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The Ending Of Alice In Borderland Season 2 Explained

First came "Squid Game," then came "Alice in Borderland." International audiences are now suckers for life-changing games with deathly consequences, as "Alice in Borderland" makes its name as a must-see TV show on Netflix. Following passionate gamer Arisu and his friends, fans follow the gang through a parallel version of Tokyo as they play dangerous games to try and spare their lives. Originally adapted from the 2010 manga series, the show's second season has only continued to set more records. With a mind-blowing finale that presents more questions than it does answers, viewers might be feeling a little confused by the end of the season. 

In the finale of "Alice in Borderland" Season 2, Arisu faces off against the callous Queen of Hearts, and learns more about himself than he realizes ... or does he? What is real and what isn't, and who is keeping up with the twist and turns? Thankfully, we are. While we keep our fingers and toes crossed for a Season 3, here's the lowdown on the ending of "Alice in Borderland" Season 2. 

Spoilers for all current "Alice in Borderland" episodes ahead.

We don't know if the meteor story is true

By the time we reach the final moments of the "Alice in Borderland" Season 2 finale, it's safe to say we're a little confused. A key turning point in the drama is watching Arisu, Ann, and others crash back into reality by waking up in a hospital. Fireworks that we have previously seen are actually explained away as a meteor shower that scorched Tokyo in real life — meaning those who had been killed in the game were actually wiped out by a meteor in reality. It's not fantastic news for Arisu and the gang, but at least they're alive. Ann spends the closing moments of the Season 2 finale being resuscitated, and her trajectory for Season 3 and beyond hangs in the balance.

Though fans are given an explanation for what has been happening outside of the game, we immediately have reason to question if this story is actually true. Up until this point in the season finale, everything we've watched has been revealed to be a fabrication — so why wouldn't the meteor story also be phony? As Arisu and Usagi walk through the busy hospital, it's anyone's guess what has actually happened, or whether we'll eventually find out that it's all part of a bigger simulation. We can only assume so much based on the manga, considering that the TV version of "Alice in Borderland" truly has a life all its own.

The Joker card was in the original manga

Alongside the ominous hospital revelations, the final shot of the second season finale of "Alice in Borderland" is a telling one. As Arisu and Usagi make their way through the crowded hospital, the camera pans to the Joker card, which could mean a variety of things. Up until this point, viewers have seen many of the face cards throughout both seasons — from the King of Clubs on the first day of exhibitions to the Queen of Hearts in the Season 2 finale. In general playing terms, the Joker card is considered to be a "wild card," meaning whatever happens next, the quasi-realities definitely aren't done with Arisu yet.

The biggest telltale sign of what could be in store comes from the original manga, where the Joker card is first featured. In this version, the Joker appears as a halfway figure between the land of the living and the afterlife — also known as the "borderland." The decision to end on its image could mean that the Joker has successfully completed the task of bringing the survivors back to reality, but there could be more at stake. Another game might be afoot for the surviving cast, creating plenty of potential scope for a Season 3 storyline.

Repetition, repetition, repetition

Even superfans of "Alice in Borderland" might struggle to keep up with the show's super-speedy pace and ever-changing realities. Amongst the red herrings and revelations in the Season 2 finale, one notable touch is the parallel scene we see echoed at the beginning and the end of the episode. In the opening moments, Arisu and Usagi are seen heading toward a Tokyo skyscraper where the Queen of Hearts is waiting for them. Fast forward through the blurring of imagination and reality, and we see the same scene again — only this time Arisu is joined by other protagonists including Hatter and Heiya.

Like everything in "Alice in Borderland," clues can be found in the smallest of details. Most noticeably, the repetition in this scene could allude to the fact that none of the protagonists have been able to break the game's cycle. We're never sure where imagination ends and reality begins, so there's little reason to assume that anything after the second version of the scene should be taken at face value. At the same time, this theme of repetition could represent the chance for new beginnings. Arisu might have finally broken free from the game, leaving him and the rest of the players to deal with the real-world fallout that's happened while they've been busy.

Should they stay or should they go?

