“It’s all fun and games” is something we say when we say that an activity is easy and just for entertainment, but it turns out that games can be bloody. They can get you killed and bring out the worst —and sometimes the best— in a person. So, what is a better way to dissect our society than by turning it into a game and shining a light into our lives through it? This is what Squid Game did, and it did it brilliantly.
When you think of Korean dramas, your brain probably automatically thinks of cute rom-com Kdramas or historical dramas. Squid Game came to demolish all of that! The show displayed the brilliance of Korean writers and brought their vision to an international audience. The story of Squid Game is a global experience that everyone in all corners of the world can relate to. As Bong Joon-Ho says, once we passed that 1-inch barrier of sub-titles, we discovered a whole new world of creative content that we didn’t know existed before.
Squid Game was a global phenomenon. But why? Why did this one show grasp the entire world’s attention so brilliantly? From the original idea to the plot to the characters to the acting, Squid Game excelled in every aspect—that’s why it is so good, and that’s why we will discuss all things Squid Game in this article.
Turning Innocent Games Into a Bloody Mess
Show creator Hwang Dong-hyuk first got the idea for Squid Game back in 2008. He was going through a rough financial patch at the time. Inspired by his struggles, Hwang Dong-hyuk wrote the first script for Squid Game. Originally intended to be a movie, he pitched it to several film studios to no avail. Their refusal was based on the idea being too unrealistic and gory.
Fast forward to 2019. The world has changed, and our ideas of what is considered unrealistic have also changed —especially when it comes to the measures people would take to survive and make money. As Capitalism grew stronger, launching some people into unimaginable wealth and others into extreme poverty, the idea behind Squid Game was no longer unrealistic. Would people risk their lives for money? Yes, they would. So, let’s discuss why and how through Squid Game.
With Netflix looking to expand its productions outside the United States, Hwang Dong-hyuk saw the opportunity to pitch his project again. This time, Netflix was more than interested! They decided to turn his project into a series instead of a movie to give it more depth and time on the screen. That change meant diving deeper into side characters and even rethinking the games included in the series.
But after much work, Squid Game finally found its home on Netflix. It more than delivered on what it promised, quickly making it Netflix’s most-watched show ever in history!
Meet the Players
Squid Game has introduced the Western world to a group of excellent Korean actors that we are sure we will see more of in the near future. Each cast member has portrayed their characters perfectly, making us forget for a moment that these are actors and not real people!
Let’s get to know some of the beautiful cast of Squid Game before we play the game!
Lee Jung-jae is one of the most successful actors in Korea. He started his career in 1994 with the TV series Feelings (1994). His career took off later with movies such as Il Mare (2000) and Last Present (2002) and TV shows such as The Thieves (2012) and New World (2013).
Squid Game has gained Lee Jung-jae international fame and awards. He won an Emmy Award, a SAG Award, and a Critics Choice Award for his role as Gi-hun.
Park Hae-soo is a theatre and film actor. He got his breakthrough in the popular Korean drama Prison Playbook (2018)—his show is one of the highest-rated Korean dramas of all time! His role as Sang-woo in Squid Game earned him international recognition and an Emmy nomination.
Jung Ho-yeon is a Korean actress and model. She began her career as a model walking Seoul Fashion Week in 2010. She then went on to participate in Korea’s Next Top Model and walk at the New York Fashion Week.
Believe it or not, Squid Game is Ho-yeon’s first acting job! Her role as Sae-byeok earned her article acclaim and international fame as she won the SAG Award for Best Actress.
Lots of spoilers are coming ahead! So, if you haven’t watched Squid Game, skedaddle! Go watch it, and then come back to read this.
Let’s Play! (Squid Game Plot Summary)
Squid Game is a nine-episode series that is based on the original story of Hwang Dong-hyuk. The story begins with Seoung Gi-hun, a gambling addict with more debt than he can ever repay. Gi-hun lives with his diabetic mother in a small apartment where she is the sole provider of any kind of finance. He also has a terrible relationship with his ex-wife and daughter due to his inability to provide money for his daughter’s life.
A Simple Game
Poor, hated, and an overall mess, Gi-hun has no idea how to turn his life, himself, or others around. One day, while waiting for the train, a young man in a well-pressed suit asks Gi-hun if he wants to play a game. First apprehensive, Gi-hun accepts the invitation when the man tells him that if he wins, he will get money. If he loses, he only gets slapped across the face. After losing a couple of times, Gi-hun finally wins and takes the money. He is then told that if he would like to play more games and win even bigger prizes, he should call the number on the card the man gives him.
The Games Begin
Of course, Gi-hun ends up calling the number. A car then picks him up, drugs him, and takes him to the venue where the games will occur. Gi-hun wakes to find himself among 455 other participants. They are told by masked men that they will participate in a number of children’s games, and the winner will get 45 billion won! The first game is Red Lights, Green Lights!
