A deadly game of tag makes for an exciting follow-up episode, but it quickly becomes apparent that these games have physical and emotional consequences.
This recap of Alice in Borderland season 1, episode 2 contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Alice in Borderland episode 2 opens with the woman who functioned as something of a cliffhanger in the previous episode living up to the distinction — she’s literally a mountain climber who promises the memory of her father that she’s going to survive. Her name is Usagi. Looks like we have our second lead character.
In the meantime, Chota figures out that all modern technology containing IC chips is dead and the older stuff isn’t, suggesting that perhaps an EMP device was used to wipe out Tokyo’s communications, but unfortunately that doesn’t explain the smartphones utilized by the games. This little getting-to-know-you session provides some quick backstory for Shibuki, who was sleeping with her boss when everyone disappeared, but also ponders some more lingering questions about the overarching mysteries. For Shibuki, everyone disappeared three days ago, yet for the boys, it was only yesterday. Arisu also finds some rotting vegetables while out and about, so the timeline is obviously different for everyone. Are we introducing the potential for time travel here? Shibuki floats the notion of a VR overlay, but that doesn’t explain the very real consequences of the lasers. There’s obviously a game master, someone designing these challenges, but who?
Either way, Chota needs a doctor after his burn, so Karube suggests that he and Arisu play the next game together in order to meet more people, potentially a doctor, and get a better idea of what’s what. Arisu also figures he might be able to determine the game master’s “signature” and devise a strategy for beating it, so at this point, the plot essentially splits into two, with Karube and Arisu going to the game and Chota and Shibuki staying behind.
The game also includes Usagi; Karube and Arisu arrive shortly afterward. There are a total of 13 participants this time, and Karube suggests sacrificing some as Shibuki tried to do in the previous game. The difficulty this time is the five of spades — a man named Nitobe explains what this means. The suits denote the type of game: clubs are a team battle; diamonds test wits; spades is physical; and hearts, the worst category, force you to play with people’s emotions. The number obviously denotes difficulty. The game this time around is tag, and the goal is to touch a symbol hidden in one of the apartments in the block where the game takes place while avoiding the tagger. After 20 minutes, a time bomb hidden in the apartment building will explode.
There’s also an additional complication: The tagger is wearing a horse-head mask and is carrying a submachine gun — if he tags you you’re not “it”, you’re dead. Nitobe has apparently played five times, but this will be his last game. A new, thus-far nameless character with long, silvery hair spends much of the game observing from a vantage point. Usagi wants to keep herself to herself. But once the players begin being messily killed off, by both the tagger and the border when they try to escape, it’s only Usagi who response to Arisu’s shouted instructions when he determines that the tagger’s mask limits his field of vision and that they can exploit that to defeat him.
Having said that, a thuggish player named Aguni and his accomplice team up with Karube to physically take the tagger down while Arisu and Usagi search for the symbol. This leads to a fun, nasty little fight given a slight note of comedy and horror both by the horse-head mask.
Elsewhere, Chota and Saori’s conversation clues us in on their respective backstories, particularly Chota’s. His mother was a part of a devout and weird religious cult, and he was bullied for it, which is how he fell in with Karube and Arisu, who protect him. He gets upset about his background, and Shibuki consoles him by kissing and seducing him, explaining how since they’re “both the same” they can “work together to survive”, which is certainly one way of putting it. As they have sex, Chota’s flashbacks reveal that his mother’s religion was basically a sex cult, but then again aren’t they all?
Anyway, both Arisu and Silver Hair figure that the symbol is in the apartment the tagger fired at from a distance the MAC-10 wouldn’t be effective from — he was trying to keep the players away from the door. When they enter, though, they’re attacked by another tagger and separated. Arisu makes it into the room with the symbol, but it requires two people to push two separate buttons at the same time, which he shouts out of the window. As Aguni fights one tagger and Arisu fights the other, Usagi makes her way to the room in the nick of time, and both she and Arisu — with the help of Silver Hair’s taser — are able to clear the game with only a second remaining. The tagger in the room is revealed to be a woman wearing a collar that detonates once she loses the game. The taggers had no choice in playing either.
The episode ends with Karube finding a radio on Aguni’s compatriot. The voice on the channel insists that “the answer is in our hands now” and implores everyone to “get back to the beach.” Whatever might that mean?
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