Season 1 of Alice in Borderland was a veritable thriller that kept us on constant edge as to who lived or died–and what the hell is going on–but Season 2 is an entirely different proposition altogether.
Given how insanely tense the first season was, Season 2 takes on an entirely different character. Yes, the games remain intensely brutal and immeasurably cruel (for the most part), yet at the same time, some degree of plot armour has started to creep in, and we know that our current field of protagonists is more or less safe to some degree. Ah, the pitfalls of translating print to screen.
To this end, director Shinsuke Sato takes a little liberty with Haro Aso’s manga in order to make it more accessible as a live-action series. A new game was written for the live-action series (not shown in the manga) to set up a reunion between two players, which was understandably necessary but was thematically underdeveloped. If anything, it made me appreciate how meticulous Aso’s writing is and how intricately the game mechanics are woven around his ideas.
The other major change is the setup for the penultimate showdown, which omits a minor character but is understandably needed to make the action sequences cohesive and tight, and to resolve subplots for some characters. Some plot armour will be called upon here but given the nature of the series, I think it’s acceptable to just roll with it.
One thing’s for certain in Season 2: the entertainment value has been taken up a notch because the games are no longer played against a faceless villain.
After clearing the number card stages, the survivors are thrown into face card games, which are tougher and more elaborate. The twist here is that they are run openly by citizens of Borderland.
Our attention is now affixed squarely on how the players try to beat the games conducted by the face card holders, whose elaborate games are a reflection of their personality and outlook on life, not-so-subtly representing the life choices our heroes must face and make.
What connects the survivors of this world is that they are all dissatisfied with their lives, and the Borderland offers an opportunity to start anew on a clean slate without any rules and restrictions. People live like each day is their last, because odds are it is.
This explains why there are seemingly humans who are on the other side of the game–everyone makes a choice, and not everyone is looking to go back to how things were.
What makes Alice in Borderland a fascinating watch is ultimately its focus on the human condition. The puzzles aren’t always deviously clever, but the fascinating dynamic between unlikely allies and foes in desperate situations is what keeps you glued to the screen–Chishiya’s battle with the King of Diamonds is the most riveting example of this. When placed under great distress, morality almost becomes an afterthought, and the concept of cruelty becomes irrelevant in the course of survival. Or does it? Some players find their humanity, some lose theirs. No hard feelings all around.
Those who have not read the manga are surely dying to understand the truth about the Borderland. The payoff is worth the ride and will leave you with more questions than answers. The idea of finding one’s life purpose in a life-or-death situation is given another dimension at the ending reveal; almost poetic, and still open-ended enough for viewers to come up with theories of their own. It’s a ludicrous, yet an appropriate metaphor, and fitting for a dark, modern Alice in Wonderland after all.
- Alice in Borderland Season 2 - 7.8/107.8/10
Alice in Borderland Season 2
Squid Game on steroids is one way to put it. A satisfying conclusion to the series with a thought-provoking finale.