Fans of death games, rejoice: Alice in Borderland is finally dropping its second season on Netflix after a two-year-long hiatus. Your dreams are finally coming true! Well, no entertainment group has announced a Battle Royale theme park in which you can face off against other patrons, but if that’s your dream, perhaps it’s time you close this article and get some professional help. Now, if you’re a lover of death games of the fictional kind, then these last weeks of 2022 are about to take a turn for the better as Alice in Borderland returns with its new season. And, judging from the trailer, this season of Alice in Borderland promises to be even wilder than the first one, with our protagonists finally reaching the face card levels of the games and finding out more about the world they’re in.
But what happened in Season 1 of Alice in Borderland, again? Two years is a long time to wait for a new season of a TV series, and these past two years have been particularly rough, so don’t worry: we’ve got you covered. Just sit back and enjoy this recap before you press play on Season 2 of Alice in Borderland. Let the games begin!
What is Alice in Borderland About, and How Does It All Begin?
Based on the manga series of the same name by Haro Aso, Alice in Borderland first dropped on Netflix in December 2020. Alice in Borderland stars Kento Yamazaki as young unemployed gamer Ryohei Arisu, whose life changes drastically when he is mysteriously transported to a parallel universe in which he is forced to play a series of twisted games in order to remain alive. There’s no telling who, exactly, is behind these games — Aliens? The government? The 1%? — nor do they know what they’re getting out of it. The leading theory among Alice in Borderland’s characters is that the so-called “Borderland” is actually an identical copy of Tokyo, except a huge chunk of the city’s enormous population has disappeared. The only thing Arisu and his fellow players know for sure is that they must either play and win these gruesome games or pay with their lives.
In the first episode of Alice in Borderland, Arisu is transported to this other world alongside his two closest friends, Karube (Keita Machida) and Chota (Yûki Morinaga). They were horsing around on a busy street when they accidentally caused a car crash and had to hide from the police in a subway station’s bathroom. When they came out, everyone was gone except for the three of them — and a few other people, as they soon would learn. What starts as a fun mystery and an opportunity to leave the hardships of the real world behind soon turns into a nightmare when Arisu, Karube, and Chota are summoned to a building in which a game is about to take place. Upon entering the building, the three men cross an invisible barrier that will kill them if they try to go back.
Arisu, Karube, and Chota are soon joined in the building’s entrance hall by two other players, Saori (Ayame Misaki) and an unnamed teenage girl whom, they will soon find out, will show them exactly what kind of horror they are up against. They each get a cell phone with no signal that informs them that the game difficulty is “three of clubs,” whatever the hell that means. The group is forced to play something called “Dead or Alive,” a game in which they enter a series of rooms with two doors and must choose the correct one in a limited amount of time. Taking too long to choose means death by fire, while choosing the wrong door means a laser shot through the head — and this is precisely the fate that awaits our poor little redshirt, the first victim (that our protagonists know of) of the games in Alice in Borderland.
Anger and despair take over the group after the young girl’s death, and the situation only gets worse when Chota has a panic attack and ends up getting his leg burnt. At first, the doors seem to be completely random, but Arisu manages to use his spatial knowledge and his familiarity with game systems to get everyone else out of the building alive. Arisu, Karube, Chota, and Saori are greeted on the outside by a three of clubs card, which serves as their “visa” for the next three days. What is a visa, you ask? Well, thankfully, Alice in Borderland gives us another redshirt so that we don’t have to dwell on that question for long. This time, it’s an older man who comes towards them announcing that his visa has expired and that he’s done playing games. As soon as he finishes this exposition, a laser beam much like the one that killed the young girl in the game takes him out.
Rules, New Alliances, and the Promise of a Safe Haven
After this traumatic experience, Arisu, Karube, and Chota begin to piece together the rules of this strange universe they have found themselves in. First off, the number of the card at the beginning of the game is equivalent to the number of days you can spend in Borderland without playing a game if you win. If this visa expires, and you’re not in an arena, you die. Second, not everyone in this other world has gotten there at the same time. Saori, for instance, had already played more than one game when she ran into the guys at the entrance hall for Dead or Alive. And last, but not least, there is a logic to the numbers and suits of the cards that represent each game.
