What is a… squid game?

Squid game is a new Netflix Korean TV series. Released in mid-September, it has blown up in popularity with many people praising it highly.

The show is written and directed by Hwang Dong-Hyuk, previously known for other works Silenced and Miss Granny. It stars Lee Jung-Jae as our protagonist along with Park Hae Soo, HoYeon Jung, Wi Ha-Joon and Heo Sung-Tae.

It follows the story of Seong Gi-Hun, an indebted fanatical gambler, who volunteers in a game which will pay off his debts and more. For this prize he must survive six children’s games which if failed will result in elimination (death). However, he is put against 455 other players who are all also desperate for the money.

How is a… Squid Game?

Squid Game is a great show. At the current time of writing, it has a score of 8.1 on IMDB and a percentage of 93% on rotten tomatoes. The show deserves these ratings, it delivers an interesting and captivating story with likeable, compelling characters.

However, I want to discuss some points and thoughts I have on the series, some positive, some negative.

Emotional Scenes

For me, this show excels at emotional scenes. One of my favorite emotional episodes of the season is episode 6, “Gganbu”. It consists of the crew having to pair up and play a game using marbles. Everyone pairs with the people closest to them, resulting Seong Gi-Hun being paired up with the old man, player 001.

For me, I was dubious whether they will kill off so many of the main characters. The game spans the whole episode, which was a great decision. This gave us more time with the characters, so we were really drawn into the characters’ situation and problems, making the outcome more of a gut punch.

In earlier episodes they made the old man out to be vulnerable. We sympathize with vulnerable things, or vulnerable looking things, for example cats and babies. Before the game, it showed the old man wet his bed. We associate wetting the bed with babies and so we project how we feel to babies onto the old man. This makes us feel more for the old man.

These techniques and great, well-developed characters help to drive the emotion of this show, which really makes it great.

Intriguing Mystery

“How” was a big part of the show and what made the beginning of the show great was that question staying unanswered. Like with jaws, it is better to leave the monster submerged so the audience can speculate for themselves because what the audience will conjure in their mind will always be scarier for them.

Earlier in the season, this unknown organization seemed huge. This made it more of a threat as we could not imagine how big it was and what sort of evil, powerful people ran it. However, once it was given a face it felt a lot less menacing. The mask gave it more mystery and made it seem huge and intimidating.

However, the mystery was really engaging, and I enjoyed speculating what was behind those walls and behind those masks.

The Twist

The twist that the old man (player 001) was the true runner of the organization sort of ruined the show for me. Player 001 was one of the best characters in the show for me. He was vulnerable and shy, which really made me sympathetic to him.

I really enjoyed the character relationship between our protagonist and player 001. It was one of the main reasons I enjoyed the show so much. The end twist ruined their relationship and therefore dampened my memory of the show.

Alleviated Threat

The fact that they can leave at any point alleviates the threat of the organization for me. This made the organization feel soft and weak, which meant the stakes weren’t as high. If the characters were unable to leave and they were forced to play the games, then that would add to the stakes and the tension of the show for me.

I suppose it makes us sympathize more with player 001 at the end and makes us question the morals, but for the main bulk of the show this just lessens the peril. As I have said before, I’m not thrilled about the twist ending so I find it unnecessary. 

Subplot

The subplot with the police officer roaming around the facility was the dullest part of the show for. The police officer character just was not that interesting to me as I have seen it millions of times before. We’ve all seen the story of a lone cop taking down some huge evil force.

The cop character was also flat. He didn’t have much character compared to the other characters which just meant it felt so much worse when we were with him. It also didn’t help that I was fine with the mystery of this organization staying unsolved, so I didn’t really want to see this part.

I was more interested in the main plot as that was something we had not seen before with characters and character dynamics which I found compelling. Ultimately, the subplot was not necessary, but I can appreciate why it was there.

Cool Production Design

I really like the production design of the show. This includes the sets, the costumes and props. The sets are great as they are very alike to kids play places which fit the plot very well. The rooms also have a liminal feeling to them which adds to the creepiness.

The costumes with their geometric designs also look quite cool. The childlike production design paired with the horrible violence and anguish really creates a great juxtaposition which keeps the show interesting.

Conclusion

In conclusion, squid game is a worthy watch. It’s an entertaining show with great characters. The show drags a few flaws but not very heavy resulting in a wonderful show.

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