Episode 1 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 2 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 3 -| Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 4 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 5 -| Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 6 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 7 -| Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 8 -| Review Score – 5/5
After a successful first season, it’s always difficult to take that same formula and expand it out, delivering something more expansive, tense and bombastic than what’s come before. And yet, Alice In Borderland not just achieves that, but it makes the whole process seem elementary.
The comparison to Squid Game was always going to come, especially given how the Korean juggernaut took over the world last year. But ironically, it wasn’t even the best K-drama that dropped on TV! Alice In Borderland meanwhile, felt like the oft-overlooked younger brother punching above its weight.
Well, fast forward to 2022 and Alice In Borderland doesn’t just come back stronger, it knocks Squid Game out the proverbial ring, delivering a knock-out blow of epic proportions. The second season is bigger and more lore-heavy than before, yet it still delivers a litany of different games to keep the general themes and ideas it played with the first time alive.
This is one of the rare occasions where the live-action remake actually does the anime justice and the second season only exemplifies that. For those who have forgotten what happened the first time around, the story centers on down and out Arisu and his two friends, who find themselves inexplicably thrown into a crazy dystopian world where they have to compete in deadly games to survive. Failure to compete will wind down their “visas” and kill them.
Season 2 picks up right where the previous one left off. Arisu and the makeshift band of characters left are alone in Shibuya Square until blimps start flying overhead.
It doesn’t take long for the next wave of games to ensue, as the King of Spades attacks. While trying to escape his wrath, the gang try to find a way to escape the game world while simultaneously making sure their Visa’s don’t run out.
The only solution is to compete in the games again, but this time the group are fractured and find themselves separated across different areas as the show continues.
All of this eventually collides into a dramatic couple of episodes to round the season out, where big questions are answered and the fate of our characters finally revealed.
I’m not going to spoil that here but suffice to say the extra length to thse episodes serves Alice in Borderland well, with rxtra time to explore charaters and a really faacinating division between the players. One thing this show has always excelled at comes from character exploration, and season 2 expands on that further.
The idea that there are no “bad guys” per-se and these are just guys and girls trying to survive is an interesting motif and while some characters do conduct heinous and horrific acts, they also have solid motivations that at least make you understand why they’re doing this.
The games range from deadly number battles with the threat of a sulfuric acid bath to a simple game of tag, but the tension never dissipates, even when the action lets up. The tension instead changes slightly to include more focus on why they’re all inside the game world – and we do get some answers at the end.
You can tell the budget for this second season has increased too, and the team have certainly put that money to good use. The fact that this makes Rings of Power (the most expensive TV show of all time by the way) look like a school nativity play is absolutely astonishing. The blend of practical and CGI effects are incredible, and that ties into the music too, with a pulsating score throughout.
Alice In Borderland is the perfect winter warmer and a lovely last minute treat before Christmas. The second season is leagues ahead of the first and the story is nicely paced, bringing everything to a satisfying conclusion at the end. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better action thriller this winter. Squid Game has a very steep mountain to ascend to try and match this one.
Verdict - 9/10