This Korean-made series first came to me in whispers. One by one, I’d overhear people talking about this peculiar show on Netflix, Squid Game. It wasn’t much longer until people directly asked me if I had watched it. I’d then have to deal with their look of disappointment when I shook my head.
“Isn’t it like a Hunger Games thing?”
I’ve recieved several responses to that question. Some positive, others…not so much.
I personally waited as long as I could to avoid Squid Game as I tend to shy away from any “hot” trending show. Historically, not all trendy shows or movies end up being any good. At first, I thought Squid Game was another “mental chewing gum” for the masses–with lots of gore.
Since the show had been released September 17th, 2021, I wasn’t going to write a review after I finally rolled credits on the series. However, I felt compelled to write about it in some way, shape, or form, because I was wrong–very wrong. Squid Game isn’t mental chewing gum. This show insidiously wrapped its tentacles around me and drew me in. So, I pondered, what made Squid Game such a phenomenon?
It’s a thriller. There’s lots of blood and other visually disturbing scenarios. There are many shows out there that have this; however, Squid Game is a Korean-native show, bringing in fresh faces and talent to the international stage. Some of the childhood games the players must survive through are also Korean-based. This brings an element of freshness to a viewer.
Where it differs from Hunger Games is also another reason why Squid Game became so hot. While both have this idea of putting a bunch of humans in an area until a single person is left standing, one approaches it from a completely different narrative. Hunger Games is geared more to the coming-of-age viewers, while Squid Game shines a light on the dark side of the human condition–what happens to those that are desperate. These are the lives of adults who have lost many things and are in serious debt.
The show focuses on three major characters: Seong Gi-Hun, Kang Sae-byeok, and Cho Sang-Woo. Each have a reason they are tempted to play for the massive cash prize. Seong has a gambling problem and has no money to give his daughter a decent gift for her birthday or to help his mother. Kang strives to find a better life for her brother and possibly take their mother out of North Korea. Cho was once an impressive student but found trouble with money and became so in debt that law enforcement is set to track him down.
Squid Game also does something outstanding early on: one of the rules is that a majority vote from the players can stop the games, and that is what initially happens. The remaining players were let go unharmed. One would think, well, that’s the end of the show; however, Squid Game proves that is not so easy. Each person tries to assimilate back to normal life, yet one by one, many realize they needed this money.
These players returned on their own will, and as each game progresses, we witness the good, the bad, and the ugly side of humanity. People are betrayed, some even murdered in cold blood between games, and many form smaller groups to look out for one another. I really could go on and analyze several scenes, but the point to take home is that Squid Game is a psychological barometer of the human condition when placed in a desperate situation.
Meanwhile, the viewers gets a periodic glance from behind the scenes. A cop slips into the facility in search for his missing brother. The Frontman pursues him, trying to prevent any interference with the games upon the VIP’s arrivals. This further extends the rich mystery behind the motive. It is only by the last few episodes that you can tell this is simply entertainment for the wealthy.
Squid Game makes you care about the characters. Seong may have appeared to be lazy and a dead-beat father, but you witness his sincere and kind heart by befriending the oldest player in the room and never scheming for the money. He always focuses on getting out alive…as a team. Kang was a quiet, abrasive woman from the North. Cold as ice, she begins to break when she wins a game of two. Her partner was another girl, and they had both decided to share their lives since one of them was going to die anyway. And because of her responsibility at home with her brother, Kang has one simple mission: get the money to make her family whole. Cho was initially viewed much like his childhood friend, Seong; however, as the games go on, his methodology unravels a darker, more self-serving, personality. While the concept of exposing one’s true nature under a stressful situation is not new, I believe Squid Game blew this out of the water with their memorable characters.
Of course, I can’t ignore another theme that was weaved throughout the nine episode series. Games of life and death are played by the poor and indebted for the enjoyment of the elite. Even though the VIPs wore masks, I quickly noticed they are several races represented. This perhaps could imply a large scale message of the disparity between the super-rich and the poor that are always struggling. In doing some research, it seems that the creator, Hwang Dong-hyuk, wanted to express his views and concerns over capitalism and class struggles he’s witnessed in South Korea.
Even though I jumped on the bandwagon late, I’m glad I finally watched Squid Game. What makes it an amazing show is that it had me thinking about it hours later. I wonder why one person behaved this way and someone else behaved another way. Then I think to myself about how I would handle such a hypothetical situation.
Have you watched Squid Game? Let us know what you think about it and if you believe we will see a season 2 on our Boss Rush Discord.