Alice in Borderland Season 2 is so fond of its games that it can sometimes forget to explore much of the world around them, but it’s hard to argue with how thrilling and impeccably constructed the games themselves really are.
This review of the Netflix series Alice in Borderland Season 2 does not contain spoilers.
The Japanese battle royale series Alice in Borderland was a tremendous hit for Netflix back in 2020, taking the Haro Aso manga series and turning it into, essentially, a live-action anime with a breathless pace, no shortage of imagination, and a killer structure. It has felt like a long wait for a continuation, especially since the first season set one up so neatly, but here we are. And boy, it was worth the wait.
Alice in Borderland Season 2 Review and Plot Summary
Alice in Borderland Season 2 seems to take its status as a continuation as something of a challenge, rocketing out of the blocks with a dynamite premiere boasting a supremely well-constructed chase sequence, before settling back into the usual rhythm of complex, thought-provoking games. The games themselves were a standout element of the first season and they remain so here, featuring more complex setups and higher stakes thanks to the escalations of the plot.
You’ll recall that in the first season, the idea was that players would compete in games based on playing cards. Winning them would increase the total time on one’s “visa”, according to the number of the card that the game was based around. If the visa expires, the player dies, so the only option was to participate in the games and attempt to extend the amount of time players had to figure out exactly what was going on. The idea was that acquiring a full deck would result in a “win”.
The second season elevates this concept by pitting Arisu (Kento Yamazaki), Usagi (Tao Tsuchiya), Chishiya (Nijiro Murakami), and others against face cards, the Kings and Queens of Clubs, Hearts, Spades, and Diamonds, essentially “boss” characters who control more complex, deadlier games and participate in them themselves. The games remain very clever in their structure and execution, being not just all-out physical challenges but also more cerebral puzzles that challenge the characters’ understanding of themselves, their relationships, and the world of the show itself.
As the second season progresses, it splits up the core group of characters and pairs them in interesting ways, mixing in some new and returning faces and spreading the plot across multiple arcs and strands, keeping the pace extremely high and the narrative endlessly fascinating. There is almost nothing to fault in the show’s structure and presentation; it’s a fantastic-looking, sometimes confoundingly well-executed action-thriller that’ll have you asking, “how did they do that?” more often than perhaps any show in recent memory.
The main, perhaps only problem with Alice in Borderland Season 2 is that it’s very much in love with its own concept, and it’s so aware of how good the games themselves are that it sometimes forgets to properly flesh out the world around them. It can often be frustrating just how little concrete information about the overarching narrative is actually revealed, especially so when details are provided, and you can just tell it’s the absolute bare minimum that could possibly be shared. Of course, a mystery shouldn’t give away all of its secrets, but to secure audience investment across eight episodes, almost all of which are comfortably over an hour long, there needs to be more than what is provided here, especially in later episodes that feel like the creators shaking down Netflix – and the fans – for a continuation rather than bringing the story to anything even resembling a definitive conclusion.
Is Alice in Borderland Season 2 good?
But while the fate of the show remains up in the air and Netflix’s decision to renew or cancel will ultimately decide how this season is looked back on, it really is difficult to quibble with what’s presented here in terms of its sheer entertainment value. Alice in Borderland Season 2 is good. The games are thrilling, the psychological subtext is fascinating, and the human core beneath it all, emphasizing the depth of the trauma being caused and the slim chance of anything ever returning to normal in its aftermath, is truly engaging. Alice In Borderland is an exquisitely-crafted show that is in love with itself for mostly good reason.
What did you think of Alice in Borderland Season 2? Comment below.
1 thought on “Alice in Borderland Season 2 Review – an impeccably-constructed battle royale”
I like the show but I don’t understand why they made the lead character so weak and pathetic. Give him pride and toughen him up and why is he always crying ??