Jan 042021

Alice in Borderland is a television show about a strange world of killer games. Three friends come out of a subway restroom to find that everyone in Tokyo has disappeared. Their phones have no signals, the power in the buildings have been cut off and food is rotting on restaurant tables. Where the fuck did everyone go?

When night falls, billboards begin to light up. They direct the friends to the nearest “game arena”. Once there, they find other people who have been taken from Tokyo earlier than them. Cell phones waiting at the building explain a game. Try to leave the game and an orbital laser punches through your hear. Fail at the game and you die. Winning the game allows you to live.

The players that survive get a playing card and a few days off depending of the number of the card. The suit of the card determines the skills used in the game. When your days off expire, you have to play a game to renew them or you get a laser in the head.

As you can imagine, this is a series with a lot of questions. Who kidnapped these people? How is Tokyo deserted and yet contains personal items like a wedding ring someone stashed in a hiding place before they were taken? Who are the gamemasters? Why are they running the games?

For a series that sometimes plays like Saw meets Maze Runners, it is surprisingly gore-free. There is a lot of psychological horror, as friends sometimes compete against each other and tensions rise. Main characters get introduced and die. It is a lethal show.

It is also a fast moving show. The first season has eight episodes and has two story arcs that other shows would have stretched out for sixteen episode seasons. Some answers do get revealed, but for every answer, another mystery is introduced.

But unlike Lost, the answers in this show are satisfying. It is a singular joy to find something odd, chalk it up to maybe fuzzy storytelling, and then find out later, nah, there was something going on there and you were right to be suspicious. It is the rare show about smart people that is actually smart itself.

The description of the show, where they mention one of the main characters is a videogame player, turned me off at first. I expected the guy to be a gamerbro who thrives because of his experience, but that did not happen at all. The young man lost his mother and has been escaping his grief by playing games. He doesn’t apply himself and even his semi-loser friends urge him to do better. His experience with games helps him in this world, but what really saves him is his own cleverness.

I binged this show rather quickly and am still thinking about it. Currently it is on Netflix and I recommend it.

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