We like to play some games in our house, like exploding kittens and Takado, but the new on Netflix Korean thriller squid game might just be a little beyond my skill level! 456 desperate and miserable contestants go up against each other to survive a series of deadly games in order to win 45.6 billion won in prize money that can pull them out of their misery. What are the games? They’re a series of childhood games that may seem innocent, but there’s more violence involved than anyone can imagine.
Now we get some really good character development across 9 episodes. Netflix is expanding globally while thinking locally. The first half of the first episode is really just building out the main character of Jhoon. He’s down on his luck, and you could almost think of him as like this perpetual loser at life. He’s in debt, and he’s basically just given up on life. Reminiscing his bad luck at a train station one night, he’s approached to play this game with a stranger. After a series of games and winning money, he’s given a card with a phone number on it. Once he calls the number, Jhoon is picked up by a mysterious band, and later, he finds himself waking up with a ton of other people, all wearing numbered tracksuits.
They soon learn they must play games with the ultimate prize being just a crap ton of money. Now, the catch is if you lose the game, you lose your life. So the way the money pot works is that as the number of players decreases, the overall potential winnings increase. Now the design and production values are just so well executed in this. The sets are extremely complex, yet this simplicity creates a certain beauty to their construction, and the games are very elementary. Still, I think it’s brilliant how the show can take such a basic game, say like “red light green light”, and make it terribly suspenseful. All the games that are played stem from childhood games and, and the settings contain playground themes that I think contrast really well with the extreme violence that occurs during the actual games. I mean, it’s like innocence versus treason, which is unsettling but effective.
I love the show’s concept. It takes a very simple premise and then asks, what’s a horrifying twist. We can put on it. One that ends in violent death. So every game is extremely tense and anxiety-ridden. This has hunger games or even battle Royal field feels, but then they toss in a healthy dose of Allison borderland, and the series becomes insane.
There’s also a social experiment portion of this that is exciting to watch as just humanness comes out. I mean, it’s almost a bit like into the flies. You know, you have people who are left to their own devices, and when they’re, especially in groups, they don’t always choose to be altruistic and honourable. And that right there is on full display here. And there’s also a morality play at the center of the chaos, the themes of choices, greed, even righteousness, and friendship are explored.
Now, sometimes they hit powerfully and times are only mildly examined. This is amazingly taught with suspense, and the show frustratingly will leave us on this super exciting cliffhanger and then go to credits. Now, thankfully with Netflix’s wisdom, the next episode starts immediately. So we can keep that blood pressure up at that. You know, just that heart-attack-inducing rate. Now, not all of the episodes contain games. Sometimes the show will take the episode to build our characters a little more and then develop the story depth to introduce more conflict. But when there are games, I mean, watch out; they’re crazy. And episode four, I think, might cause some seizures because there are a lot of flashing lights in this. It actually started to make me a little dizzy because the scene went on for several minutes. Now, some episodes are frenetic and high-action.
There are others that create their suspense from just the quiet and the calm interactions, and every episode contains some level though, of palpable apprehension; then there are some gut punches that come at least expected times, which I think makes them even more moving. We also get some reveals; they make this out to be just a sick and twisted tale. I like that.
There’s a slight mystery request that’s going on in the background of the games, and it provides a little more intriguing backbone to the show, especially because there’s not really any other mechanism for this information to be uncovered. I mean, it’s not like the players have the ability to uncover certain info. So to have another character involved who helps to fill in the gaps and that also works to create a different type of tension. Now I think if you listen closely to some of the conversations, the outcomes are obvious, but this doesn’t take away from their emotional heft.
There are also other story reveals that I think you can guess correctly. There were a few key ones I assumed which ended up happening, but it did surprise me because I wasn’t absolutely certain of the guesses. I mean, there were just more hunches based on what I had observed and heard. I think a little of the side story that I had mentioned takes away from the main tension as we get closer to the end of the season; however, it’s not like it ruined the show by any means. It just felt slow, lightly.
Like this distraction from the overall game unease, there were points where it actually did kill my nervousness a little bit by causing the story to break away from the action that was happening during one of these games. And I like what they were trying to do with the side story because it did add good content.
It just wasn’t always employed at the right times; then, there’s also a storyline that’s only partially resolved. That frustrated me a little because I followed this character through so much drama to only have it not fully answered the why of their quest. I mean, it made that story arc less effective and almost pointless in the long run. Now, this doesn’t shy away from the violence. I mean, it is a bloody mess and sometimes the gore that is shown, I think it’s cool.
Sometimes it was a little much, but I do applaud their attention to detail and realism. Now I get the sense that this is more of a limited series than the first of several seasons. And I personally am totally okay with that. I mean, there’s a good sense of closure, even though the potential does exist for the story to continue on.
There are nine episodes with each of them, right? About an hour long. So it’s going to be a time commitment once you start binging. Now I say binging on purpose because I think once you start, you’re not going to be able to stop overall. Nevertheless, I had a lot of fun with the Squid Game. The premise, while simple, is invigorating and thrilling; the characters elicit a good emotional response for us. Thanks in part to charismatic leads and some really good development of the main character, the suspense has been executed well. And the violence of the show may be shocking, but it was engaging, and it fits within the story context. I do wish one of the story arcs would’ve been fleshed out more to dive into motivations, but on the whole, it was an exciting watch that had me continually looking forward to the next episode as the current one wrapped up there’s sex nudity, a lot of profanity and an absolute ton of bloody and gory violence. I give Squid Game 4.5/5!
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