Ah, Squid Game. Do you even exist on the Internet if you haven’t heard of it yet? If you somehow have gotten away with living under a rock (I hope it’s a nice rock to make up for being out of the loop) let me enlighten you.
People who are down on their luck, desperate and in debt, are invited to participate in Squid Game, a tournament of sorts where participants play children’s games to earn a huge sum of money. The catch? Failure will mean death.
Squid Game is brutal. It isn’t just unforgiving in how it treats its characters amid extreme on-screen violence. In fact, it is the emotional toll it takes on the viewer that is heavy and unforgettable.
I’m not necessarily new to k-dramas and Korean thrillers. I haven’t seen anywhere near as many as I’d like, so I would call myself a beginner. However, for many people, Squid Game has been their introduction to the world of Korean cinema. There is something about the ability of Korean films to capture classism and the job market in a way that reflects America just as accurately. And that my friends, is part of the appeal of Squid Game.
We’re introduced to several characters over the course of nine episodes. We start with Gi-hun, a man who lives with his mom, is deep in debt, and rarely gets to see his daughter who lives with his divorced wife. Later on we meet a genius who’s fallen into hard times, a girl who’s left North Korea, a Pakistani man trying to provide for his family, and the list goes on and on. The sadistic games and glittery appeal of money add a layer of psychological depth to everyone. It becomes nearly impossible to guess what’s going to happen next, what shocking twist will upend the entire series for the tenth time.
This is a show that may appeal to fans of The Hunger Games, but is in no way a knock-off. The concept of death games is a genre, not a catch-all. In fact, one of the major differences is that the participants of Squid Game choose to be there. They simply have nowhere else to turn to. Every episode, the stakes rise and morals begin to muddle together underneath the weight of survival and prospective riches. Rarely does the character work falter, and even as the viewer I felt myself unsure of who to hate and why.
I need to be perfectly honest though: Squid Game isn’t perfect. Of course, so much nuance is lost to Netflix’s terrible translations. That isn’t necessarily the show’s fault though. On the other hand, some parts can feel a bit contrived, a bit dragged out, or a bit predictable. None of that was enough to overwhelm the good, in my opinion.
To end, I think that Squid Game is 100% worth your time if you can deal with dark subject matter and horrific violence, if only for the jaw-dropping character work, subverted plot twists, and clear commentary on poverty and classism. When Parasite took the world by storm, I think that many were surprised and thought it a one-off. Now that Squid Game has risen to the ranks of popularity, I think that many will be forced to recognize the complex brilliance of foreign-language entertainment, specifically when it comes to the world of Korean film.
Has anyone else see this yet? What are your thoughts?