Squid Game delights and horrifies

South Korean Netflix show captivates audiences with its blend of gore and loyalty.

A man sits in a lonely subway station, mulling over the beating he just took from a couple of thugs and all the money he has lost. A mysterious man dressed in a fancy suit appears at his side and makes him an offer to play a children’s game. An opportunity to make a little money, which is just what he has been looking for. The man has been down on his luck for a long time, so he takes the gamble. He wins, and earns far more than what he thought he was getting.
The first episode begins with a focus on Gi-hun, the aforementioned man who is divorced, heavily in debt, and living with his mom. He wants to gain custody of his daughter before her new step-father takes her away to the US, and his desire for quick money earns him an invitation to play a series of children’s games… but they’re not as easy as he thinks. After accepting the invitation for the chance at earning a large sum of cash, he is taken to a secret location, and the games begin.
This show includes a lot of new and upcoming actors, featuring: Lee Jung-Jae as Gi-hun, HoYeon Jung as Kang Sae-beyok, Park Hae Soo as Cho Sang-Woo, O Yeong-su as Oh Il-nam, and many more. The show “Squid Game” has been rising to fame, reaching first place among Netflix’s most popular shows in ninety countries. The plot was initially created in 2008 but rejected several times, until it eventually became the worldwide phenomenon it is today.
I watched this show around the time it was released at the end of September, and I have to say I was very surprised with the impression it left on me. Gi-hun didn’t seem like the most ideal main character at first from the way he treated his mother and continually wasted money, but the way he acted around his daughter made it evident how much he cared about his family. During the first episode I was bored with the lack of action, but as the plot progressed and the games began, I was a lot more interested.
(SPOILERS) The show is recommended to older and mature audiences, but the way the gore and blood was introduced came unexpectedly. Usually, children’s games aren’t played with such bloody consequences. Normally, moving during Red Light, Green Light doesn’t mean you’re shot to death, but in Squid Game, the rules are changed.
The scenes were a bit disturbing, but very impactful. The show picked apart human tendencies with the choices of every player, and seeing how each character reacted to certain survival situations is what made me so intrigued. This factor was prominent in episode six, and despite how heartbreaking it was, the episode was one of my favorites. The characters we are introduced to along the way, the same characters we grow to love and care about, are forced to choose between killing the person closest to them or accepting death. Some of the highlighted duos were Sae-beyok and Ji-yeong, Gi-hun and Oh-ilnam, and Sang-woo and Abdul Ali.
In “Gganbu,” the fourth game began with a rule laid out for everyone to hear: it would require teams of two. Everyone believed the game would need strong people, and in turn they left out the weak and paired up with the person closest to them, a person they believed would help them win the game. Sae-byeok teamed up with Ji-yeong and Sang-woo teamed up with Ali– leaving Gi-hun out– but in the end Gi-hun paired up with Oh-ilnam despite his weakness of being old. Everyone is excited and determined, until the twist is revealed to the players. The partners have to play against each other, and the first one to remove all of their opponent’s marbles wins, leaving the other one to die.
I was one of many viewers who found this episode both heartbreaking and upsetting. With the stakes so high and the rules set in stone, everyone understood that characters were going to die, no matter what happened during the game. Watching Sang-
woo betray Ali, after building up their friendship in the last few episodes, was painful to watch. There was a similar effect watching Gi-hun and Oh-ilnam, because the two had looked out for each other since shortly after the games began. Worst of all was witnessing Sae-byeok and Ji-yeong grow closer together and share their backstories, promising to meet up at Jeju island, only for Ji-yeong to sacrifice herself for Sae-byeok and bring their time together to an end.
Looking back, every episode was filled with foreshadowing, humor, surprises, and new ideas that kept me hooked. There was a captivating set design that played with your eyes and mind, and instead of horrifying music in the background there was calm classical music, which added to the irony and shock factor of the games being played.
The acting was phenomenal, and the details weaved into the set, plot development, story, and characters is what made the show worth watching. I think the hype Squid Game received was well deserved, and although it wasn’t my top or favorite show of the year, I would recommend it to those reading who need something new to enjoy.