I doubt there’s anyone who has not at least heard of Squid Game yet.
The South Korean series, distributed by Netflix, has become a worldwide phenomenon, in the short time since its release.
This review is probably not going to be any different from the numerous other ones you may have heard, heaping praise upon the show.
However, like many other viewers, I was so enthralled by Squid Game that I couldn’t just not talk about it.
Created and directed by Hwang Dong-hyuk, the series begins with the Seong Gi-hun (Lee Jung-jae), a gambling addict, who is in debt to loan sharks, desperately trying to salvage his relationship with his daughter who lives with his ex-wife.
After a strange encounter with a salesman (Gong Yoo) at a train station, Gi-hun is invited to take part in a series of children’s games where the winner will win a substantial amount of prize money.
Joining him in the games is Gi-hun’s childhood friend Sang-woo (Park Hae-soo), an elderly man with a terminal illness (O Yeong-su), the good nautred Pakistani Ali (Anupam Tripathi), North Korean refugee Sae-byeok (first time actress Jung Ho-yeon) , murderous gangster Deok-su (Heo Sung-tae), and 450 others, who also all have crippling debt.
However, the supposed kids games take a turn for the horrifying when the players learn the hard way that this is a death game, where most of them will probably be “eliminated” by the guards for losing before all six challenges are completed.
And so begins the desperate struggle of the players to survive and win, with numerous instances of heartbreak and betrayal.
Squid Game is, without a doubt, one of the most intense experiences I have had with a show.
Almost every single episode had moments that left me shaking with anxiety out of fear for what could happen to these characters.
Speaking of, the characters are another thing this show excels at.
I came to care about so many of them, including some of the ones who are only around for a few episodes.
Even the characters you are supposed to hate are well written, with me literally screaming at the TV in disgust at their actions a few times.
They are all just so well crafted.
Squid Game may be centered around the death game, but it is the character drama that is the heart of the show.
This brings us to episode six, “Gganbu,” which I am sure we can all agree is the best episode of the entire series.
It is an absolute masterpiece that left me an emotional wreck after it was all over.
It’s not just episode six, though, because all nine episodes are incredibly well crafted, with numerous excellent examples of foreshadowing and symbolism that make it great for a rewatch.
Apparently, Hwang had been trying for well over a decade to get approval to make Squid Game and, in my opinion, this was a good thing because it allowed him to plan out his story expertly.
The end result is various reveals that recontextualize a lot of moments as the story goes on, which left me feeling shocked and sometimes even betrayed (in a good way).
Accompanying this is the excellent commentary on capitalism, which South Korea just seems to be the best at, considering how well this commentary has been handled in other shows and films from the country, like the Best Picture winning Parasite.
Then there’s the score by Jung Jae-il, which is also great and helps improve on the already emotional and intense scenes.
It’s not all perfect though because there are a few hiccups here and there.
The most obvious issue, which is something everyone else has criticized, is the acting of the VIP characters.
I’m not sure if it’s the actors or the direction they got but their parts were mostly atrocious, with awful acting and dialogue.
Although, I’m sure our reactions to the VIPs are how most foreign viewers react whenever an English speaking film has someone acting in their language terribly.
Another thing I have seen people criticizing is the final episode, Episode Nine, “One Lucky Day.”
Honestly, I wasn’t sure how I felt about this ending at first either, however, after thinking about it and hearing other interpretations of the ending, I actually came to enjoy it quite a bit.
There’s plenty of foreshadowing for what happens and it stays consistent with the characters and their progression, while leaving the story open for a season two.
Some are already eagerly anticipating this potential second season, while others are afraid they might ruin it if they continue.
Personally, I will be okay if they decide to leave it at one season but I do also want another one just to see where they will take it all from here.
A second season is almost guaranteed at this point, though, because of how high the viewership for this has been.
Squid Game is a fantastic show, despite a few issues, and it made me experience so many emotions throughout.