It has been two weeks since the release of the Squid Game on Netflix and the world is yet to stop talking about it.
I mean, who can blame them? When writer-director Hwang Dong-hyuk said he wanted to write a story that depicts the reality of modern capitalist society, he delivered it in a form of survival drama show.
Squid game was a reflection of the wealth disparity and the outrage of poverty and incontinence in the human psyche. We are going to watch the devastating impacts of capitalism that has programmed humanity to act in selfishness, fear and greed. And as expected of a survival drama, this Netflix show is brutal, cruel, bloody, yet so deceptively aesthetic.
Before diving deep into the series, here is a little background (a spoiler free one).
The story follows Seong Gi Hun, a deadbeat dad, with a gambling addiction and has a preposterous amount of shark loans breathing down on his neck. Gi hun is not the only one with a miserable backstory of poverty. Such is the story of all 456 players who join a sinister survival game.
Gi hun was the last to join after being approached by a mysterious man, who proposed to play ddakji. Every time Gi hun wins, he gets 100,000 won but for every loss he also had to pay 100,000 won. A cash strapped gi-hun decides to gamble on his luck and just play along. Unfortunately he lost more than he counted. Alternatively he agreed to be humiliatingly slapped for every time he lost instead of paying up. Later, a red-cheeked and bruised Gi hun was given the opportunity to play stakes higher than just 100,000 won. So what does this mighty gentle and lonesome gambling addict do?
He chose to take the chance, no matter the prize. Even if it meant playing his favourite childhood games in a bloody setting for survival, and of course, 45.6 billion won. (Just for context, you could buy yourself one of Jeff Bezos yacht with that)
Why Squid Game Is So Binge Worthy
Squid game is far from being the only show that surrounds such dark and controversial themes. So what makes it so popular among it’s fans that are now all over the world?
Squid game portrays six different survival games, but unlike your ridiculously complex mazes and quizzes and brutal fighting rings, the show focuses on very simple childish games like marbles and “red light, green light”. Seeing children’s traditional games starting from episode 1 in a dark setting is more than enough to draw attention. And the ‘creepy’ doll scene quickly become trending worldwide.
However it was not just the games that created the juxtaposition. From their visual elements to characteristic developments the show used contrasting elements for further dramaticness. For example, let’s look at the participants of the game.
First we have the kind gambling addict, Gi Hun and then we have the smart SNU graduate and “successful” banker Cho Sang Woo who was also a childhood friend of Gi Hun. Both Gi hun and Sang woo had the same goal: Win the 45.6 Billion Won. The cost of winning was irrelevant to Sang woo, while Gi Hun dabbled a lot in his own guilty consciousness. Despite working different paths of life, they ended up in the hell they knew as “Squid Game”.
With each passing game, we learned a little bit more about characters running the show. Perhaps this was also what made the show so unique compared to the dark premise of Hunger games. Both shows talk about how poverty and extreme wealth created disparity and desperation. However, like with many Kdramas, Squid games took their time to give us a deeper exploration of how wealth, class, and poverty has impacted personal life including family, relationships and mindset.
As the show carried on we were slightly nudged into agreement with squid game supporters. The show used lines such as “so what if we leave? Tell me, what changes? Just as bad out there as it is here, god damn it!”. Talk about efforts to improve moral affirmation.
The entire time while watching the game I thought to myself “Who would do that?” or “I would never do that”. But if I was in the same situation as Gi Hun, or if I was Ali, would I really have not done the same? How about Sae-byeok and her desperation to get out of homelessness and find her little brother a home? If I was her, would I really not have chosen this all over again?
This is the pure geniusness behind the show. Every time we thought to ourselves we would never do the same, the show proved otherwise. Now I am suddenly advocating for the right to play in the squid game.
Pretty brilliant, huh?
My Favourite Conspiracy Theory
(Warning: spoilers ahead. Now’s your chance to quit reading and watch the show!)
So, weren’t we all shocked to find out that it was il-nam, the player 001 and the oldest player was behind the whole thing?
Maybe not. Many picked on the subtle clues. They indicated that he might have a connection to the sick, riveting series of games. But what’s more interesting than his idea of fun was his close relationship with Gi hun throughout the entire show.
