In Alice in Borderland Season 2, as much fun as it was to spend some time with Arisu (Kento Yamazaki), Usagi (Tao Tsuchiya), and Chishiya (Nijiro Murakami), there was one thing that viewers were looking forward to more than the life-or-death games: answers. Season 2 had the responsibility of finally assisting us in understanding what the heck is going on in the Japanese series, because Season 1 gave us essentially no information about the game developers, Borderland itself, and what exactly are the laws. And so it was. Kind of.
Even if you love Season 2 of Alice in Borderland, which is a lot of fun, especially with the new games, you have to admit that series creator and director Shinsuke Sato held up the reveal for a long time. But now that we know the truth, what exactly are Borderland and the games?
As you might have suspected, the solution is not straightforward. First off, the tale may not be over yet. There is a lot of evidence to suggest that if the show is renewed for Season 3, the answers given in Season 2 may change. But if Season 2’s final episode serves as the show’s finale as well, we have the majority of the answers in front of us, whether we like them or not.
Cards on the Table — Or Not
In Episode 8, Arisu and Usagi ultimately reach The Queen of Hearts, Mira Kano from Season 1’s Borderland, who serves as the game’s final “boss” (or “citizen”) (Riisa Naka). She suggests that, unlike all other games, they merely need to make it to the finish of a game of croquet for them to survive—they don’t even need to win.
They are able to escape Mira’s illusions (more on that later) and complete the croquet game as Arisu and Usagi put pressure on her to reveal what is actually happening to them. The Queen says that Arisu “will find out soon” what the game is before being vaporized by a laser. She continues by saying that he will be given two options, and the solution will be provided regardless of his decision.
The remaining players are asked to declare aloud whether they accept or reject “permanent residency in this country” when a loud voice announces that all games have been cleared and that fireworks are lighting up the Borderland sky. All the players we supported during Season 2 lose, and when they return to Tokyo, they discover that only a short while has gone by. This creates two very distinct possibilities for what Borderland and the games are.
What Is Borderland?
The first and more obvious explanation is that Borderland was some sort of limbo, hell, or even a near-death experience. In some ways, the folks who were sent there were dissatisfied with life and in need of meaningful connections in order to continue living. And they all—or most of them—ended up in the hereafter as a result of a meteorite explosion that killed them all over central Tokyo. This indicates that the terrifying experience of having to literally battle for their lives in Borderland served as a wake-up call for them to respect life more, and as they are transported back to the “real” world, they all survive the catastrophe without remembering what happened in Borderland.
Although the “they were dead the whole time” (or semi-dead) trope has been overused, it is ultimately a message that many films and TV shows deliver to us each time we hit play. Discover true love, true happiness, the delight of each moment, and the meaning of life. The last.
The blatant indications that Alice in Borderland provides that there is another factor at work cannot be ignored. The way that Season 2 finishes give most characters—especially the main characters—closure and completes the story arc of the citizens. If we have the chance to investigate Borderland in Season 3, only then can it have a deeper significance and more explanations. And now for the loose ends that could scuttle the conclusion of Season 2.
An Unreliable Narrator is The Queen of Hearts
Mira has established herself as someone you shouldn’t trust ever since the final game of Season 1 revealed her to be the Big Bad. You can’t help but take her lengthy monologue in the Season 2 finale with a grain of salt when she implies that they are, in fact, 1,000 years in the future and within a virtual reality game. Particularly when she laughs it off and acknowledges that she just lied. She then traps Arisu in an illusion in which he is a patient who created an alternative reality in his thoughts as a result of his inability to cope with the deaths of his two closest friends. Usagi assists him in breaking free of the illusion.
The happy ending we witnessed in Season 2 thus becomes a possible lie, and Arisu and his friends may awaken from it when they realize that something feels off. This is because as soon as we learn that the citizens – of this citizen in particular – can create an entirely new reality for whoever is playing with them. The episode’s final few minutes would not actually occur if this were to occur, and we would then be back where we started.
Who the Hidden Players in Alice in Borderland Are Is Still a Mystery
Season 2 taught us that the residents, who at first appeared to be a level above the other players, are actually quite ignorant. They might have known a little bit more than they initially thought, but generally, they are just as bewildered as Arisu and his pals. The difference is that they are superior players and have likely defeated earlier residents. By the end of Season 2, we still don’t know who created the games, who owns Borderland, or other facts that are so much beyond our wildest imagination.
The King of Spades clearly went out of his way to prevent Arisu and Usagi from learning crucial details about the day they were taken from Tokyo, and Chishiya managed to extract something from the Jack of Hearts in the prison cells, though we aren’t sure what it was. At the same time, it feels like a few citizens do have some idea of what happens in the caste above them. Therefore, Season 3 has a lot of ground to cover in that area.
The Final Card and The Girl in the Van
A girl who says she recalls every detail of the day everyone was taken from Tokyo is seen in some home video that Arisu and Usagi discover halfway through the season. She claims to have witnessed what actually occurred, but before she can completely defend herself, she is killed. The ambiguous language in her statements gave the impression that she was going to describe the meteorites we saw toward the conclusion of the season.
Additionally, there is some proof of people who were able to live outside the borders of the Borderland video games in the same films. The individuals in the film appear to have all discovered a method to survive for several days without being forced to participate in any games, and some of them appear to believe they are from other places and eras (which would support the near-death experience theory) (none of them ever mentions a “visa”). If that’s the case, there might be gaps in the player’s understanding of the game master’s universe, which would be an interesting area to investigate later.
In relation to the game master, the very last scene of Season 2 introduces The Joker, a card that we kind of ignored during the entire season. The Joker is a wild card that frequently breaks the established rules in all card games, and that most recent addition would blend seamlessly with the Alice in Borderland setting. Another thing to think about is the fact that Arisu receives his happy ending in the “actual” world where the card is introduced, which would further lend credence to the idea that everything is a mirage. This means that should the show get renewed for a third season (Netflix, you only have one job), we will finally have the chance to reveal another aspect of the game.