The Face Cards
We begin the season 1 finale of Alice In Borderland with Momoka and Asahi walking through Tokyo with a phone that seems to be working. It’s been five days since everyone disappeared and they’ve decided to leave a message for whoever finds it.
As they descend into the subway, numerous questions remain over this scene. How did their phone work when all other electronics are switched off? Are they part of this game? And who is the witch?
Well, Aguni gathers the troops in the main atrium as a final stand-off sees him ready to kill everyone. Arisu and Usagi appear though and plead with Aguni to see reason and work to find the witch. It turns out that witch happens to be Aguni, which he’s quick to admit to.
Arisu is not so sure that’s the real truth though. He sees through Aguni’s façade and reveals that he and Hatter were best friends and faked a conflict to keep the dangerous militants in check. What began as a simple task was only made more complicated by Hatter deciding to add another rule to kill any traitors – turning this democracy into a dictatorship.
Hatter turned on Aguni during his final game and Aguni was forced to fire back in retaliation. However, that doesn’t excuse him from taking this opportunity to kill everyone in sight of course. Anyway, back in the present Arisu deduces that they could find a way to solve the game without killing anyone else. As he points at Momoka, he tells them that she could be the witch herself.
Aguni refuses to listen any longer and as fighting erupts, Asahi suddenly dies from a laser to the head after calling herself the dealer. When An shows, she reveals there was a reverse grip on the knife, backing up Arisu’s original theory that Momoka is the actual witch.
Together with Arisu’s impassioned plea, the pair ready themselves to burn Momoka’s body until Niragi suddenly shows up and starts shooting everyone. Even worse, he spreads the fire and laughs maniacally.
Aguni sacrifices himself though and throws Niragi back in the fire; a final selfless act to save them all. As Arisu heads outside with the others to burn Momoka’s body, he notices that the phone on the ground is still recording.
Under the dancing flames of the fire, Arisu tells Usagi and the others that they need to stop this; no more killing. Chishiya takes full advantage of this and grabs the 10 of hearts card on the table.
In the morning, Usagi and Arisu check the footage from Momoka’s phone. It turns out Momoka and Asahi were responsible for setting up some of the games. They worked together to join different games, sometimes as taggers or to intentionally disrupt the flow of the game.
As the footage continues, these two descend down the subway and deep into the Dealer’s lair which seems to be a massive series of structures backed up by electronics and numerous suit-wearing people. They’re watching all these games take place and seem to be finding enjoyment in all this bloodshed. Are these people the game-masters?
Usagi and Arisu take this information and head down to the subway themselves to take a closer look. The various different workers happen to be lying face-down on the tables with bullet holes in them.
With all the lights shut off, Chishiya and Kuina suddenly appear out the shadows and reveal that they found this same hideout courtesy of the drawing inside the tagger’s pocket. This, of course, is a direct nod toward that earlier episode with the game of tag. The drawing happens to be a map.
Chishiya jokes that the real leader could be aliens or even God but suddenly the lights turn on as Mira appears on the screen along with various snippets of all those who have died so far. She wants to give them a “present” which happens to be a series of new gams for them to take part in.
The next stage will appear at noon the following day, meaning they need to fight again. This time though, they know who their target is. As fireworks explode over Tokyo, the stage is set to begin as giant blimps show up carrying the face cards they need.
The Episode Review
With another trademark Netflix cliffhanger, Alice In Borderland ends with a couple of questions answered but mostly just more questions going forward. It seems likely that the EMP blast is what wiped out the electronics, with Momoka’s phone the only working mobile. How does the game recruit these men and women? How do the lasers work? Is the game some giant VR simulation? Or is there something more sinister going on here?
What is clear, however, is just how much Chishiya is hiding from the others. His telling conversation at the end about aliens and God is a direct reference to the conversation Arisu had in Shibuya during episode 1. Was he eavesdropping at the time? Or is he working with the game master?
Given he didn’t really move all that much during the game of tag, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that he’s a spy. After all, we’ve seen him quickly switching sides to suit his own desires.
It’s still not clear how this feeds back into the game world itself but despite the cliffhanger, Alice In Borderland has been a pleasant surprise this week. The ending certainly leaves the door wide open for where this one may go next… if it’s renewed for season 2 that is.
Whether it is or not, the medley of different influences make this one of the better series released this year and a highly enjoyable watch from start to finish.