Unbelievably, the games seem to come to an end once and for all when Arisu completes his game of croquet. It's here that our two main protagonists are met with a key turning point — they can remain in the game or return to the real world. Given how little we know, it's easy to doubt if they really decide to return to the real world after all. Known for being an incredible analyzer, Arisu is unlikely to make a decision that ends badly, but he's not exactly winning regardless of what he chooses. Whatever world they face, the mindsets of the players will be warped by the last two seasons of games for good.

This turning point could easily be something viewers return to in later installments. The show's tendency to veer into "it was all a dream" territory means Arisu could find himself pushed back to this exact crossroads in future seasons. There's no right answer here — if they stay, they are subject to more mental torture, but they don't know how big possible threats are back in the real world. Having been out of reality for so long, there's also a chance the pair won't fully adjust, potentially bringing them to question their choices down the line.

What can Arisu and Usagi actually remember?

Playing the game was never going to be a relaxing walk in the park, but the Season 2 finale of "Alice in Borderland" puts Arisu and Usagi through the wringer. Not only have they both been told that everything they've believed so far has been a lie, but they then turn up in a hospital without being able to remember anything ... supposedly. We're just as confused as they are, and there's a chance their collective lack of clarity could be attributed to temporary amnesia considering the severity of the meteor attack. But it could also be part of a massive double bluff.

Given that the games have been so meshed into Arisu and Usagi's lives, pretending not to remember things could be a way to safeguard themselves from further manipulation. We know that more trouble might be afoot thanks to the episode's parting shot of the Joker card, meaning the pair may need to clutch at straws to get out while they can. On the other hand, their ostensibly blank memories could be totally genuine, which could set the recovery of their recollections up as a plotline for Season 3.

Arisu's head holds all the answers

From the moment the Season 2 finale opens, the focus stays on Arisu and his dreams. After he finds himself in a dreamlike version of Tokyo, the Queen of Hearts tries to psychologically torture him into losing track of what's real and what's not. It works for the most part; the Queens of Hearts offers up explanation after explanation without much truth to any of them. The explanation Arisu chooses to believe is that the entire world is a creation of his own imagination. This is exactly what prompts the repeated scene we see early on, and links back to his self-deception at the very start of "Alice in Borderland."

While most of the Queen of Heart's theories are wildly far-fetched, the one Arisu picks could actually make a lot of sense. If we are to believe that the meteor story is real, creating an entirely fabricated world could have been a way of coping with trauma Arisu didn't even know he experienced. However, that pulls into question the validity of everything we have seen to date and puts a potential strain on where the show could go from here.

It's hard to tell what's the truth

The difference between what's real and what isn't is an age-old question in "Alice in Borderland," but the Season 2 finale proves itself to be a particular sticking point. Thanks to the nature of the Queen of Heart's psychological torture, theories about the mysterious world that the characters inhabit are dispelled as quickly as they appear, so much so that we're left in a spin about what to believe. Knowing the Queen of Hearts' penchant for deception, the safest answer is believing nothing at all. As he's being taunted by memories of his dead friends, Arisu's vulnerable mindset isn't exactly trustworthy either.

So, what is the actual truth behind the games? In short — no one is too sure. Given how long the show has strung out the drama, games, and unexpected reveals, it wouldn't be surprising if we're kept in the dark for as long as possible. The manga is a great starting point for giving us a general idea, but it seems unlikely that the show would stick to the source material too faithfully. Where Season 2 leaves off, Arisu's self-deception is back with a vengeance, meaning seeing things for what they are will be a low priority. With the Joker looming, the truth could possibly turn on its head all over again.

The Queen of Hearts holds all the cards

As the ultimate antagonist in the Season 2 finale of "Alice in Borderland," the Queen of Hearts is doing the most. Luring Arisu and Usagi to the top of the Tokyo skyscraper, she unleashes a carefully calculated strategy that sends the entire narrative of the show far into disarray. Her theories suggest that their surroundings could be a world where humans have conquered mortality, or that aliens have wiped their memories to conduct their own experiments. Though each notion sounds ridiculous at face value, "Alice in Borderland" has proved that everything is possible — at least one of the Queen of Heart's musings might be right.

Arisu and Usagi have found themselves back in the real world, but that doesn't mean we've seen the last of the Queen of Hearts either. Her influence is still likely to be seen through Arisu's personal journey in future seasons, even though he has supposedly broken free from her spell. It's also not too far of a stretch to think the face cards could work in conjunction and appear alongside the Joker for one last dance. Even more worryingly, what if the Queen of Hearts was the Joker all along?

The hope of putting an end to things

Where most of the Season 2 finale is wrapped up in end-of-the-world confusion, there is a small glimmer of hope that things could change for the better. If we work from the assumption that everything that has happened to Arisu is genuine, it appears as though he has finally broken free from the Queen of Heart's spell. Alongside Usagi, he has no recollection of anything that has happened to him, and only needs to deal with the immediate physical fallout of the meteor shower. Most of his friends are in stable condition — meaning there truly is very little holding him back.

Though it might not make for the best dramatic TV, Arisu could now walk away and leave all this "Alice in Borderland" business behind him. If the Joker card has fulfilled its role and safely transported the survivors back to real life, the hope of putting a final end to things only gains more traction. As Borderland is known as a middle ground between life and death, the gang's fresh start in the hospital could be a visual metaphor for new beginnings. Although it's unlikely that the games are over, we can certainly dare to dream of some peace.

Chishiya could have the biggest change of character

By the time Season 2 of "Alice in Borderland" reaches its middle ground, fans have discovered what Chishiya was like back in the real world. Working as a doctor who routinely prioritized well-off patients at his corrupt hospital, it's safe to say that empathy wasn't high up on his list of attributes. In the events leading up to the season finale, he reunites with Arisu for the first time since the King of Spades, and it's immediately clear how much has changed. Known for valuing fairness above anything else, the King of Spades clearly had a lasting effect on the self-indulgent Chishiya.

Acting as a human shield, Chishiya saves Usagi from being shot by Niragi. It's an unexpected but welcome twist, setting Chishiya up for perhaps the biggest character journey all season. Choosing to go home, he wakes up in a hospital bed and vows to live a more selfless life. The irony of starting over at a hospital isn't lost on us, and it remains to be seen whether this personality transplant will stick. With reality and imagination so blurred, there's nothing to say the kind-hearted version of Chishiya isn't a plant for further games to come.

Death makes a killer blow

While Arisu and Usagi make it back to the real world with little physical harm, many of the other players aren't so lucky. The "Alice in Borderland" Season 2 finale is a deathly end to a deathly season, with lots of the supporting characters losing their lives along the way. While Mira is killed when Arisu wins the final game against the Queen of Hearts, we also see flashbacks or dreamlike deaths that tell us more about Arisu's mental state.

We revisit a scene shown at the beginning of Season 2, only this time, two of Arisu's friends are instantly killed in a car accident. It's a turning point in Arisu's mind for him to come to terms with his past, but it possibly never happens at all, and takes place in of the Queen of Hearts' many theories. Characters like Chishiya reappear in the hospital after previously being shot, meaning the possibility of life after death might be available after all. Season 3 and beyond could see the return of players who have lost their lives to the games if we're to believe they didn't actually die in the real world.

What can we expect from Season 3?

With the success of Season 2 taking the world by storm, there is currently no conclusive decision on whether "Alice in Borderland" will return for a third season. That being said, there are plenty of loose ends that are ripe for exploration, fleshing out the show's scope even further. As the most-watched Japanese show ever on Netflix, it would be a surprise to see "Alice in Borderland" end at this stage of the game (pun intended). While some questions have been answered — namely what the Borderland is and how to escape — Arisu's personal journey feels far from over.

By the end of Season 2, all of the "Alice in Borderland" face cards appear defeated. While we are still unsure of the meaning behind the parting Joker visual, it would make the most sense for the impact and aftermath of the meteor shower in Tokyo to be explored further. There's a chance that Arisu and Usagi could regain their memories of the games. At the same time, there's potential for manga artist Haro Aso's other original works to be incorporated into Netflix's "Alice in Borderland." Disney has Marvel, Warner Brothers has DC; maybe Netflix could use a shared sequential art-based universe of its own.