A Review Of Squid Game


Lea Efran

Everyone’s heard about Squid Game, the new Netflix original K-drama centered around a group of people in deep financial debt playing sick and twisted children’s games in an attempt to win the 46 billion won prize. Since its release on September 17th of this year, Squid Game has been viewed on 111 million Netflix accounts, and has grossed approximately $900 million (far exceeding its $21.4 budget), and made it to No. 1 on Netflix’s Top 10 list in 94 countries. The show has even been claimed as Netflix’s “biggest release ever.” So does this show live up to the hype? The short answer is yes. Yes it does. The longer answer is yes, due to its fast paced intensity, intricate plot and development, lovable characters, stunning visuals, depressingly real themes, and yes, attractive actors. However, despite the cinematic elements, Squid Game has chillingly grounded real life implications and themes.


The first episode of Squid Game opens with Seong Gi-hun, a financially-strained man living with his elderly mother and unable to be a reliable father to his young daughter. We are also introduced to Cho Sang-woo, a former prodigy turned corrupt banker about to go down for his crimes, Kang Sae-Byeok, a North Korean defector desperately trying to scrape up enough money to rescue her mother from the North and build a life for her family, Ali Abdul, a young Pakistani man trying to provide for his wife and baby, Han Mi-nyeo, a smart but unpredictable woman willing to do whatever it takes to survive, and Oh Il-nam, an old man who wants to relive the joyous days of his youth. From the first episode, Gi-hun is shown to be a character who just can’t help but prioritize money over his relationships and his morality. This is a recurring theme with nearly every character sacrificing their humanity for the sake of survival and the cash prize at the end.  


In the second episode, after it has been revealed that the losers of each game lose their lives as well, the players are given the option to vote on whether or not they would like to continue playing or terminate the games. At first, the answer seems clear. But before the vote, the players are shown the actual value of the prize money. A giant piggy bank lowers from the ceiling and begins to fill up with cash. In that moment, you can almost see everyone’s eyes turn into giant money signs. Han Mi-nyeo, who was previously the biggest advocate for leaving the game, does a complete 180° and votes to continue the game. Despite knowing that continuing could mean death, and thus leaving her newly born baby, she still votes to stay. While initially the viewer looks down on Mi-nyeo for this, the chilling similarities between the games and the real world soon become apparent, we begin to feel the nagging sensation that as unlikable as she may be, maybe Mi-nyeo wasn’t too far off. Just like the games, the real world is harsh, cutthroat, and unforgiving. The only difference is that in real life it’s a bit less obvious. 


Squid Games is only an exaggerated version of our modern, competitive capitalistic society. In the games, one often has to compromise their morals in order to get ahead, even going so far as to sacrifice the lives of their friends, all while the rich and powerful sit back and watch the spectacle from above.Squid Games does a magnificent job incorporating this message into the story without it feeling forced, and while still maintaining the show’s fast paced intensity, one of the things that makes it so bingeable. In addition to this, the characters all have such wonderful personal development that by the end, even the most annoying and unlikable characters will have you cheering for them, and the most seemingly sweet and innocent characters will have you screaming at your TV out of rage. Even though they are all deeply flawed, each character goes through so much development by the end of their respective arcs, and seeing them form meaningful bonds and relationships with each other, especially under such circumstances, is truly heartwarming.


Overall, Squid Game is a must watch series, with it’s astounding character development, chilling intensity, and brilliant message. Squid Games is also a great gateway into other foreign films and shows. Since it’s a very mainstream and popular show here in the US, it is an easy binge and it helps one to get adjusted to reading subtitles while watching in another language.