Netflix’s new show is ‘Squid Games’ on steroids

Written By Vince Smykal, Copy Editor

“The human body does not lie.  This is the history of suffering written by each contestant… and this is also where it leads to.”

It is with this statement that the Netflix show Physical: 100 begins.  The Korean game show features 100 of the nation’s best athletes, ranging from Olympic gold medalists to YouTube personalities.  In a series of grueling physical challenges, this large number of contestants is whittled down until the show’s mysterious Game Master determines who has the strongest body in the world.  Muscles will be strained, relationships tested, and alliances formed as these contestants perform in a cut-throat competition for 3,000,000 won ($231,510).

This is the first impression that most viewers have when beginning Physical: 100.  However, the charming personalities of the contestants immediately destroys this impression.  Each episode is an hour in length, and the first half of episode one is spent endearing the viewer to the humble, funny, and sometimes even outrageous athletes that serve as competitors.  A personal favorite is Jo Jin-hyeong, an absolute tank of a man who’s listed profession as a car dealer is hilariously underwhelming compared to the MMA fighters and Olympians he competes against.

The majority of contestants prove to be humble and charismatic in a way that conflicts with the egotistic, often annoying characters that tend to fill the rosters of similar shows like American Ninja Warrior or Survivor.  This is partly due to the structure of Physical: 100 itself, as the show doesn’t have the time to introduce an overdramatic backstory for each competitor.  Instead, the show offers the basic information of each contestant through interviews: job, personality, and athletic experience.  Thematically, this allows viewers to learn more about contestants and pick out their favorites based on actions in the physical trials of the game, rather than words.

Speaking of the physical trials, the show is structured as a series of “quests,” with each one testing a different physical attribute.  For example, the first quest is a challenge in which contestants must hang onto a suspended bar above a pool of water the longest.  Admittedly, it becomes boring watching grown adults hang on what are essentially monkey bars for a half hour.  Luckily, right when this boredom threatens to set in, the quest ends, and the next challenge begins after the losers are eliminated.  Each quest gets more and more impressive.  For example, by episode 2 contestants are body slamming each other and ducking around obstacles in wrestling matches, surprisingly without protective gear.

It is this last fact that leads into some of the show’s few controversial elements.  Throughout the quests, contestants often endure physically straining activities without proper safety equipment.  One moment in particular where a pro wrestler demolishes a buff prison warden with suplexes comes to mind.  Another odd element is the show’s strange ties to the hit series Squid Game, as assistants are dressed in costumes reminiscent of those in the show and even contestants remark how much the set feels like an imitation of Squid Game.  Considering that Physical: 100 is a Netflix original series, one must wonder how much of the show was changed for marketing purposes thanks to the latter’s success.

Still, Physical: 100’s highs beat any of its lows, and with its finale having aired on February 21st, now is the perfect time to binge-watch the entire show.