Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of Squid Game. Squid Game has taken the internet by storm since its premiere on Netflix. I took it upon myself to binge-watch the series to see what all the hype was about.
Spoilers ahead. Duh.
- Episode one: red light, green light
Our story begins with a group of children playing together. The narrator explains that in his childhood, he and the other kids in his town played a game. The name of the game is (you guessed it) “Squid Game”, named for the squid-shaped court. Players are divided into two groups: offense and defense. It basically boils down to the offense trying to break through the defense to get to the squid’s head. Other than that, there are no rules.
We then meet Gi-hun. Not going to lie, Gi-hun is not a very likable guy. He’s a gambling addict in massive debt, living with his mother (who he frequently steals from) and dodging loan sharks. He’s promised his daughter, Ga-yeong, a birthday treat, but almost immediately loses the money he won betting on horses. He ends up awkwardly gifting her a claw machine prize and junk food instead.
While waiting for the subway, he meets a strange man who flashes a briefcase of cash and asks him to play a game of ddakji. Ddakji is played with two folded squares. The players take turns throwing the ddakji on the ground, trying to flip over their opponent’s square. The winner gets 100,000 won (about eighty-three USD). After losing the first round, the stranger informs Gi-hun that slaps to the face can be substituted for the money. With nothing to lose but his dignity, Gi-hun plays quite a few rounds. After finally winning one, the stranger presents Gi-huh with his money and a business card before disappearing onto the train.
So Gi-hun calls the number. The voice on the other end ominously asks if he wants to participate in the game. Gi-hun is pretty desperate, so naturally, he agrees.
After being whisked away in the dead of night, Gi-hun awakens in a tracksuit with the number 456. He and the other 455 participants are told that they are all here today because they are on the brink of financial ruin. Staff (all of which are wearing red suits and black masks with either a square or a circle) explain that over the next six days, they will compete with each other for prize money accumulated in a piggy bank suspended above the ceiling. Among them is an elderly man with dementia (1), a pickpocket Gi-hun bumped into earlier (67), and Gi-hun’s childhood friend, Sang-woo (218).
The first game is Red, Light, Green, Light. Players run forward after hearing the words “green light” and stop when they hear the words “red light”. However, unlike the playground version, players who are caught moving after the words “red light” are shot to death. Gi-hun survives thanks to player 199, who catches him right as he is about to fall.
- Episode Two: hell
Horrified, the remaining players demand the games immediately end. However, the money from the first round soon ends up piling into the piggy bank. Staff then inform the players they may vote to end the games. The vote is tied when the last vote, the old man with the brain tumor. He votes to end the game.
As players are sent back to their lives, Gi-hun tries to go to the police. Unsurprisingly, they don’t believe him. Gi-hun leaves the card the man at the subway station gave to him. Detective Jun-ho recognizes the card. His brother received a similar card and has been missing ever since.
Gi-hun and the other players all receive a second card. Nearly all players return to the game. Detective Jun-ho infiltrates the staff in an attempt to gather more information about his brother’s whereabouts.
- Episode three: the man with the umbrella
Back in the game, Gi-Hun decides to team up with a few of his fellow participants: the old man, Sang-Woo, and player 199, who introduces himself as Ali. Meanwhile, player 101, a gangster that player 67 seems to know already, assembles a team of his own.
Player 67 investigates the vents in the bathroom, prying them open with a knife she smuggled in while player 212 stalls the guard. She sees staff members in the kitchen melting something down in a large pot, but she does not know what it is.
For the second game, players are escorted into a large room resembling a playground. There are four symbols on the walls: star, triangle, circle, and umbrella. Players are told to pick a symbol and form a line in front of it. Staff members then pass out circular cases among the players. Inside, there is a piece of honeycomb with one of the four symbols printed on it. Players are to use a needle to carefully cut out the symbol within the allotted time limit. Players who break the honeycomb or do not finish within the time limit are executed.
