Alice in Borderland season 2, episode 1 recap – who is the King of Clubs?

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: December 22, 2022 (Last updated: last month)
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Alice in Borderland season 2, episode 1 recap


The second season of Alice in Borderland gets off to a tremendous start with phenomenal action sequences and breakneck pacing.

This recap of Alice in Borderland season 2, episode 1 contains spoilers.

I think I can say confidently that Alice in Borderland is the only show to have ever had a flashback as specific as “13 minutes ago”. But those 13 minutes are vital in the Season 2 premiere because they’re exactly how much time elapses between Arisu, Usagi, Kuina, and Chishiya waiting at Shibuya Crossing for the next stage of the game, and the entire world descending into the chaos of blood and bullets, not entirely dissimilar from the FPS we see Arisu playing at the start.

Alice in Borderland season 2, episode 1 recap

Nobody knows the rules of the next game, but it obviously starts when the crossing fills up with players and a hidden sniper begins to indiscriminately open fire on them. It’s classic Alice in Borderland over-the-top craziness that the shooter is using an anti-tank rifle that can penetrate vehicles and cover and blows holes in the players big enough to see daylight through. This whole opening is undeniably impressive. The first shot is a jump scare. The deliberate juxtapositions with video game footage make the obvious point that real-life shootouts aren’t as fun as you think they’d be. The camera stares directly at a terrified, sprinting Arisu, and then spins around to take in the chaos from his perspective, a perverse use of first-person fitting for a gamer who is suddenly playing with his own life.

During the carnage, a giant metallic blimp floats above the city, a giant King of Spades fluttering down from beneath it. Once the gang — sans Chishiya, who is waylaid by a grenade — makes it to the relative safety of a car with Tatta and Ann, Arisu begins to speculate. The King of Spades is, it seems, one guy, a boss of the physical challenges. There must be three more. And getting to the next level must entail defeating the bosses, who are presumably all controlled by a Game Master above them. Perhaps Mira is one of those Game Masters?

Arisu also takes this time to do some previous season catch-up — interspersed with brief snippets of footage from Season 1 — that reminds the audience how things worked. Completing games associated with playing cards increases a player’s visa by the appropriate number. If the visa expires, a laser comes down from the sky and kills the player. According to Hatter, collecting a full deck means winning. The games weren’t always necessarily fair, but they were at the very least organized and regimented; there were always rules. Now, there don’t seem to be, or at least they’re less obvious. Nobody registered for this new game, and its parameters are vague. All the while, the King of Spades pursues them, armed and bloodthirsty.

The car chase that ensues from this is absolutely phenomenal, so much so that I was actually thankful when things calmed down a bit so I could catch my breath. Most of the conversations in this lull revolve around the state of the world, especially how it relates to things before this chaos. All the relentless danger and death aren’t ideal, but does it beat rent and credit card interest payments? Is the long for normality and the allure of a second chance more powerful than the pain of a lost loved one, or the hatred of a cruel world that wore a good man down to nothing but his poisoned reputation? Different strokes for different folks, I suppose. But the idea that permeates all of this is that there may never be a “normal” again. Even if the players survive, will they ever be the same?

About the small matter of survival. Arisu posits that since everything has been so rule-oriented thus far, the face cards probably have a gentleman’s agreement not to interfere in other games. So, rather than sit and wait for the King of Spades to shoot them (or their visas to expire), the idea is to go and join the King of Clubs‘ game in the hope of acquiring more information and hopefully, since Club games are team-based, winning.

When the gang arrives at the docks, they find four bracelets waiting for them, and a note saying the game requires five players. The fifth bracelet has already been claimed by Niragi, who is looking a little worse for wear. After a little deliberation, everyone dons the bracelet and enters the game, where they’re introduced to the King of Clubs, Kyuma, who is completely naked and has his own team who he describes as “the citizens of this country.”

Well, things have gotten weird already, haven’t they?

You can stream Alice in Borderland season 2, episode 1 exclusively on Netflix.

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