Squid Game: Korean Series Review

Its been a while since I completed a Korean drama but Squid Game, written and directed by Hwang Dong Hyuk, is the type of series that you can’t seem to stop watching once you start. Its raw. Its bloody. Its beautiful.

Synopsis: Hundreds of players are recruited to play children’s games but with a deadly consequence.

Based on the posters and the amazing aesthetics of the series, it would seem like Squid Game is a type of reality show that is funny and outrageous. The illusion is quickly debunked by the trailer, which explains that the players are subjected to play innocent children’s games as lethal contests to win the prize of 45.6 billion won.

For the first two episodes, Squid Game clearly established the circumstances of the players, both in the game and in the real world. This explained why they felt the need to risk their lives to get the money to solve their problems.

The main character, Seong Gi Ho (Lee Jung Jae) is a simpleton, whose repeated failures in life cost him custody of the daughter he loved dearly. While at first, he seemed like a happy go lucky and frivolous sort, he was later established as a person who cared about others. Whether it was his childhood friend Sang Woo (Park Hae Soo), the pride of their town; Sae Byeok (Jung Ho Yeon), the North Korean defector; Ali (Tripathi Anupam), a foreigner in Korea, or 001, an old stranger (Oh Young Soo) who had a giant tumor in his head. Gi Ho was imperfect but he was a rootable hero, even though he mainly coasted by the games through luck and the aid of others.

I liked the character development in the series. There was a sense of “survival of the fittest” among the players after they survived the first game amid the shocking cost. The games exposed the players’ strengths and weakness, and in the end, the extent that they were willing to go to get the prize money.

I liked that the story showed different facets to their characters. The violent gang member Deok Su (Heo Seung Tae), looked tough on the outside but was a coward deep inside. Mi Nyeo (Kim Joo Ryung) was the epitome of a woman scorned, as well as the disgraced doctor whose corruption compromised the sanctity of the games. The subplot of Jun Ho (Wi Ha Joon) going undercover to expose the games was also an exciting addition to the stakes as the Squid Games crew hunted him down like an animal.

The Squid Games borrowed a lot from the concept of Hostel, The Hunger Games, and Alice in Borderland but somehow, it lacked the same level of menace that these films held to classify as a horror. Despite the number of casualties that Squid Game delivered, the deaths kind of lost impact after a while.

What saved the series, was the ability of the games to pull the rug from under the audience’s feet every single time. The gamemasters were always one step ahead, testing the players’ intelligence, determination, and humanity with each round requiring them to sacrifice something bigger.

The visuals were also perfect. The set, the colors, the cinematography, perfectly treated shots for every frame. The background music also held a Hitchcock vibe in its tempo and method while the carnival music used by the staff to retrieve dead bodies from the players’ room was also creepy as heck. Another thing that was perfect about the series? The casting. The vets delivered on their roles excellently but the newcomers, especially Wi Ha Joon and Jung Ho Yeon will definitely be in demand after this show.

Apart from being an exciting and compelling binge, this series was also a well crafted social commentary about humans and the extent of their imperfections. It urged viewers to examine society from a different lens. Were the games a kindness or cruelty for its participants? Did it save them from their misery or were their deaths a welcome respite from their drudgery?

By the last episode, the quiet aftermath of Squid Game‘s conclusion seemed to leave an empty void that needed to be filled. The ending left a lot of questions unanswered about the frontman’s origins. Also it left a lot of room for a sequel or a spinoff. On the other hand, it could cut the story short right then and there and leave audiences to their musings. It was a pretty smart cliffhanger, but not something that I would want to explore immediately after watching its first nine episodes.

P.S. Watch out for unexpected cameos from superstars that will definitely up the ante of the games for you.