Sang-Woo, who had overheard players 67 and 212 talking, has figured out what game they are playing. The team split themselves among the symbols at his suggestion. He chose the triangle, the easiest shape to cut out. Gi-hun wasn’t so lucky. He has chosen the umbrella, the hardest shape to cut out.
As more and more players successfully finish the game and leave the area, Gi-hun begins to sweat nervously. His sweat drips onto the honeycomb. It melts, and he gets the idea of licking the honeycomb to melt it. Other players follow his example.
Meanwhile, player 212 has already finished cutting out her shape with the help of a lighter she has smuggled in. She drops the lighter off in front of player 101 as she leaves.
- Episode four: Stick to the team
Player 111, a doctor, has been harvesting organs with the staff from the players who have been eliminated in exchange for information. He is told to find a strong group if he wants to survive, so he joins player 101. Player 101, whose name is revealed to be Deok-su, has also recruited 212 after hooking up with her in the bathroom.
Gi-hun attempts to convince 67 to join his team, but she declines. When a fight breaks out during lights-out, she decides to take him up on his offer. 67’s name is later revealed to be Sae-byeok.
During the chaos of the fight, Jun-ho realizes that the person coughing throughout the night in the room next door has actually been using Morse code, spelling out Jun-ho’s room, room 29.
For the next game, players are instructed to form teams of ten. Deok-su, who has been instructed by the doctor to form a group exclusively of strong men, kicks 212 from his team. Having nowhere else to go, she joins up with Gi-hun’s team.
The next game is revealed to be an extreme version of Tug-of-War. Two towers stand above a giant chasm. The losing team plummets to their deaths. It’s not looking good for Gi-hun’s team, but the old man instructs them to use a strategy from his childhood that helped him to win every game. It works until the opposing team begins to gain the upper hand.
- Episode five: A fair world
Continuing on from where the previous episode left off, Sang-woo comes up with a desperate new strategy: take three steps to the edge. The other team is thrown off balance, and Gi-hun and the others emerge victorious.
Wary of Deok-su, Gi-hun and the others form a barricade of beds before lights-out. They take turns keeping watch. During their respective watches, Gi-hun and the old man bond while Sang-woo and Ali bond.
Detective Jun-ho is lead by another staff member to where the doctor is harvesting organs. The staff member whose identity he assumed was involved with this plot. Jun-ho draws the suspicions of one of the men. His cover blown, Jun-ho reveals himself as a detective and threatens the other man. Pleading for his life, he tells Jun-ho that the Front Man has a list of all the players upstairs in his office. In the office, Jun-ho finds that his brother won the game in 2015. The Front Man figures out that there is an imposter among the staff and starts searching for Jun-ho. He also uncovers the organ harvesting plot and kills everyone involved.
- Episode six: Gganbu
For the fourth game, players form teams of two. Gi-hun partners with the old man, Sang-Woo partners with Ali, and Sae-byeok partners with player 240, who she recruited to help the team in Tug-Of-War. Mi-Nyeo (212) is left without a partner and taken away by the staff where she is presumably killed. The old man excitedly tells Gi-hun that they are “gganbu” (neighborhood best friends) as staff members pass out a pouch of ten marbles to each player. Players are told that they are to play against each other until one player has won the other’s ten marbles.
Sae-byeok and 240 agree on an all-or-nothing bet towards the end of the time limit. In the meantime, they talk about their lives. Gi-hun and the old man play a game in which one player tries to guess if the number of marbles in the other’s hand is even or odd. Sang-woo and Ali play the same game. Gi-hun is losing pretty badly until he realizes he can take advantage of the old man’s dementia. Likewise, Sang-woo is also on a losing streak. That is until he tricks Ali into giving him his marbles.
As the minutes tick down, Sae-byeok and 240 decide that whoever throws their marble closest to the wall wins. 240 purposely throws the game. She reveals her name as Ji-yeong right before she is executed.