Thinking it’s easy enough, everyone gets excited to play and win the grand prize. However, it’s not all fun and games! As the game starts, each person who fails is immediately shot dead. As dead bodies litter the floor, people begin to freak out, and more participants end up messing up the game and dying. After the game ends, some of the survivors start to beg to be let go. They get to vote on whether to end the games or continue, and the result is to end it. Everyone gets to go home and forget any of this ever happened.
However, if they would like to come back, all they have to do is call the number again. But this time, there will be no going back home. It will be either win or die trying.
Win or Die Trying
As everyone faces their life outside and finds it just as grim, they all decide to return to the game. At least there, there is a chance to make money. The games begin once more. The second game is Ppogi, a popular Korean children’s game where each player uses a sharp needle to extract a carved shape from a honeycomb candy. One of the players figures out the game beforehand and chooses the most straightforward shape for himself without warning the others.
Before the third game begins, the players are asked to form teams. Gi-hun ends up in a group with his childhood friend Sang-woo, North Korean defector Sae-byeok, Player 001, and Ali Abdu. Sae-byeok also recruits Player 240, a girl, to Sang-woo’s dismay. The game is revealed to be Tug of War. Despite having three girls on their team, Gi-hun’s team wins their round thanks to Player 001’s strategy.
The players are then asked to pair up. Thinking they’ll be working together, each one picks someone they trust. However, it is revealed that each pair will have to play a game of marbles against one another, with only one person surviving. Gi-hun and Player 001 play together. Player 001 ends up giving his last marble to Gi-hun to help him win. Sang-woo plays with Ali but uses his trust to trick him and win the game. Sae-byeok and Player 240 have a deep heart-to-heart talk, and Player 240 forfeits the game for Sae-byeok.
The survivors —including Gi-hun and Sae-byeok, who are traumatised from the deaths of their friends— gear up to play the fifth game. Each player has to walk across a bridge made of glass panels. The panels are either tempered or regular glass, and if one steps on the latter, they fall to their death. By the end of the game, Gi-hun and Sae-byeok survive by helping each other, and Song-woo survives by pushing another player to their death.
The Last Game
If trauma, shock, betrayal and death aren’t enough, the final three players must now face the final game. However, Sae-byeok got severely injured during the last game by an exploding glass panel. As she fights for her life while waiting for the last game, she asks Gi-hun to promise to help her brother if she dies. That night, Sang-woo kills her in her sleep.
Angry, shocked, and betrayed, Gi-hun must face Sang-woo in the final game, Squid Game. The game ends up as a brutal fight between the two, where Gi-hun wins but refuses to kill Sang-woo. Sang-woo stabs himself, and Gi-hun is announced as the winner.
Gi-huns returns to Seoul with a bank card to access his prize money. He visits his mother only to discover she died while he was away. Guilt-ridden and traumatised, Gi-hun does not touch the money for a year. After one year, Gi-hun finds Sae-byeok’s brother and asks Sang-woo’s mother to care for him. He gives them a share of the prize.
He then receives an invitation from the same company that created the games. When he arrives, he finds Player 001, Il-Nam, on his deathbed. He reveals that he is the creator of the games and that he did it to entertain bored rich people like himself. He dies later that night.
Gi-hun decides to leave for Los Angeles to find his daughter. At the airport, he sees the recruiter who gave him the game invite talking to a man. He shouts at him and tries to find out who is behind the game now but fails. He decides to not get on the plane and stay in Seoul.
It Is Not All Fun And Games (Squid Game Review)
Squid Game is a ride. A wild, crazy, emotional ride that will leave you scratching your brain and trying to understand what just happened! The show does not have a single dull moment. It is either completely shocking you out of your brain, making your heart beat a thousand beats a minute out of anxiety, or just making you bawl your eyes out crying.
The show puts the spotlight on the horrible consequences of capitalism in society. When the people on top have so much money, they are bored enough to watch others play a game of life or death, and the people on the bottom are so poor that they are willing to play.
Each character in Squid Game has different reasons to risk their life for the prize money. Gi-hun feels like a loser who failed both his daughter and his mother. He needs to win to get his life back on track. Sang-woo is supposed to be a genius. He went to SNU and had a great job but lost it all. He must win to salvage his reputation and life. Sae-byeok fled North Korea with her little brother and needs the money to pay for her mother and father’s escape. Each has a valid reason to win, and each player fights for your sympathy.
As we watched Squid Game, our brain was plagued with many questions. Who should have our support? Can we support one player over the others? What makes one deserve the prize and not the others? How is it fair for such a game to be played? Why can’t everyone share the money? Yes, that is the ultimate question: Why can’t we share the money?
If you think deeply about it, the show is about capitalism and how the world is run these days. The show opens up extensive conversations and will leave you with more questions than answers. It is truly a magnificent show, and we can see why it’s currently Netflix’s number-one show!
Squid Game has proved that there are many more stories for us to experience if we broaden our horizons. Beyond Hollywood and English-language entertainment, the world is vast and has much to say. Human experiences are diverse and deserve to be told. So listen to director Bong Joon-ho and overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles!