The runaway success of Netflix’s Alice in Borderland has once again proven that Alice in Wonderland has the power to form the bedrock of exciting and emotionally affecting stories more than 150 years after Lewis Carroll’s novel hit bookstores in England.
The adaptation of Haro Aso’s follows Arisu, a video-game addict who is transported to Borderland, an abandoned dystopian version of Tokyo, where he teams with mountain climber Usagi as the two are required to compete in an escalating series of deadly games.
As outlined in detail by Den of Geek, references to Carroll’s Alice abound. Playing cards dictate the type and difficulty of the games, including a twisted, trippy game of croquet. Borderland functions as the inverse of Wonderland, a fantasy world filled with absurdity but with death lurking around every corner.
Carroll’s characters are heavily represented amongst the other players and game masters, from the Queen of Hearts and the Mad Hatter. Usagi even translates to “Rabbit” while Arisu is the Japanese translation of Alice.
The eight-episode first season was released in December 2020 and quickly became a worldwide hit, with critics lauding the cinematography, fight-scene choreography, and performances. The second season set a streaming record in Japan, according to Hypebeast, racking up an astounding 61.2 million viewing hours in the first four days to take the top spot on Netflix’s global list of most-watched non-English series. Season one is number two.
The enormous popularity of the show makes it curious that Netflix hasn’t yet announced a season three renewal. While seasons one and two have already adapted the entire Manga, there are a plethora of paths for the creators to take. Plus, the rabid reaction to the first two seasons makes a third a commercial no-brainer for the streaming giant.
Here’s a look at where Arisu, Usagi, and co. stand after season two and what season three could look like:
Season two Alice in Borderland ended with a sense of resolution. Mira is revealed to be the final gamemaster and the Queen of Hearts. Arisu survives her sadistic and mind-breaking game of croquet due to Usagi’s love and devotion and our heroes earn the right to go home. The survivors don’t remember their life in Borderland but Arisu and Usagi do recognize each other in the real world.
All seems to be right with life. The heroes have won and Arisu and Usagi have a chance to rekindle their once-in-a-lifetime connection. But then, everything is tipped on its head when a shot of a table of playing cards reveals that the joker has been drawn.
This cryptic finish sparks a series of questions. Is this “Joker” the final villain? Will the gamemasters decide to revoke the survivors’ right to live in the real world? Are they even in the real world? Are Arisu and Usagi still in Borderland, the illusion of safety just part of another sick game? There’s plenty of unanswered questions to be explored in season three.
There are plenty of options for writer-director Shinsuke Sato and the rest of the show’s creative braintrust to mine for a possible season three.
First, the bulk of the cast, including Kento Yamazaki (Arisu) and Tao Tsuchiya (Usagi) would be in line to return. Riisa Naka, who plays Mira, expressed interest in returning as the Queen of Hearts and speculated about possible directions for season three in a 2022 interview with NextShark:
“If there were to be Season 3, I wonder what would happen with the whole team that fought together so far. You saw the ghost of Hatter introduced in the show so many times, so I have this feeling that he might come back again. So for Mira, you might also think that she could return.”
The return of the ghost of Hatter is a tantalizing prospect while it would make sense for the Queen of Hearts to want to take revenge on Arisu and Usagi for slipping through her grasp at the end of season two. Furthermore, it would be fascinating to explore the psychological ramifications for the surviving players.
It’s worth noting that seasons one and two constitute a full adaptation of Haro Aso’s manga. Yet there is more source material for the writers to work with. A spin-off series, Alice on Border Road, chronicles a pessimistic teenager, Kina, who wakes up in an abandoned Kyoto holding the Queen of Clubs card.
She later meets another teenager, Alice (no not that Alice), who holds the Queen of Hearts and the two encounter nine other people, all from Tokyo and each holding different cards. They soon realize they must undertake an exhausting and dangerous trek from Kyoto to Tokyo, a distance of over 290 miles.
The fact that Border Road does not feature characters or storylines from the original manga may make it an unlikely basis for season three. However, there is always the possibility that Arisu, Usagi, and the others are incorporated or maybe Netflix would be open to adapting the spin-off on its own and expanding the Borderland brand.
There is a second spin-off manga that is more likely to be used for a season three. That would be Alice in Borderland: Retry, released during a three-month period from October 2020 to January 2021, coinciding with season one’s release in December 2020.
The story is set well after the events of the original. Arisu and Usagi are now married with a child yet their familial bliss is not enjoyed for long. Once again, Arisu is trapped in Borderland and must survive an escalating series of lethal games to reunite with his family. This option is the most likely if the writers want to return to the source material for season three, though they may need to adapt the manga more liberally in order to construct a fresh and exciting storyline that could sustain a full season.
Of course, the clearest direction for season three might have already been introduced at the end of season two. In the manga, the Joker is responsible for ferrying the players between Borderland and the real world. It’s possible season three would be The Odyssey to seasons one and two’s The Iliad.
Yes, the war is over, but the journey home is just as difficult and sometimes even more harrowing. Or the players could still be in Borderland, subjected to a cruel rendering of comfort and safety before the Joker plays his tricks on all of them.
It’s clear there are plenty of rabbit holes to go down for season three of Alice in Borderland. The writers could adapt one of Haro Aso’s spin-off series, continue on the path set up at the end of season two, or concoct an original storyline. Regardless of the direction, however, this smash-hit looks set for another season of exhilarating action and high-stakes emotion.
An itinerant storyteller, John Drain attended the University of Edinburgh before studying film at DePaul University in Chicago and later earned an MFA in Screenwriting from the American Film Institute Conservatory. John focuses on writing mysteries and thrillers featuring characters who are thrown into the deep end of the pool and struggle to just keep their heads above water. His work has been recognized by the Academy Nicholls Fellowship, the Austin Film Festival, ScreenCraft, Cinestory, and the Montreal Independent Film Festival. In a previous life, John created and produced theme park attractions across the globe for a wide variety of audiences. John keeps busy in his spare time with three Dungeons and Dragons campaigns and a seemingly never-ending stack of medieval history books.