If you’ve looked on social media at all in the last week, you’ve probably seen everyone talking about the new Netflix Korean drama, “Squid Game.” After binging the series in a few days, I can confirm, it does live up to the hype.
Released on Sept. 17, this nine-episode series follows Gi-Hun (Lee Jung-Jae), a man who is in a ton of debt and living with his mother. After losing his lottery winnings, Gi-Hun runs into a businessman who offers to play a children’s game with him called ddakji. The game is played with two folded pieces of paper, and, if Gi-Hun can flip over the businessman’s paper by throwing his own at it, then he’ll win 100,000 won. When the game is over, the businessman hands Gi-Hun a business card with a circle, triangle, square, and a number on it. He tells him that if he’d like to play more games to win money, he can call that number.
So Gi-Hun does what any broke man would do: he calls the number and signs up to play in the games along with 455 other people. With a total prize worth 45.6 billion won for winning a few children’s games, the games seem like heaven. However, there are deadly consequences at stake. Players are eliminated if they lose the game, but elimination doesn’t mean they get to go home—instead, they are killed.
Going into this series it seems like a gore-y, horror show, but after a few episodes, the storyline starts to slowly incorporate each character’s personal life into it, and the story becomes much more than just Gi-Hun. While the whole show keeps the thrilling nature of the games, there are subplots, such as the history of the games, the people running the games and an agent on the search for his brother. While I did end up enjoying the subplots, there were times where I wished it would focus more on the current games and the players.
One thing to point out is that the original audio for the show is in Korean. Now most Americans who don’t usually partake in foreign media would probably put on the English dub audio but do not, under any circumstances, do that if you want to genuinely enjoy this show. By having to read English-translated subtitles, the viewer is already at a disadvantage because it just doesn’t capture the same nuance as the Korean script. The English dub version is only going to make this worse as the viewer isn’t hearing the lines with the same infliction the Korean actors give it. It’s going to be a much better experience by watching the film how it’s supposed to be viewed.
The story-telling that these actors are able to do, transported me right into the world of “Squid Game,” and I completely forgot that they were actors playing characters. Their use of emotion and movement portray these characters like real people, and the writing of the show made these characters come to life as each is complex and well-thought-out. I found myself actually becoming deeply connected to these characters. Some of them I loved like they were a family member, others I loathed so strongly I wished they’d die next.
“Squid Game” is truly unlike anything I’ve watched before and not because of the shock-horror scenes. While the violence in the series isn’t in the least bit censored, that’s not why this series had such an impact on me. The show raises a lot of moral and ethical questions. Is it reasonable to kill these people since they know their lives are at stake and still choose to participate? Would I risk my life in these people’s positions to win billions? What actions against other players are reasonable in order to win the competition? There’s a lot that went through my mind while watching the show.
Part of what makes the series so intriguing is the fact that so many Americans have become captured by it. It’s not often that a foreign TV show becomes one of Netflix’s most popular originals. Maybe it’s the intense fear factor that has everyone running to watch it, but it’s due to the Korean drama style that people continue to watch it. Never have I seen such a well-written plot like what’s in “Squid Game.” It’s able to keep you on your toes with the eerie masked figures who run the place and anxiety-inducing games, but it pulls in comedy and drama between the characters to take the show further than just another violent, slaughter show. Without spoiling too much, right whenever you think your heart can’t be broken anymore, it’s ripped into smaller pieces.
“Squid Game” is a show that has it all and much of its success may be due to the excellent writing and outstanding actors. If you’ve never watched a Korean drama before, watch it. If you love horror movies, watch it. If you’re a fangirl who gets far too easily attached to characters, watch it. No matter who you are or what your TV show preference is, this is a must-see show. So on a dreary autumn day, put on Netflix, make some popcorn, light some candles and see if you think you could survive “Squid Game.”