Two years after its December 2020 premiere, fans of Alice in Borderland finally have all the answers. The thrilling death-game series—which is now Netflix's most-watched Japanese show ever—follows a group of everyday people who are transported to an alternate-reality Tokyo, where they have to win life-threatening games to survive and get the chance to return to the real world.
The truth of Borderland has been shrouded in mystery throughout the show's run, with neither the characters nor the viewers knowing how the players were chosen and whether they could ever escape. Now that the season 2 finale has answered the big questions surrounding Arisu's time in Borderland, the only question left is whether the Netflix hit could return for a third season. Read on for a breakdown of season 2's finale and the possibilities for where the series could go next.
Has 'Alice in Borderland' been renewed for season 3?
After nine months of radio silence for a possible third season, Netflix just released a very cryptic teaser that Alice in Borderland 3 may be in the works. Yesterday, the streaming giant's official Twitter posted an image of a set of ten playing cards on a black background. In addition to playing cards being one of the major symbols of the series, countless fans also decoded a possible hidden message. If you write out the suits of each of the cards, and choose the letter in each suit that matches the number on its card, they spell out a clear declaration: ALICE THREE. (While the Netflix U.S. account only shared the image a day ago, posters of the cards were spotted in a Japan subway earlier this month, per What's On Netflix.)
As for when we could receive official word on a season 3 renewal—and possible hints of whether the new season would be a continued adaptation based off Aso's spin-offs or with a sequel made of original material—a Netflix Japan post featuring the cards also includes a caption. It reads in English, "Please decipher the message hidden in these 10 playing cards. Answers will be held on September 28th."
pic.twitter.com/1TV66ZjIsVSeptember 26, 2023
How did 'Alice in Borderland' season 2 end?
In the season 2 finale, we finally saw the big showdown between players Arisu and Usagi and the Queen of Hearts, a.k.a. Mira Kano, who was revealed as one of the Gamemasters at the end of Season 1. After defeating the King of Spades with the help of Kuina, An, Aguni, and Heiya—all of whom were left brutally wounded but still living—Arisu and Usagi went to the Queen of Hearts arena to find...a croquet match. Mira challenged Arisu to complete three rounds of croquet, a simple challenge that turned Arisu's search for answers about Borderland into a battle of mental manipulation.
Throughout the season, Arisu had tried to get answers about the mysterious, deadly Borderland from each of its "citizens," who had since become the face card challengers. He and his allies were risking their lives over the possibility of returning to the real world after they won all of the cards, but they never got confirmation that they wouldn't be stuck in Borderland forever. Mira used his desperation against him, presenting several dystopian explanations that ended up being lies. (The one where future immortal humans played Borderland as a VR game was pretty compelling.) The final scenario is one that connects with Arisu: Mira says he's been in a mental facility the whole time, Mira is his doctor, and Borderland is just an imaginative reality he came up with because he refused to accept Chota and Karube's deaths.
This "reality" cuts deep into Arisu's lingering guilt over his friends' deaths; at first he believes it enough that he almost accepts Mira's game-ending pills. Instead, Usagi snaps him out of it by cutting herself, asking her to save him, and reminding him that they're alive and can keep living together. He emerges from the despair and finishes the croquet rounds, with Mira getting lasered at the end. When the victors are asked whether they want to stay in Borderland as citizens, Arisu, Usagi, Aguni, Heiya, Kuina, Chishiya, and even Niragi all say no. And then we see the truth of Borderland.
Back to the opening at Shibuya Crossing: Arisu is playing in the street with Chota and Karube, and all of the other remaining players are in the area as well. All those fireworks that everyone remembers seeing before entering Borderland? It was actually a meteorite exploding over Tokyo, which decimated the area. The events in Borderland only took place in a minute in the real world, and everyone there were actually people whose hearts temporarily stopped in the explosion. While Chota, Karube, and the rest of the Borderland victims died in the real world, everyone who survived and chose to leave were resuscitated. They all end up in the same hospital, where these people who don't really know each other are drawn together by innate connections. Arisu meets and asks out Usagi, and all of the players go on living their lives.
How does the finale set up a possible season 3?
The real answers behind Borderland provide a beautiful conclusion for a show that was essentially a thought experiment about the will to survive. In the end, all of our favorite players learned that the point of life is living, and seeing all of them (even the little boy who Arisu and Usagi saved from the Queen of Spades) bickering and reconciling with their loved ones in the real world gave a very hopeful ending. For anyone wondering about the source manga by Haro Aso, the season 2 finale closely followed the original ending, meaning the finale really was the end of this saga of Arisu in Borderland.
However, the show finale ended with a very ominous image: A gust of wind blows across a table full of playing cards and all of them float away except for The Joker. This parting shot could just be an Easter eggs for fans of the manga, where a character called the Joker acts as a ferryman ushering people between Borderland and our world. Or it could be a hint that series director Shinsuke Sato has ambitions to return to the world of Borderland in some other way. After all, Haro Asu did write two spin-offs for the manga.
What could season 3 be about?
Either of Aso's Borderland spinoffs could be adapted for a thrilling season of the Netflix series—as a standalone special or a continuation. (Unfortunately, neither of them have been released in English yet.) The first, Alice on Border Road, centers on a Tokyo school girl named Kina Sano who is bored with her ordinary life. One day, she wakes up in a desolated Kyoto with no memory and the Queen of Clubs card in her hand. She meets with several other amnesiac wanderers, including fellow student Alice Kojima, who holds the Queen of Hearts. Eventually the duo become part of a group of 12 face card holders who are given a hint to travel to Tokyo. But things change when one of the people who refuses to go is killed.
While Border Road has completely different characters and no connection to AiB besides the premise, Alice in Borderland Retry is a direct sequel that sees Arisu return to the deadly world. When he finds himself back in Borderland, the poor guy has to win one game, the Nine of Hearts, to get back to the real world instantly. The quick series takes place quite a while after the events of AiB, when Arisu is working as a school counselor and is married...to Usagi!
Though both of these adaptations could be made (and will hopefully be released in English soon), the season 2 finale of Alice in Borderland could also be the series finale. It is nice to see a Netflix series meet a planned, thoughtful, non-rushed conclusion, that leaves us with two seasons to rewatch after some time goes by. Whether more AiB is to come or we've seen the last or Arisu and Usagi, the series has been a heart-racing, often-devastating rollercoaster ride and an amazing on-screen experience.
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