It’s been a blur of exploded guts, blood, lost limbs and literal death-defying challenges yet somehow Arisu (Kento Yamazaki) and his pals (most of them any how) have scraped their way to the final round of games.
In season two of Alice in Borderland the players have become even more consumed with the pursuit of returning to the real world and finally the possibility seems to be within their grasp. The only one left standing in their way is the Queen of Hearts, aka Mira (Minako Kotobuki).
Unsurprisingly it’s down to Arisu and Usagi (Tao Tsuchiya) to defeat their last, formidable face-card opponent. However, like much of the tasks thrown their way thus far, this challenge is anything but easy and is blighted with twists. All of which lead insidiously to an ending that leaves our players in a dangerous position.
How so? Let’s unpack this ending to find out.
Alice In Borderland Season 2 ending explained
The finale kicks off with a bittersweet triumph for Arisu and the gang.
Their unified assault on the King of Spades has resulted in victory. He is dead, which brings them one step closer to the freedom they seek. But they did not escape that battle unscathed.
Kuina (Aya Asahina) and Ann (Ayaka Miyosh) appear to be fatally wounded along with Aguni (Shô Aoyagi) and newcomer Heiya (Yuri Tsunematsu).
Sadly Nijirô Murakami’s Chishiya began this episode bleeding out from a gunshot fired by Niragi (Dori Sakurada) who was also shot, but like a cockroach insists on not dying.
Needless to say the team is not in great shape, so when the Queen of Hearts blimp hovers ominously overhead, Arisu and a knife-punctured Usagi are the ones to take her on.
They meet Mira in a pristine-looking garden where the dishevelled two are told the task. They must play three rounds of croquet. Winning is not the objective – they must simply make it through three rounds without quitting in order to complete the game successfully.
Sounds easy enough, which means something much more sinister is afoot.
This becomes apparent when Arisu makes it through the first two rounds and Mira begins to stall the game. At this point Usagi’s wounds need urgent attention – she is limp but obliges when Mira insists they sit for tea.
Mira pours but wisely the two refuse to drink. This doesn’t stop Arisu being drawn into Mira’s games.
He continuously presses Mira about what happened to the real world and she toys with him. Mira lies at first, giving false accounts of what happened before managing to convince him that the shock of losing his friends Karube (Keita Machida) and Chota (Yūki Morinaga) in a car accident was so traumatic it caused him to imagine the games.
The delusion served as a way of Arisu coping with the loss and was his way of exploring the fundamental question he’s wrestled with all along: what is the purpose of his life?
Mira convinces Arisu that he is in a hospital receiving psychiatric treatment from her, his doctor and that Usagi is a patient with whom he has formed a strong attachment to. The further he sinks into this belief the further away he gets from ending the game with the final round of croquet.
Usagi does her best to reach him and persuade him otherwise but her attempts fall on deaf ears. It is only when she is forced to cut her own wrist in a bid to get him to save her that he slowly rouses from this hypnotic state. Just in time too, as Mira was close to getting him to ‘quit the game’ in order to relinquish the delusion’s hold on him.
Instead, Arisu and Usagi exchange sentiments of wanting to be together, to live life together with Arisu capping off their outpouring of affection with:
“I simply want you to live, Usagi. I want to protect you,” he says as she bleeds copiously from yet another gash. This is enough to snap them back to the reality of the pristine gardens and away from the sterile environment of the faux hospital facilities.
Mira is moved to tears by their feelings for one another and continues on with the game with no more meddlesome delays, thus conceding defeat.
There is a sombreness to their game-play afterwards. A whimsical sadness that ends with Arisu asking Mira one last time, what is this place they have ended up in?
To which she explains that he will soon find out and of his two choices, the one that he picks will reveal what kind of person he truly is. Her cryptic words are shortly followed by her being shot through with a laser and killed.
With the games now ended, all surviving players are asked whether or not they will accept permanent residence in this land, thus becoming citizens making them similar to, if not the counterpart replacements for, the face-card gamemasters.
Arisu and Usagi both decline. As do Kuina, Chishiya, Aguni and Heiya who have managed to stay alive to the ninth hour. Even the horrifically despicable Niragi refuses the offer, however Banda (Hayato Isomura) and Yaba (Katsuya Maiguma) accept, which suggest they could become the next gamemasters in a possible season three.
The rest, however, share a different fate.
Do the Alice In Borderland players return to the real world?
It certainly seems so. They all awake in hospital to find that the fireworks they had witnessed in season one, the ones that preceded them arriving in the game land, were in fact a meteorite.
The catastrophic damage claimed many lives but they survived. They all sport various different injuries of various magnitude including Ann, who was presumed dead but was left fighting for her life in a coma.
The only thing they share in common is the fact that each of their hearts had stopped for one minute in the aftermath of the disaster.
They all also have no memory of the game land or of their relationships with one another so that when Arisu and Usagi meet again they have the sense that they know each other but not how.
In any case, they decide to walk together in the hospital gardens and the uplifting, grandiose music almost has you believing they’ve achieved their happy ending. Not perfect, but at the very least they are home. Almost.
what does the Joker card mean?
As season two draws to a close the camera pans to a table in the gardens upon which several cards are scattered. A gentle breeze carries them away, leaving one card remaining. The Joker.
What does this mean? Everything?
Its mere presence implies that the players have not made it out like they think but have instead entered into phase three of the games, made more dangerous by the fact that they are unaware and have no memory.
The Joker is meant to represent the wild card and so suggests even more unpredictability, if you can imagine that.
In many card games the Joker can take on the characteristics of other cards, meaning it could present as any one of the dangerous challenges they’ve faced before or could be an entirely fresh new hell for them to contend with.
Either way it’s likely to be the most difficult, most sinister yet. A trickster card that has lured them into this false sense of security by wiping their memories and landing them ‘home,’ when really they, like Dorothy, couldn’t be further from Kansas.