-wide problem regarding the owners and not the creators of intellectual properties. And this could also explain why Lake doesn’t change their pronouns in the show.
Also, in that same thread with Dennis, you could take away an indication that Cracked Reflection being interpretative is beneficial for reaching people in countries where their identities are illegal.
Despite any frustration I have with Cracked Reflection’s shortcomings, I do appreciate that, to my knowledge, Dennis hasn’t retroactively confirmed any of the characters to be queer and for being a creator who doesn’t fix the representation in his show on Twitter. It is what it is, and he seems genuinely happy for people to take the show however they want, including a queer one.
Death of the author, Cracked Reflection, should be claimed as a queer narrative and Lake a queer character. Because they are despite any faults, I have pointed out so far.
Originally the plan for Cracked Reflection was to set up Lake as a villain and to have a passenger from Earth be the protagonist once more. And boy, am I glad they didn’t do that.
Like first of all, it helps this season stick out from the rest of the seasons to have a technically non-human main character. But it would also have been frustrating, having already seen potential in this character after seeing them gain some hope in their life, only for them to regress.
Generally speaking, it is more likely to be satisfying for an audience to see a character progress rather than regress. Having a character regress and still have the audience invested is difficult, though not impossible.
I can’t say for sure if Jessie was originally intended to be the main character, but I’m going to assume he was for this video’s purposes. The official story is that during the writing of season two, the Infinity team eventually concluded that they “liked Lake more”, and thus they became the lead character.
I want to make some advanced guesses on what this all means. I assume that eventually, the writers identified that when you compare Lake to Jessie, for example, Lake ultimately has the most significant problems. I mean, all Jessie had to do was learn to stick up for himself and those he loves, which he does enough to the point where he could get back on the train to help save Lake. This makes him a likeable supportive character who does at least develop throughout his story next to Lake’s. But comparing that to Lake’s problem, which is wanting to have the freedom to live an authentic life and not pay for it with gruesome death upon themself, one is undoubtedly a lot more compelling than the other. And it’s because of that Lake carries a more powerful theme.
Throughout the series, Lake as a protagonist, asks questions like, are they and the deer Allan Dracula not entitled to have independence and individuality over themselves, to which episodic villains and the overarching villains make arguments against their claims to autonomy over themselves in service of the “bigger picture”.
In particular, the two back-to-back episodes, The Toad Car and The Parasite Car put Lake in a similar position that Tulip had been in with Lake.
In Episode 4, The Toad Car, Lake is in a dire situation where they and Jesse are trapped in a train car where the only way to get out is to kick a sentient toad. When Jesse almost does kick the toad, his number goes up, which lowers passengers’ chances of getting off the train. Lake almost kicks the toad instead-but refrains when Jesse judges them for it. After all, the unnamed toad is a living and intelligent creature, just like they are, who doesn’t want to be kicked. While the tone around this character is goofy, this creature is in a role where they are to be tormented for people’s convenience with no benefit for himself, just like Lake was. And just like how Lake switched back to chrome world by trusting Tulip, it’s only when the toad decides to cooperate with the two (and Allan Dracula) and consent to be kicked that they can all escape together. Very much paralleling Lake’s story in the previous season. In a later episode, the toad reappears one more time and is still being kicked but is at least profiting from it, so now he gets to benefit from it and, I assume, is building a life for himself. But also, he’s now renamed himself Terrance, which again has a gag humour vibe around it but is another parallel to Lake’s story, foreshadowing Lake’s name change at the end of the series.
Episode 5, The Parasite Car, features a drag car and a character named Sashay, a nod to RuPaul voiced by drag queen BeBe Zahara Bennet. In which Allan Dracula is subjected to a parasite named Perry. In this situation, Allan Dracula is in the same position Terrance and Lake had been in. Once more, Lake is in Tulip’s shoes interacting with the parasite Perry who tries to come off as a more friendly and reasonable version of the flecs. Compared to The Toad Car, The Parasite Car is much more direct with Lake. Lake asks what gives Perry the right to take over Allan Dracula’s body. Perry argues that he has not taken over Allan Dracula and that they are in a symbiotic relationship, demonstrating that he now shares all of his memories and understands his needs. Essentially Perry is reframing himself not as a parasite but as an extension of Allan Dracula, who can be helpful for the group in their journey. The bigger picture, if you will.
This clearly affects Lake, who ponders about this seemingly harmless arrangement and quite possibly what it means for them. Because when you think about it, Perry represents everything Lake could be if they just embodied everything the flecks believe and do. One could say that the existence of Perry’s symbiotic relationship with Allan Dracula argues that Lake was a helpful extension of Tulip and that their quest for individuality and freedom is selfish and counterintuitive.
This argument comes back up in the series finale a lot more directly when it is voiced by the character One-One who wants them to stay on the train to do the emotional labour of the “real protagonists” despite the risks to their well-being.
During the climax of The Parasite Car, it becomes evident that the symbiotic relationship between deer and parasite is actively harmful to Allan Dracula. While Perry understands Allan Dracula’s needs as a deer, he disregards those needs in service of what he wants instead. And in retrospect, his previous understanding and feigned helpfulness are reminiscent of concern trolling.
And so Lake and Jesse understandably jump into action to save Allan Dracula and extract Perry.
Though particularly in The Parasite Car, these episodes reinforce Lake’s previous resolve and decisions to leave behind a system that did not favour their individuality, freedom and well-being, I presume they leave Perry for dead. This implied action subtly foreshadows what Lake will have to do in the heat of the moment for themselves later on regarding the two flecs that are tailing them.
