Warning! Spoilers for Squid Game ahead.
Before we start, I have to recommend watching this in Korean with English subtitles. The dubs just don’t do the actors and the dialogue justice. Yes, the subtitles are imperfect, but it’s better than the dubs.
The Netflix original show “Squid Game” is about lower-class citizens of South Korea playing children’s games for money. What starts as harmless games for fair amounts of cash evolves into something they don’t expect or want: a life-or-death game split into six parts. Complete the games, you become a billionaire and can turn your life around when you return home. Fail at any point in time? You die.
It was a simple premise to me, but I was genuinely surprised when I finally started to watch.
I’m an avid enthusiast of cinema, and I pride myself on being able to sniff out when a good show is being overhyped. I also pride myself on being able to catch major plot twists and reveals before a show or movie ends.
“Squid Game” caught me off guard in both of these categories, and that’s why I love it.
At the center of “Squid Game” is Lee Jung-jae, who plays protagonist Seong Gi-Hun. Right away, you feel bad for Gi-Hun: he’s desperate to fix his financial situation, which could bring him closer to his daughter.
There are many ways you can feel for Gi-Hun, and the same goes for so many characters in this show. Fan-favorite Kang Sae-byeok, played by Jung Hoyeon, features one of the most heartbreaking character arcs. She trusts no one but herself, a trait that slowly fades in the back half of the season as the game progresses.
It’s a beautiful arc to see, and one that clashes with so many other personalities. The closed off Sae-byeok interacting with Heo Sung-tae’s arrogant character, Jang Deok-su, led to some much needed tension that came to a head in a massive brawl between all the players. Han Mi-nyeo, played by Kim Joo-Ryung, injects even more energy with her wacky-yet-cunning character.
Finally, there’s the beautiful contrast between Anupam Tripathi’s kind and naive Ali Abdul and Park Hae-soo’s cold and calculated Cho Sang-woo. Neither of them, like many of these characters, fit into a “hero” or “villain” archetype. All of these characters are just desperate for money, powerfully illustrating Korean classism in the modern day. You may not like what these characters are doing sometimes, but you understand why.
While I continued to watch the show, something felt off to me: Oh Il-nam, better known as Player 001. In a game where people get shot for losing red light, green light, this elder is smiling the entire time. At first, I thought it made some sense: we’re led to believe that this man is about to die from a tumor and he’s just enjoying his final moments alive.
But then we find out that it was Il-nam who created this deadly game, and my head started spinning so hard I felt the need to rewatch the entire show. I found some things indicating the Il-nam reveal the second time around.
We never see his body get shot. It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book: if you don’t see the body, they didn’t die. Except “Squid Game” diverts our attention from that rule in the most heartbreaking episode of the season: “Gganbu.”
Yes, it’s the marble episode. How could I not talk about this? This episode showed the lengths to which these players would go to win the game. I knew exactly who would live and die – it became obvious by then that Gi-Hun, Sang-woo, and Sae-byeok were our endgame characters. However, the episode itself packed so much emotion that it made the inevitable deaths of Ali and Lee Yoo-mi’s character Ji-yeong so hard to watch.
On the note of Ali’s death, we also didn’t see his body get shot. This meant Il-nam “died” the same way as Ali, and the directors used Ali’s death to make us believe Il-nam was gone as well. The big difference is that we saw Ali’s body in the following episode, but not Il-nam’s.
Overall, “Squid Game” is a genius show with heavy real-life themes, relatable characters, amazing sets and so much emotion I feel like I might need therapy after watching the show. I didn’t even get to talk about the subplots of the Front Man and his brother Jun-ho or the doctor who was cheating in the game, but it’s okay. Just know that those hold their own in a show packed with so many thrilling pieces of storytelling and cinema. There’s a lot that could happen in a potential season two, so here’s to hoping this gets renewed!
I had high expectations coming into the show thanks to social media, and “Squid Game” somehow exceeded them. It was fun, intense, dramatic and poetic in every way. Packed with electrifying action sequences, compelling characters and high levels of tension, this show spiked my adrenaline and interest at the same time.
Overall rating: 10/10