By Ryan O'Connell
Have you seen ‘Squid Game’?
Bet you’ve heard that one by now.
“Squid Game” was recently released on Netflix this past September, and was written and created by director Hwang Dong-hyuk. The show primarily follows Seong Gi-hun, a South Korean chauffeur and gambler who is still living with his mother well into his adult life. It initially showcases his struggles – starting promptly with an ever-growing debt.
Soon, however, a seemingly random twist of fate leads Gi-hun to the hands of a strange and well- dressed businessman, who offers him hundreds of dollars for playing a simple children’s game. If he wins, he goes home as a richer man. If he loses, he gets slapped across the face.
“Squid Game” has already made itself out to be a colossal hit with Netflix’s audience, both domestically and abroad. It has comfortably maintained the number one position on the platform for the two weeks immediately following its release.
Gi-hun is later presented with an ultimatum: He has to show that he’s capable of being someone who can support his daughter, or he has to accept that she and her mother are going to leave for the United States, without him. With trouble piling on, and nowhere else to escape, Gi-hun turns to the business card he was given.
Afterwards, he finds himself in a strange and unfamiliar world – reduced to a three digit number on a standardized uniform, and surrounded by masked men in pink suits wielding machine guns. The particpants are told they’ll play six games for a chance at $47 million, but it isn’t long before it’s obvious to Gi-hun and several other debtors what’s going on – play along or die trying.
The concept of a game show where the consequences are fatal is nothing new. In fact, during my entire first watch of the show, I found myself comparing it to Netflix’s own “Black Mirror,” another show with a famous focus on gorish deaths, class warfare, and human misery, which ran from 2011 to 2017. Not only that, but keen viewers might recognize the stark similarity to Kinji Fukasaku’s 2000 action-thriller – “Battle Royale” – and the harsh environment for competitors brought about by the reality that only one person can claim the prize.
“Squid Game” goes on to tell an intricate plot revolving around the relationships of different participants of the game. It showcases how they grow to like or hate one another, that people will do anything to get ahead, and overall provides a clear and thought provoking commentary on the growing subject of wealth inequality in our society.
It’s obvious that the game represents a capitalist society – one in which backstabbing is encouraged and it’s expected there can only be one winner. The show points out just how many times the contestants push, trick, and kill one another – and how they are rewarded for doing so – under a system with such inconsistent and unclear rules.
Not only does the show have a message to tell about our flawed society, but it truly is entertaining, sporting a perfectly reactive cast of characters, multiple subplots to keep the Fow swift, and an intriguing mystery about the nature of the Squid Games.
One of my favorite aspects of the show, however, might be the insistence on character development throughout the season, despite it only being nine episodes long.
The change in Gi-hun, specifically, is a truly interesting one as we see him develop from a deadbeat dad and a lousy, uncaring son, into a man who is almost forgivable. This happens many times through his bond and protection of the oldest man participating in the games.
Even still, throughout the true friendships with weaker contestants and the father-son bond he fostered with Player 001, it’s unclear by the end of the season whether or not he has truly changed his outlook on life.
Overall, “Squid Game” is an incredibly deep story told in an entertaining and thought-provoking way, and is one of the only shows on Netflix to have caught – and held – my attention in recent memory.
While it isn’t perfect, especially in the later end of the flrst season, I’d still recommend you take the time to enjoy it now before people start saying you only watched it because it was popular.
Who am I kidding, it’s already too late for that!
Everyone who told you to watch it was right.