*Spoilers ahead for the first episode of Netflix’s Squid Game*
With Asian culture and influence creating a storm in the United States in recent years, especially with highly-acclaimed movies like Parasite, Crazy Rich Asians, and Shang Chi as well as South Korean bands like BTS, Squid Game, produced by South Korean director Hwang Dong-hyuk, is the most recent obsession for all Netflix subscribers. After seeing it at the top of my recommended (as well as everywhere on Instagram and TikTok), I finally succumbed to everyone’s newest must-binge show and tried it out for myself. I must say- I’m glad I did.
Squid Game is a more violent, suspenseful, thrilling version of the Hunger Games that definitely feels a lot closer to home than a world of 13 Districts. The show follows the struggle of protagonist Seong Gi-Hun, a man attempting to make a life for himself and his sickly mother while maintaining a relationship with his daughter, who is moving to the United States with her mother and stepfather. However, times are tough for Gi-Hun as he is in debt to various loaners and often gambles away his earnings as a chauffeur.
After accidentally misplacing his big earnings from a winning gamble, Gi-Hun is met by a man at the train station, who plays a simple Korean paper game with him in exchange for a large amount of cash. When Gi-Hun finally wins the money, the man gives Gi-Hun a card and an offer: to call the number if he wants to win even more.
Deciding that his daily routine will not be nearly enough to repay his loans, Gi-Hun calls the number and is picked up by a van. Upon entering, he is sedated with nitrous oxide and sent to an unknown location with 455 other confused players. After familiarizing themselves with their surroundings and discovering they would be competing with each other for a cash prize, the group is then sent to a room with a large doll at the opposite end. The announcer declares the group will be playing “The Mugunghwa Flower has Bloomed,” similar to the game Red Light, Green Light in America. If the doll catches the players moving when she turns around, those players are eliminated from the game. The group plays casually at first, joking around that they are participating in a kid’s game of all things. However, when the first player eliminated is seen motionless on the ground, the players learn that “elimination” from the game is actually synonymous to death.
Gi-Hun and the others all fortunately cross the finish line, but realize that they may have signed up for the wrong deal. Instead of a slap on the face, they are gambling with their lives in 6 different children’s games to win a prize: a grand total of 45.6 billion won (38.7 million dollars).
This show isn’t really for the faint of heart. Squid Game tends to have frightening, violent imagery that keeps you on the edge of your seat for an hour at a time. Though suspenseful and oftentimes scary, I still really think this show has an amazing plot that delves into the desperation and savagery that can come with financial trouble. You can feel the plight of each character and why they so desperately are willing to play such dangerous games to get out of their situations outside the arena. Almost everyone has a heartfelt reason to win the prize, and it hurts to see some of the characters face death just to escape financial ruin. Every episode is a thrilling adventure for the main characters, and as all Netflix episodes do, each ends with a shock that makes you want to keep watching. I definitely recommend this show if you’re interested- although I’ve covered the premise of the first episode, I left out a lot of key details, as well as all the extreme twists and turns (and the twist at the series finale) that occur throughout. I’m usually great at staying away from the hype of most shows, but Squid Game DEFINITELY is a must-see binge-worthy drama to watch with your friends.