Alice in Borderland season 2 ending explained

tao tsuchiya, kento yamazaki, alice in borderland, season 2
Alice in Borderland season 2 ending explainedKumiko Tsuchiya - Netflix
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Alice in Borderland season 2 spoilers follow.

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).

When Yamazaki explained the focus of season two, it makes perfect sense as to why The Queen of Hearts was selected to be their final opponent:

"In season two, it's not just a death game or a death match that you're seeing," the actor behind the formidable Arisu said.

"We really dig into each character and we really dive into the theme of 'what are we doing on this Earth?' and these questions include, 'What is life about? What is it to live?'. These deep questions that we pose are also part of the original comic series."

He added: "You're living in a world of survival. There's betrayal, people hurt each other, people con each other and in that world, [Arisu and Usagi] understand each other – there's no lies, and they're able to build this dynamic relationship...

"In order to survive, in such an extreme environment, they're helping each other, they trust each other. I think it's the power of love."

Tao Tsuchiya, who plays Usagi, also talked about her character's relationship with Arisu in season two to GadgetMatch.

"Usagi, basically, has this feeling of disappointment towards society [in season one] so she's pretty much aloof. But in season two, and by meeting Arisu, she cares about other people and then she has this feeling of first love," she said. "Usagi was in solitude or she was alone, [but now] her scars start to open up and she shows her vulnerability and anxiety and her doubts."

Unsurprisingly it's down to the couple 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 it's 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

tao tsuchiya, kento yamazaki, alice in borderland, season 2
Kumiko Tsuchiya - Netflix

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's dead, which brings them one step closer to the freedom they seek. But they don't escape that battle unscathed.

Kuina (Aya Asahina) and Ann (Ayaka Miyosh) appear to be fatally wounded, alongside Aguni (Shô Aoyagi) and newcomer Heiya (Yuri Tsunematsu).

Sadly, Nijirô Murakami's Chishiya began the episode bleeding out from a gunshot fired by Niragi (Dori Sakurada). Niragi was also shot but, like a cockroach, refuses to die.

Needless to say, the team isn't in great shape. So when the Queen of Hearts's 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. However, winning isn't 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.

riisa naka, alice in borderland, season 2
Kumiko Tsuchiya - Netflix

Despite its quirky, faux innocence, the final game really is the perfect example of the shift in tone between seasons one and two. It's less blunt in its execution and more insidious when it comes to the pain it dishes out.

Yamazaki spoke on this ahead of the season-two release, admitting: "The games in season two are different, they're more original.

"Of course, I like how it is portrayed in the original manga, but when we adapted the story into our show, I think it'll be more thrilling if we have some original aspects."

He also noted a shift in Arisu's approach to the games this time around.

"Arisu as a player is enthusiastically participating in physical games," said Yamazaki. "In season one, he wasn't really aware of what's going on; he just had to play these games. In season two, he willfully wants to participate in this game or that game."

That's not to say he's become a bloodthirsty, soulless product of the game. As Yamazaki explained: "This desire to go back to the original world is very clear, and you don't want to abandon your friends and lose their lives anymore."

It's this desire to live that perhaps is what allows Arisu to be drawn into Mira's gameplay.

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's limp but obliges when Mira insists they sit for tea.

Mira pours but wisely, the two refuse to drink. This doesn't stop Arisu from 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 that it caused him to imagine the games.

The delusion served as a way for Arisu to cope with the loss and was his way of exploring the fundamental question he's wrestled with all along: What's the purpose of his life?

Mira convinces Arisu that he's in a hospital receiving psychiatric treatment from her, his doctor, and that Usagi is a patient with whom he has formed a strong attachment. The further he sinks into this belief, the further away he gets from ending the game with the final round of croquet.

tao tsuchiya, kento yamazaki, alice in borderland, season 2
Kumiko Tsuchiya - Netflix

Usagi does her best to persuade Arisu otherwise, but her attempts fail. It's only when she's forced to cut her own wrist in a bid to get him to save her that he slowly rouses from this hypnotic state. And just in time, too, as Mira was close to getting Arisu 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.

"I simply want you to live, Usagi. I want to protect you," Arisu says as Usagi bleeds 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's a sombreness to their gameplay afterwards. It's a whimsical sadness that ends with Arisu asking Mira one last time, what is this place they have ended up in?

shuntaro chishiya , alice in borderland, season 2
Kumiko Tsuchiya - Netflix

She explains that he will soon find out. She explains that of his two choices, the one that he picks will reveal what kind of person he truly is. After these cryptic words, she's shot by a laser and dies.

With the games now ended, all surviving players are asked whether or not they will accept permanent residence in this land. If they accept, they'll become 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 despicable Niragi refuses the offer.

But Banda (Hayato Isomura) and Yaba (Katsuya Maiguma) accept, which suggests they could become the next gamemasters in a possible season three.

However, the ending of the second season of Alice in Borderland notably moved away from Haro Aso's manga, in which Mira tricks Arisu into drinking tea that brings on vivid hallucinations. Instead, the Netflix show saw her words prove to be more than enough.

Actress Riisa Naka, who plays Mira, has spoken about the subtle change to the series ending and explained why she didn't think her character could resort to the tricks of the manga.

Naka said the show director explained that the manga's storyline had been "kind of unfair" and begged the question of why Mira, the "master" of these games, would be using something like a tea potion to get what she wants.

She told TV Guide: "We came up with an approach where we would use her words to be more hypnotic and then to drag him from this reality to this hallucinatory stage.

"But then during that, Usagi is the one who saves him because of their friendship or love. She's able to do so, and then in the end, they have this beautiful victory."

Do the Alice in Borderland players return to the real world?

asahina aya, tao tsuchiya , kento yamazaki, alice in borderland, season 2
Kumiko Tsuchiya - Netflix

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?

tao tsuchiya as usagi, alice in borderland, season 2
Kumiko Tsuchiya - Netflix

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.

Fans have been debating what it all means ever since the episode first dropped. Edenoats on Reddit (via The Express) wrote: "I don't think a season three will play out, the Joker just symbolises the gatekeeper between life and death or second chance."

Legitimate–Pool commented: "I believe the Joker means that none of it really happened. He is laughing. He might be the Ferryman, but he enjoys his job. It was all in evil fun for him. And maybe there is something more that is going to happen in their lives that they will have to fight and struggle."

Here's hoping there is a third season and we will find out.

Fans may be concerned about the potential for a season three given that it only took two weeks from the premiere of the first season for Alice in Borderland to be renewed for its second. Yet here we are… still waiting. Radio silence aside, we have every faith that the show will return for a third season.

Its second season was a massive hit with viewers, reaching 200,550,000 million hours globally in its first month on Netflix (as reported by Fansided). Impressive numbers like that prove that there is an insatiable appetite for the dark and twisted games of Alice in Borderland. However if you want the deep dive on a possible season three, here's everything we know.

Seasons one and two of Alice in Borderland are available to stream now on Netflix.

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