Squid Game

A disturbing and compelling show about poverty and desperation


It is no surprise that the new disturbing yet exciting Korean drama series Squid Game is now ranked number one on Netflix or that it has overwhelmed the media with trends and parodies. In this series, hundreds of people who are burdened by unbearable amounts of debt join an unusual series of children’s games to win big money. If they lose the games, however, they die. This show is truly horrifying but in all the best ways. This mysterious Hunger Games-esque show was written and produced by the Korean filmmaker Hwang Dong-hyuk, and it does not stray away from tough issues. Squid Game has numerous hidden innuendos throughout the characters’ exciting journeys.

One aspect of the show in which Hwang Dong-hyuk particularly succeeded was the emotional connection between the viewer and the characters. In the first episode, the protagonist Gi-Hunn is depicted as a lazy and inconsiderate dead-beat dad who steals from his elderly mother and gambles away her money as well as money set aside for his ten-year-old daughter’s birthday. Still, the writers make him into a relatable character who we cheer on throughout the games. The writers accomplish this by capturing his true desperation, which we already see from the beginning when he signs his life away to a man to whom he owes money. All throughout the show, we see these truly desperate characters sacrifice their lives for the extremely unlikely chance to win money. The concept and incentive of the games are truly twisted, and the cast of the series portrays the complex emotions effortlessly.

The disturbing and depressing choices the characters make sets this show aside from other series found on Netflix. Hwang Dong-hyuk wrote the show with the purpose of exposing how money and capitalism affect people’s priorities. Further into the series, as new plot twists are revealed, the real-life issues of poverty, greed, and exploitation expose themselves. Although this theme is fairly obvious throughout the show, some specific points get vague. If not paying close enough attention to minor details, something that can be quite draining for a total of nine hours, part of the message can be missed by the viewer.

An element that certainly is not missed is the color scheme of the costumes and set. Squid Games utilizes childish pinks, greens, and bright baby pastels in both the uniforms and its iconic stairways set. The whimsical stairway resembles artwork by M.C. Escher and creates an interesting dynamic when using an innocent visual representation of such a disturbing circumstance. The players are meant to play schoolyard games such as Green-Light Red-Light and Tug-of-War, in colorful green uniforms surrounded by colorful playgrounds, but with the consequence of death. The players are “killed off” until one winner remains to claim the cash prize, an overwhelming sum of money. This game results in a large amount of gore, which for some might be an entertaining addition to the plot, but for those who don’t relate, you will have to close your eyes for most of the show.

This exciting series is delectably disturbing and pushes the comfort of the viewer on multiple occasions. It’s heavy and intense and will leave you in constant anticipation. The complex concept differentiates it from other shows found on Netflix, and it has been referenced as “Netflix’s Best Show.” That is definitely an exaggeration, yet the show is surely worth watching. For the many who are already obsessed and need another show to hold them over until the next season comes out, also on Netflix is the show “Alice in Borderland” which provides a similar plot in which a group is stuck in similar demented games they must play to escape death.