In most parts of the globe, money equals life. People living in capitalist nations are obliged to organize their lives keeping in mind their capacity to generate money. How can they turn their abilities into profit? Which career has the highest earning potential? Everyone has at some point thought about what they are ready to do, and how desperate they are. It is therefore evident that one might be ready to undergo bodily damage and great danger in return of never again having to bother stressing about money and calculating the cash in their pockets.
This idea is played by the new Netflix hit series Squid Game with a dark touch to it. It begins by giving a desperate person the opportunity to play games and to gamble for the result. As the story develops, many more are promised an uncompromising competition and encouraged to play the games to win the levels with the lure of a lump sum in the end.
Although the entirety of the pilot episode was delightfully interesting (if a little jarring at points), it was the abrupt ending of the first episode and the twists and turns of the second episode (and beyond) that got me hooked to the show. The series is currently the number one show on Netflix in the United States.
If you have not caught up with the series yet, this review might help you make up your mind about it. (PS- there might be some spoilers ahead even though I have tried to steer clear of them as much as possible). Enjoy!
What is the story like?
The premier episode of the Korean thriller starts with the account of “The Squid Game” game, which takes us into account the origin of the title of the series.
The scene then shifts to a household scene, introducing our protagonist, Seong Gi-hun. He is shown having breakfast in his mother’s residence, who is working really hard for herself as well as her adult son despite her elderly age, but Gi-hun looks completely ungrateful pf the fact and later goes on to steal her card to withdraw money out of the bank to bet the money on horse races. We know that he has an enormous debt, mostly due to the aggressive lenders who keep threatening him that they would remove his organs unless he can repay them.
The next scene shows Seong Gi-hun taking his baby girl out to dine for her birthday and presenting her with a well-packed package that he had won in an arcade game. The present turns out to be a water gun that seems all too genuine.
On his way back, after the dinner, our protagonist is greeted by a stranger who offers him a huge amount if he could win a game and if Gi-hun, loses he slaps his face. Gi-hun accepts the offer but keeps on loses multiple times, getting completely red and crumbly before eventually winning once. He gets the money as was promised to him along with a business card and also an invitation to play additional cash games if he decides to.
While our protagonist might have some issues of his own (clearly!), he is also frustrated with his present lifestyle, being a burden on his mother, and failing to provide for his daughter adequately and therefore, takes up the offer.
Thereafter begins the Hunger Games-style contest to survive and earn. The only three clauses that the game proposes are that players cannot stop midway, or want to quit (in which case they will be eliminated and lose the money they had earned), and if the majority wants, the game could be brought to an end.
What did I think of it?
There were definitely instances that made me shiver in my chair, however, there aren’t a lot of gory scenes compared to series like Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead. Far more terrifying was the bizarre juxtaposition of the candy-colored scenery and nostalgic games, with the participants getting shot in the face without the slightest of warning.
Obviously, the premise is similar to The Battle Royale or The Hunger Games, and the wicked master behind that horrific setup seems very similar to Jigsaw (wearing a mask and killing people throughout the games), but you will not be able to predict, despite watching and enjoying those films.
The backdrops are simply wonderful and the choice of music is great. However, it is the acting skills of Lee Jung-jae as Seong Gi-hun and Oh Yeong-su in that elderly role that urged me to move on from an episode to the next episode. HoYeon Jung also deserves to be paid tribute to her portrait of Kang Saw-byeok, who is so much more than simply a rebellious thief.
Squid Game is better seen in the 9-hour film, thus I strongly advise that several episodes be binged at a time. Events are all long and most ending in what seems like the mid-scene. But there is nothing to complain about as they are more like cliffhangers than like abrupt breaks). Things become a little or at least unavoidable given the framework of the game setting. But even if I saw where this program was going, it never diminished my watching pleasure and it was spellbinding to see it play all the way to the finish.
Notes for potential viewers
Though it is too brutal for young adolescents, an analysis of the between the lines in the series urges us to consider the moral perspectives that dominate our lives nowadays. In Squid Game, playing a game that produces an interesting tension between Gi-hun, the main character, and the chilling murderer behind the game. The characters are well developed and the series is incredibly slick for its production budget. It gives profundity to the human aspect.
But there’s much of torture and killing — no subtlety — that can happen free of charge. A number of obvious drawing points detract from the superb performance and the high-minded idea. This series will please the fans of dystopian thrillers. Sensitive viewers should steer clear of the series if they do not feel at the beginning itself because the goriness becomes only worse with the episodes.