The following contains spoilers for Season 2 of Alice in Borderland, now streaming on Netflix.
One of the most interesting aspects of Alice in Borderland is how the addictive Netflix series harps on warped games in Japan. Season 1 threw Arisu and his friends such as Karube into this weird pocket of space and time when Tokyo was deserted after mysterious fireworks. There, the teens became wrapped up in the murderfest, with Season 2 now pivoting to Arisu trying to escape the realm, hoping that he could forge the life his dead friends would have wanted.
Notably, many compare the show to another gem from Asia — Squid Game. The highly popular series took the world by storm, becoming one of Netflix’s most famous properties, dealing with Koreans being taken to a shady island outside the mainland to partake in similar death games. However, while both have the same devious energy, Alice in Borderland is the more impressive story for one main reason.
Squid Game Loses Its Main Theme
Season 1 of Squid Game dealt with Gi-hun trying to win the tournament, hoping to take millions back home to his daughter. While it was pretty sadistic seeing allies eventually cut each other down as only one person could nab the prize, it did feel like there was some sort of vindication in that the targets were sinners in society. This gave the show a political slant and social justice edge, with the handlers feeling akin to Saw’s Jigsaw — a thread copied recently for The Menu.
Unfortunately, the season finale confirmed the handlers were just as lurid: breaking innocents, seeding out lies, allowing cheating and rigging the game so that the elite could bask in the blood, guts and gore. It took away the heart and soul from the series, which quickly diluted to something cheap, tacky and evoking shock factor through violence. In a word, the show became “normal,” losing that edge in terms of its moral compass and emotional connection to the villains. Viewers tuned in for an escapist vibe, not to see the rich eating the poor, per the real world.
Alice in Borderland Maintains a Unique Depth
Season 2 of Alice in Borderland does the opposite, finally unraveling the mystery behind the game. It’s revealed that the fireworks were a meteor shower that destroyed most of the city, with Arisu and the other competitors being comatose people who became contestants in limbo. Folks who died there were considered unworthy of returning to life, while others gave up and went to the afterlife upon exiting the game. Some stayed in purgatory, intent on becoming game masters themselves as they enjoyed the temptation, chaos and vile nature of the space more than the real world.
Thankfully, Arisu and his new crew chose to return to life at a hospital once the protagonist beat the game. They saw value in a second chance, with the game teaching them about love, family, friendship and why the world needs good people to show compassion and empathy. In a sense, this increased the sympathy factor for everyone, including lost souls and villains seeking redemption, reminding viewers atonement can be achieved once one wants it.
Some think it’s religious, others think it’s spiritual, but as Arisu — a keen lover of science and gaming — realized, it’s merely about the testament of the human spirit and that experience folks take for granted. Ultimately, they all learned to cherish the world, with Arisu and Usagi still finding each other despite altered memories, nodding to the theme of star-crossed lovers. Thus, Alice in Borderland is a romantic story about destiny, mired in a lot of bloodshed, to remind viewers to appreciate life more.