Meanwhile, the old man has only one marble left. He reveals to Gi-hun that he knew he was manipulating him all this time. He then gives Gi-hun his remaining marble because they are “gganbu”. Right before Gi-hun walks away, the old man tells him that his name is Il-ham.
- Episode Seven: VIPS
The remaining players are escorted back to their room where they find Mi-Nyeo alive and well. She gleefully tells them that the staff members allowed her to live, but no one is in the mood. In the morning, the others find that player 69 has killed himself. He played against his wife in the previous round.
The Front Man welcomes the VIPs, who are all wearing elaborate animal masks. They’re here to watch the next game.
For this game, players take turns walking across a bridge. The twist is that one panel is glass while the other is tempered. The order has been predetermined by the numbered vests the players have chosen for themselves. One by one, the players fall through the tempered glass to their deaths until Deok-su is at the front of the line. He stubbornly refuses to move forward until Mi-Nyeo tackles him into the next tempted glass panel, killing them both. She told him she would get revenge on him for abandoning her.
Detective Jun-Ho has now disguised himself as a waiter. He slips his phone into the sleeve of his jacket and records the VIPs talking and laughing amongst themselves as they watch the game. Player 17 is a glassmaker and can tell which panel is which, effectively ruining their fun until the Front Man turns down the lights. Player 17 can’t tell which is which in the dark, but Sang-Woo can. He pushes Player 17 through the last panel and crosses the bridge Sae-byeok and Gi-hun as the glass explodes behind them.
- Episode eight: Front man
Our three remaining players have been given numbered tuxedos and a fine feast as a reward. After the meal, a steak knife is left in front of each player. All players pocket the knife for protection.
During lights-out, Gi-hun approaches Sae-byeok, noting that she did not finish her meal. Sae-byeok isn’t doing too well; she has been impaled through the stomach with a shard of glass from the previous game and is quickly bleeding out. Gi-hun tries to attract the attention of the staff to get her help, but the moment he turns his back Sang-woo kills Sae-byeok.
Meanwhile, the Front Man is in hot pursuit of Jun-ho. Jun-ho has escaped the facility and is desperately searching for a cell phone signal to send his squad pictures of the evidence he has been gathering, but he is soon cornered by the Front Man. The Front Man reveals himself to be Jun-ho’s missing brother. He shoots Jun-ho, who falls off a cliff to his apparent death.
- Episode nine: One lucky day
In the final game, Gi-hun and Sang-woo face off in the squid game; the very same game from their childhood. Gi-hun plays offense while Sang-woo plays defense, and they fight with knives, feet, fists, and teeth. Gi-hun is pretty angry at Sang-woo at this point and angrily berates him for his ruthlessness, but Sang-woo justifies himself at every turn. Just as Gi-hun seems to gain the upper hand, he announces that he is enacting the third clause of the game, which states that the game will end if the majority rules. Gi-hun suggests they agree to end the game and walk away. Sang-woo stabs himself in the throat with a knife instead. Gi-hun wins a total of 45 billion won (approximately thirty-eight million USD).
Twelve months pass and Gi-hun has not spent any of the prize money. He receives instructions signed by “your gganbu” to visit the 77th floor of the Sky Building on December 24th. His dear friend Il-nam is actually still alive, but he is revealed as the host of the games. In a roundabout way, Il-nam tells Gi-hun that he orchestrated everything out of boredom. He decided to participate this year for one last hurrah before he dies of a brain tumor.
Gi-hun finds San-byeok’s brother and leaves him and the prize money with Sang-woo’s mother. While in the airport, he notices the man who recruited him for the games trying to recruit more participants. He steals the business card from the man the recruiter had been talking to. While boarding a flight to the United States to visit his daughter, he stops suddenly. He picks up the phone and dials the number on the card. He turns and walks away from the plane, telling the Front Man that he will pay.