‘Squid Game’ Review: Netflix K-Drama Turns Childhood Games Into a Bloody Fight for Survival

Netflix has debuted many Korean dramas in 2021. Squid Game took 10 years to plan and will capture audiences’ attention in a way they never thought of. The K-drama is far from a romance and comedy and goes beyond a spine-chilling suspense survival. Using popular Korean childhood games, a mysterious group collects people down on their luck and thousands in debt. A group of 456 individuals must fight to survive to win the ultimate prize. Squid Game is a wickedly entertaining 9-episode K-drama filled will blood, evil characters, and an underlying story of what it takes to survive in a game created by the rich.

[Spoiler alert: This article contains spoilers about Squid Game.]

Lee Jung-Jae in Netflix's 'Squid Game' wearing green tracksuit
Actor Lee Jung-Jae as Seong Gi-Hun in Netflix’s ‘Squid Game’ I via Netflix

456 indebted characters fight for a million dollar prize

Seong Gi-Hun (Lee Jung-Jae) loses all his winnings and has nowhere left to turn. He is approached by a well-dressed man at the train station. The man offers him to play a game common in Korea. If Gi-Hun wins a round, he is rewarded with money. If Gi-Hun loses, he gets slapped as a replacement for the money he does not have. In the end, he is allowed to join a game that promises a grand prize.

Gi-Hun accepts and finds himself in a remote location wearing a green tracksuit with a designated number. Viewers learn the mysterious organization has gathered 456 people in the same predicament. All the players are thousands in debt. Squid Game’s storyline takes a turn and creates a chilling environment where any wrong play can be deadly. Its players will stop at nothing to win ₩45.6 billion (US$38.5 million).

Childhood games become a bloody body count in ‘Squid Game’

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What captures viewers’ attention about Squid Game is its overall premise. A group of 456 people will compete in childhood games. The Netflix K-drama takes a person’s happiest memories of childhood and turns them into a horror show. Gi-Hun and the other main characters take part in their first game, Red Light, Green Light. At first, it seems relatively simple until one character fails. Viewers and the characters are left in shock when it is revealed any player who loses is fatally shot.

The K-drama successfully develops a fearful atmosphere when the 456 participants start to panic. Their panic results in more than half of them being killed. Gi-Hun and the others soon realize the only way to survive is to adapt. But, Squid Game also delves deep into the raging and ravenous desire the players have to win. Even after witnessing mass death, many players are willing to risk their lives for money.

The players can stop the game if a majority agrees- and they do. Gi-Hun and the main characters are sent back to their lives. After facing their reality of being wanted by police and in debt, they willingly return to the game. Each day is a new game that leads the player count to diminish. The K-drama is colorful and vibrant as it takes the wonders of childhood colors and emotions and gives it a dark twist.

Multiple character stories give the K-drama intense depth

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What will have viewers glued to their television screens is the personal stories of the main characters. Gi-Hun wants to be a good father to his daughter, but his gambling problem makes him a disappointment. He soon learns his ex-wife and her husband are moving to the states and taking his daughter away. This urges him to join the game, but viewers get to see beyond his desperation to his kind and righteous heart. He becomes friends with the only elderly player and is the only one to stand by him to ensure his safety. Instead of seeking the upper hand to win, Gi-Hun believes in fairness.

Cho Sang-Woo (Park Hae-Soo) is a former classmate of Gi-Hun who showed promise of being a good person. As the K-drama evolves, so does his character to depict how far he is willing to go even if it means betrayal to win. Squid Game also includes Abdul Ali (Tripathi Anupam), a foreigner from Pakistan who could not make money in Korea and joined the game to support his wife and new child.

Part of Gi-Hun’s team is Kang Sae-Byeok (Jung Ho-Yeon). She is a young defector from North Korea who wants to gather money to save her younger brother and locate her mother. These characters give the K-drama depth of how humans act when faced with a life or death situation and how they choose to treat others.

The rich prey on the poor with the final reveal of ‘Squid Game’ leaving viewers stunned

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Fans are introduced to the game’s main audience toward the final episodes of Squid Game. The drama kept teasing the arrival of VIP members. “There’s probably a metaphor here, something about the rich and powerful preying on the desperation of the poor,” said a Forbes review. This is certainly true, and the K-drama depicts its well as the VIP guests laugh at the players’ misery and gruesome deaths. They even bet millions of dollars on who will win the game.

The K-drama’s finale is what will have viewers at the edge of their seats in shock. Gi-Hun wins the game, but it fast forward’s to show how much it really affected him. So scarred by the events, he refuses to use any prize money until discovering another shocking truth. The elderly man he helped is alive and one of the creators of the game. After watching the game for years and now terminally ill, the elderly man wanted to have fun one last time, like in his childhood.

Squid Game created a worthwhile surprising twist that eludes to something much darker. The elderly man only saw the game as a game to pass the time. “To them, human life outside of their own and perhaps their ilk has lost all meaning, and, because they have an exorbitant amount of wealth (which is to say power), these are the rules others must also play by,” described Den of Geek. The K-drama ends on a cliffhanger as Gi-Hun boards a plane to see his daughter. Instead, he calls the game’s Front Man and re-enters the game.