By Charles Bruno ‘24
Upon its September 17th Netflix release, the South Korean show Squid Game took the world by storm, quickly becoming a worldwide cultural phenomenon. The Korean show continues to break streaming records, and is now credited with being one of the most popular Netflix shows of all time.
The term “binge-worthy” has never been so fit to describe a show, leaving viewers always waiting for that tempting “next episode” pop-up button to press. Taking place in South Korea, Squid Game tells the story of Seong Gi-Hin, a man who is quite literally “losing at life.” He finds himself in an obscene amount of debt and losing custody of his daughter, whom he loves most in the world.
When all seems lost, Gi-Hun is given an opportunity to “win” that seems too good to be true: play six children’s games for a chance at a large sum of money: $45.6 billion won, equating to roughly $38.7 million USD. This blind optimism leads him to enter a car, where he is gassed and taken to an unspecified secret location.
Gi-hun wakes up in a prison-like room with 455 other debtors in numbered jumpsuits. He and his competitors sign away their corporal rights, without realizing how deadly the stakes are or what exactly they have gotten themselves into.
During and after the first game of “Red Light, Green Light,” the players are horrified to realize that being eliminated from the game is sudden, inescapable death. The shocking course of the show makes for a nail-biting watch without it being too scary or gory; however, Squid Game is not for the faint of heart.
The series provides a worthwhile viewing experience for anyone who gives it a chance, and it especially excels in its character development. Viewers have justly fallen in love with characters like HoYeon Jung, a young girl with a fierce heart, and Abdul Ali, a selfless man who wants nothing more than to help his family. Even some of the less kindhearted characters follow arcs that show moral growth within them.
The acting is very believable—in fact, so believable to the point that it becomes inherently shocking to see how the characters differ from the actors’ real personalities. Squid Game never falls short of heart-wrenching content that leaves viewers prone to very strong feelings; the show is very easy to become emotionally invested in.
After finishing the nine episodes, viewers will continue pondering it for days and even weeks. Squid Game creatively explores themes such as how money can control the world and even devalue life, and how ethics play a factor in “winning the game.”
This series, in its fast track to success, brought aspects of Korean culture to light. From things as simple as Korean children’s games, to the deeper issues of economic inequality in South Korea, Squid Game gives viewers around the world a chance to learn more about Korean society. In addition, the series popularized other Korean films and shows, as well as other Asian-made ones.
Very rarely do television shows have such an impact on the world as Squid Game has already had. This phenomenal series deserves every one of its millions of views. Its powerful messages, thrilling story arcs, casting, writing, and cultural richness are just a few of the many reasons why anyone should give Squid Game a watch.