One of the biggest reasons I am so glad that Lake was not made the show’s villain is that no matter what the writers could have come up with, Lake is a teenager and would not have been able to outdo the intimidation of the flecks Mace and Sieve. I’m not saying Lake could not have been a villain, but if the writers had gone in that direction, they would have had to make them a sympathetic villain and possibly with a redemption arc. Those have been proven to be compelling in their own right, but a bad guy who gets badder can make the investment in a main character’s story more nail-biting, and boy, did these guys make this story more nail-biting.
Mace, in particular, was voiced by Ben Mendelssohn, and he does an excellent job selling the ruthlessness of the character. Meanwhile, the sound designers engineered the coldness of Mace with a bit of tinny hollowness to him but not too much because even Lake humanises him when they rebuke him in the wasteland. Sieve is the final flec at the end of the series and is just as dangerous as Mace in that last episode, but still, Mace is the most memorable because of Mendelssohn, in my opinion. Australians just naturally make good villains.
Throughout the series, like most great stories, part of Lake’s story involves a classic conflict to be resolved, the want vs need. In character writing, a want is something that a character consciously pursues because they believe that thing will make them happy. A need is something like a lesson that the character must learn to function and be truly happy in their life. Sometimes, this usually involves a character giving up their goals in exchange for something better.
Lake basically understands their need to get away from the flecs, so their short-term goal is survival-focused, but they don’t have a plan in the long term to achieve this and a quality life. Initially, one of the barriers to this is their belief that they need to do everything alone. But after, their encounter with a strangely cosmic-friendly deer who persists in being part of Lake’s life in the meantime opens them up to a new possibility. And so, from this point, Lake wants to be with the deer and pursues that consciously.
However, despite all the deer powers, it is not what Lake needs. Because, at best, the deer can only socially be a pet to Lake. And despite being made of metal, Lake is a person, and they really need a support network.
And this is where Jesse comes in.
Jesse’s introduction shows him interacting with the deer, whom he names Allan Dracula, and his presence creates the conflict that Lake goes through.
On the one hand, you can say that Jesse having a just as meaningful relationship with the deer poses a threat in Lake’s mind to their ties with Allan Dracula, i.e. their want. But I think it’s a bit more complicated than that.
Lake doesn’t trust Jesse because their interpretation of Jesse’s interactions with Allan Dracula and themself is that he is undermining their autonomy.
While Lake does need a support network, the concept of one to Lake runs counter to their pro-individual and anti-system stance. This is Lake’s internal struggle stemming from their wound, the experience of being in the Mirror world that governed and undermined them their whole life. This is the only “support network” that Lake has ever known, and now that wants to kill them. And throughout their journey, Lake has to reconcile that what is most beneficial for their individuality is a new support network.
And while Jesse eventually becomes the start of this longer-term support network for Lake, he has a bit to go before he can reliably fill in that role at the beginning of the story.
Jesse is, after all, on the train for a reason. And when it comes out that he incidentally allowed a group of his “friends” to basically get away with breaking his little brother’s arm and not having a backbone in the situation, as is the case for any personal conflict he has been in, Lake understandably does not trust him to have their back if he can’t even stick up for his own damn family.
His lack of conviction results in his being a doormat for others, which manifests in both sides-ing conflicts he gets involved in. However, there’s only so far you can go with this. In a way, Jesse’s detrimental indecisiveness reminds me of The Good Place’s Chidi Anangonye’s overthinking ethics, which turns out to be more unethical in practice once you consider time as a factor.
And when Jesse meets the flecs, he tries to see the situation from their perspective before hearing out Lake’s side of the story, who admittedly withholds that information for a time. But unlike the flecks who remain unrelenting toward Lake, Jesse determines that Lake’s safety matters more. In other words, he makes a hard decision to go one way on the Lake debate. This shows considerable development in his character, showing that he can be dependable for people in vulnerable situations, and Lake trusts him from this point. And it’s because of this change in his character that he’s the one to suggest that Lake come back home with him to get them away from the flecs once and for all. And, because of Lake’s newfound trust in him, they don’t have any doubts about that being the right course of action.
When the pair are separated prematurely, Lake realises that they will have to say goodbye to Allen Dracula at some stage to achieve what they need. And so Lake gives up what they originally wanted and is at peace with this decision. But not out of danger.
It’s only when Jesse reappears on the train to help Lake that he solidifies his reliability to Lake.
While Jesse is the reason Lake gets an exit off the train, Lake does have one last fight on the way out, and their way of getting out of it is by calling out to Allen Dracula with the name Jesse gave the deer at the beginning of the story. And it’s worth noting that Allen Dracula finishes this last confrontation with his heat vision, an ability that Jesse discovered about him that Lake initially did not believe was the case that has now come full circle.
I’m obviously biased in saying this, but I think Cracked Reflection is the best season of Infinity Train so far. I don’t want to break down how the other seasons aren’t as strong as this because I honestly think those seasons are excellent in their own ways. And I’ve also glossed over the second season’s grandest moments just in case my spoiler warning was not ultimately heeded. But I think I’ve made a fair case for why this season is so satisfying based on its story’s strengths. And I think the queer theming is strong despite any alleged censorship.
And speaking of those themes, I think I should mention the cherry on top of the series, which was the ending. Once Lake, at long last, gets off that damn train, they finally pick their name. Throughout the series, Lake has had to avoid reflective surfaces due to the real danger they pose, so it was a bold choice that Lake names themself after the first reflective surface they see. Cracked Reflection ends with Lake finally coming out the other side.
I hope one-day Infinity Train gets revived and that next time around, the Infinity Team will get to have more creative freedom to express their characters’ identities more clearly if they want to.
Despite the technical lack of clarity, I think Cracked Reflection is the best transmasc story I have seen in Western entertainment. And if you’re queer at all and haven’t seen this yet, I hope I might have convinced you to check it out.

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