Gi Hun’s kindness was vibrant when he started to take the poor old Il-am under his care. Il nam may not have the strength to fight but he was a wise old man that kept both of them alive throughout everything (or it was just because il nam was the mastermind behind squid games)
There is a lot more to Gi Hun and Il-nam’s relationships than the show lets on. Or the fans think so. Sure, it may just have been the kindness of Gi hun or is the bond between the two something more? Fans have reasons to believe they are more than just friends but are actually father-son.
Both Gi hun and Il nam are lactose intolerant. After the encounter of milk at breakfast we hear Il-nam asking Gi hun “I’m willing to bet you got spanked a lot.” Gi-hun responds with, “how did you know?” Il nam says “My son did too. He was just like you, friend,”.
At first this was just the typical habaoji and main character trope we see on a lot of Kdramas, but coincidences begin to line up a little too much. Both Il-nam’s son and Gi hun seem to share the same birthday, the 24th. It also seemed like they both came from the same neighborhood. In the final game with Il nam, gi hun and the old man were walking around a neighborhood which now we know was where Il-nam grew up in or used to live before coming to wealth. When talking about how the old man used to live in such alleyways, Gi hun responds “Our alleyway looked very similar”
This was not the only fun conspiracy theory that has fans desperate for a second season. By the end of the show we all must have wondered, what would have happened if we chose the red card during ddakji? Fans conspired that the players who chose the red card during the initial phase were those who became the guards. After all, the other card was blue and anyone who chose blue did become the player. We never learnt of the red card outcome.
Subtle Clues That You Missed
There are so many things we have missed during the binge worthy session. But the more we rewatched our favourite scenes, the more we found out.
First, the games were all there in plain sight. Graphics of all six games were drawn on the walls behind the clunky metal bunk beds. As more players get killed in each game, the graphics become visible. But of course, knowing what game is coming forth may have given players an advantage but it does not guarantee them a chance of success.
Another important point we may have missed in the flamboyant and overwhelming massacre was that player 001 was never a target of the creepy doll in the first game. While everyone else was recognized as a target with green outlines, Il-nam remained unmarked. This was probably the first hint that il nam played a bigger role in the squid game than we imagined.
Another clue in for the disturbing truth to Il-nam is that he was one of the characters that had absolutely no backstory but more than enough screen time. We know something meaningful about every other character except for Il-nam. We also did not know his name until the marble episode where he was conveniently “shot to death”, off screen.
The Main Cast Of Squid Game Is As ‘Bloody’ As The Mortal Games In The Movie
Lee Jung Jae as Ki Hoon
Lee Jung Jae is considered a “box office guarantee” in Korea. Known as the leading “actor” of the land with more than 30 years in the profession, this 1973-born actor owns a huge film fortune with famous works such as: ‘Deliver Us From Evil’, ‘Assassination’, ‘The Housemaid’.
Park Hae Soo as Sang Woo
Park Hae Soo started his career from the theater stage in 2007. The actor is widely known and loved by the audience when taking on the lead role in the hit movie Prison Playbook 2017. In addition, Park Hae Soo also appeared in a number of hit films such as: ‘The Legend Of The Blue Sea’, ‘Memories Of The Alhambra’.
Heo Sung Tae as Deok Soo
Heo Sung Tae is a veteran Korean actor. Heo Sun Tae is familiar with the audience through villainous roles such as ‘Masquerade’, ‘God Of War’ and ‘Quiz From God’.
Jung Ho Yeon as Kang Sae Byeok
Jung Ho Yeon was born in 1994, known as a famous Korean model, she joined the fashion industry at the age of 16 and won the title of runner-up in Korea’s Next Top Model season 4. Before encroaching on the field of acting, Jung Ho Yeon was considered one of the most prestigious models in the Korean fashion industry. Ho Yeon is also known as the treasure of the Korean fashion industry.
Will there be A Squid Game, Season Two?
There is no telling if we are truly getting a second season yet, but the premise looks very promising. The first season ends with a conflicted Gi Hun who seems to be absolute in his determination to end the game
Meanwhile, I am still reeling from the first season. It feels like “Stranger Things” all over again. We cannot simply get enough. Netflix was truly successful in creating yet another addictive show for its viewers.
So now, do you think you can survive the squid game? Watch it online now if you haven’t.