'Alice in Borderland': The Seven of Hearts challenge is the most harrowing survival game of the entire season
Spoilers for 'Alice in Borderland' Season 1
There is a very twisted mind - or minds - behind the games of the Borderland. From the start, we're told that the Hearts challenges are the most emotionally harrowing, and that certainly ends up being true. Although the Ten of Hearts challenge certainly racked up the highest body count and was the most traumatic for the game's survivors, it's the lower level Seven of Hearts game that ends up being the most twisted of all the games that the series has featured so far.
At first, when the game's rules are explained, it feels like an error has been made. It's called a game of hide and seek, where the wolves seek out the lambs. Whoever the wolf finds first becomes the new wolf - but the wolf is the only one who will survive the game. Logically, if you're the wolf, you're going to want to run away from the lambs as fast as possible while they're the ones who seek you out - and this is exactly what Shibuki (Ayame Misaki) does the second she becomes the wolf, sending the others running after her.
The show's three friends, Asiru (Kento Yamazaki), Chota (Yûki Morinaga) and and Karube (Keita Machida) barely have time to try and make sense of the game, or figure it out, before they have to chase Shibuki down. After an intense struggle, Asiru ends up being the wolf, and runs and hides from his closest friends just to try and figure things out. For a moment, it's clear that Asiru is too afraid to venture out of his hiding place - even if that means he's condemning his friends to die.
However, in that moment of silence he realizes that he's willing to sacrifice himself to save his friends. The problem is, his friends are doing the same, and it becomes a true game of hide and seek. It's here that it becomes apparent just how twisted this game truly is, and how well tailored it was for specifically those four players. The Borderland is filled with ruthless players, but only these four players would end up in a scenario where they would all attempt to sacrifice their lives for each other.
The effect this achieves is astoundingly cruel on the psyches of everyone involved. Chota is first forced to listen to his friends fight with each other, and attempt to, essentially, kill each other. Then, he is forced to struggle to gag a woman whose only crime is not wanting to die, all so he can save his friend. Karube and Chotu both have to hide from their best friend to save him, unable to even look at him in their final moments, listening to him beg over the speakers to allow him to save their lives. Arisu is given the worst of survivor's guilt - unable to make a heroic sacrifice in their honor, he gets to live knowing that it's at the cost of their deaths.
More than any other game, there are no winners in the Seven of Hearts challenge, only a single survivor. It's the most inventive the series has ever gotten, and the first indication of how personally the games are tailored to their contestants to give them the maximum amount of suffering. It might not be the most dangerous game, the most bloody, or the scariest, but it is definitely the most evil.
All episodes of 'Alice in Borderland' Season 1 are now available to stream on Netflix.