Arisu and Karube learn this information from another player during a sick game of tag in Episode 2 of Alice in Borderland in which they are chased by two armed people with horse masks. The numbers pertain to the difficulty of the game, while each suit represents a different kind of skill set: a clubs game is all about teamwork, while a hearts game presupposes betrayal; a game of diamonds is a battle of wits, while a game of spades measures the players’ physical abilities. Now in possession of all this information, Arisu, Karube, and Chota make a pact to keep each other safe and go home together.
But as is usually the case with such pacts in death games stories, things soon take a turn for the worst. With Saori and Chota’s three-day visa about to expire, the gang is forced to participate in a particularly challenging game of hearts in which only one of them can come out alive. Saori tries to take the “prize” for herself, but she’s stopped by Chota as he and Karube agree to sacrifice themselves in order to allow Arisu to go on. It’s an incredibly emotional goodbye, and Arisu can’t accept the fact that there’s nothing he can do to save his friends this time.
Arisu falls into a deep depression after the deaths of Karube and Chota, and, for a while, it seems like he’s going the same route as the man they met after Dead or Alive. But his life is saved by Usagi (Tao Tsuchiya), a mysterious woman whom he’d met in the tag game. Usagi becomes Arisu’s new ally, and, together, the two decide to look for a place called The Beach that Karube had heard about from two tough-looking guys. Their hope is that The Beach is a kind of evacuation shelter in which they will be reunited with their loved ones.
‘Alice in Borderland’s Distorted Utopia
But The Beach is no such thing. Run by a man who calls himself “Hatter” (Nobuaki Kaneko), in what is perhaps Alice in Borderland’s most obvious nod to Alice in Wonderland, The Beach is a kind of Lord of the Flies-meets-MTV Spring Break dystopia/utopia in which players party all day long and organize themselves to play games and collect cards. According to Hatter’s theory, the only way to get a ticket back home is by collecting all the cards from all suits. Thus, Beach-denizens must do their best to gather every single card so that they can return home one by one — starting with Hatter, of course. So far, the Beach crowd has been doing pretty well in their card-collecting: they only need the face cards and the ten of hearts to complete the deck.
Despite the appearance of happiness and organization, all is not well at the Beach. An armed faction called “the militants” has been rising in power, and their leader, Aguni (Shô Aoyagi), is increasingly dissatisfied with Hatter’s rule. Tensions mount until, eventually, Aguni kills Hatter during a game and proclaims himself the new leader of The Beach, much to the despair of Hatter’s subjects.
The militants’ rule of terror over Hatter’s cracked utopia reaches a breaking point in the penultimate episode of Alice in Borderland when the resort becomes a game arena. A young girl named Momoka (Kina Yazaki) is killed, and the Beach denizens must find out who the killer is and burn them in a fire before time runs out. Aguni and the militants begin to kill everyone on sight, but, as usual, it’s up to Arisu to figure out what happened. Realizing that the game’s card is the much awaited ten of hearts, Arisu discovers that Momoka was the one who killed herself. It turns out that both she and another girl, Asahi (Mizuki Yoshida) were actually working for the game designers and plotting against the Beach.
Where Does Alice in Borderland Season 1 Leave Us?
In possession of Asahi’s phone, Arisu and Usagi leave the now depleted and burnt down Beach and track the location of the game masters’ headquarters. Deep inside a subway station, they find a room full of screens and dead bodies from people who seemed to be controlling the games from afar, all with laser marks on their heads. Arisu and Usagi are soon joined by Kuina (Aya Asahina) and Chishiya (Nijirô Murakami), two Beach escapees who had once betrayed them and delivered them to the militants as part of a plan to steal all the cards.
However, before the reunion has time to turn ugly, another of Hatter’s former subjects appears: on the screens spread across the room, Kuina, Chishiya, Usagi, and Arisu see the image of Mira (Riisa Naka), one of Hatter’s most trusted advisors. She mocks them for having killed so many friends and acquaintances to get this far in the game and congratulates them for reaching the next stage. Outside the subway station, the city’s skies are swarmed by zeppelins carrying large banners with the pictures of the coveted face cards. A new game, even more dangerous than the ones we just saw, seems about to begin. What exactly will this new game entail is up for Season 2 of Alice in Borderland to tell us.
All 8 episodes of Alice in Borderland Season 2 drop on Netflix on December 22.