Warning: This review will have mild spoilers
If you have been on your Netflix account anytime this past week, then you would have seen Squid Game sitting comfortably at number 1. The Squid Game is a Korean drama series that reads more like a long horror film. The monster of this horror isn’t a giant squid but money.
Squid Game finds 456 “contestants” playing six games based on traditional childrens’ games vying for a chance at 45.6 billion won(38.5 million USD). These games include Red Light, Green Light, Tug-o-war, and marbles, to name a few; only these games have life or death consequences. Getting spotted in Red Light, Green Light gets you shot in the head by snipers. You play tug-o-war on platforms that are as tall as buildings and at the bottom is nothing. You fall, you die. You lose, you die. I bet you can guess what happens with the rest of the games.
The Squid Game is not a new concept; Battle Royal, The Hunger Games, As the Gods Will, Saw, and The Liar Game, all follow a similar premise. What makes Squid Game from the others is that it is imperfect. There are obvious plot holes, odd dialogue, and unlikable characters. And, in my opinion, none of the characters were worth me caring about.
I have had many people try to convince me why I should care about the death of Ali or Sae-byeok. While I receive what they are saying, I disagree. I think the point of the series is that people will have a similar reaction to the one I did. The show starts the first two episodes making that very point. You see, the contestants of these games are people in debt, homeless, sick, mentally ill, criminals, foreigners, and the elderly. These are people society has deemed worthless, and if they die, no one would care. The Game gives them a “fair” chance to get to the top of society via wealth. Throughout the series, you see how far people will go for money. They become ok with murder, but they also denounce their religion, lie, steal, cheat, and throw away their morals and values.
Now before you see me as a horrible person, hear me out. I wouldn’t say I liked every character because many, if not all, had other options. The 456 players chose to participate in the Game; no one forced them. Our main protagonist, Seong Gi-Hun, has a gambling addiction and mooches on his elderly and sick mother. He has a daughter who he rarely sees because of his addiction. He joins the Game to get money for his mother’s surgery. However, he had another option! Use the cash his ex-wife’s husband gave him. Yes, the condition was to provide the daughter with some space as she deals with the transition. Gi-Hun decides he has too much pride and punches the man. Gi-Hun was already not spending time with his daughter, his mother couldn’t pay for the surgery herself because he stole her insurance money, and the daughter is having a hard time and needs the space! You want me to care about a too prideful person to do what’s right but throws the same pride out the window when you have to murder people for money. Sure, Jan.
Even the people’s champion, Ali, isn’t immune from making the same choices as Gi-Hun. Ali and his family came from Pakistan to Korea to earn money. Sadly, he works a shit job that hasn’t been paying him. Ali attempts to get what’s due to him but ends up resorting to violence against his employer. However, he does acquire enough money to get back home to Pakistan. Ali chooses not to join his wife and baby but instead enters the Game. WHY? Sae-Byeok could have gotten her brother out of the orphanage, found a cheap apartment, and worked every odd job she could. All her brother wanted was to be with her. Even if that meant living on the street or in a shelter. Playing the deadly Game is the opposite of what he wanted.
Despite how I felt about the characters, the show is entertaining from start to finish! Each second not only keeps the players on their toes but the viewer too. You never know what a game is and what the true motives of the game host, the Front Man, are. Like Saw and Battle Royal, you get to witness alliances breaking and minds unraveling as they get further into the games. This creates an odd sense of empathy with the characters; you begin to wonder, “what would I do if it was me?” If there is one universal emotion, it is desperation.
The Squid Game also has a subplot about a police officer looking for his missing brother. This adds another sense of suspense as the facility the games take place is like Fort Knox. The good-looking police officer has too many close calls that will give you a heart attack.
The main plot and subplot have cliffhanger endings, which hopefully means there will be a sequel. I want a sequel, and I think most Netflix users would agree with me. The show’s imperfections created the perfect recipe for this show to become viral. I genuinely believe that these imperfections were designed on purpose. Humans aren’t perfect, life isn’t perfect, happiness isn’t perfect, and justice isn’t perfect. Squid Game forces the viewers to see the show’s imperfection and recognize that it is simply a mirror of us and our society. Are we as unlikeable as the people playing the games, are we as complicit as those setting up the games, or as heartless as the VIP who bet and watch as fellow humans struggle for success?
I give Squid Game an A+.
Squid Game is a compelling story about society and the people living in it as they each trying to find a way to get by. The show is a call-to-action to all who watch to reevaluate themselves and how they treat others. The games are well executed, the set design is spectacular, both plots are engaging and meaningful, and the show doesn’t waste a single second of run time. Squid Game will become the Battle Royal for a new generation.
If I can offer one complaint! The Front Man is the missing brother of the police officer. The Front Man knows his brother is there and knows who he is disguised as at a certain point. So, when he sees one of the VIPS take his brother to another room to violate him sexually…why didn’t he stop it? He has already taken action to ensure his younger brother isn’t killed; couldn’t he step in now? He ends up having to do that anyway when he worries about why his brother didn’t come back yet. Sir, do you want him to be raped or not? Yes, this is supposed to show that he struggles with his role and his morals. But, come on! That’s your brother; protecting him one additional time isn’t going to get you fired suddenly.
Anyways, I highly recommend Netflix’s Squid Game. It is the perfect show to binge and enjoy with some Korean takeout.