The newest sensation to hit the Netflix pandora box is the Korean Show “Squid Game”.
Starring Lee Jung-Jae as Seong Gi-Hun we follow him through his violent journey towards the quest for 45 billion won or roughly 38 million USD dollars. Joined by 455 other debt reddened souls, their morals and greed are tested with the allure of cold hard case drenched in their comrades blood. Already seated at the top ten table for the most popular streaming show ever, a majority of media outlets reportedly love or hate this drama. Tiktok users post hashtag challenges, late night TV hosts are fascinated and oddly enough Korea is proudly shrugging at the success of a homegrown phenomenon.
Approached by a handsome suit and a simple briefcase, a humiliating game of ddakji gets Gi-Hun hooked with fast cash and a ticket to a lot more if he chooses. Confronted with loans sharks, losing his daughter and uncontrollable gambling habits Gi Hun takes a chance and climbs into an unmarked van. Dumped into a giant playground with adults in green tracksuits, bunkbeds and a giant piggy bank, only three deceivingly simple rules are stated under a contract which everyone signs with a finger print. Like the first day of school, cliques are formed through local associations and happenstance as the first game of Red Light, Green Light takes place. A player is caught moving after “Red Light” is called and is eliminated, by gun shot. Pure chaos ensues as 50% of the participates are killed instantly, strategies form and the viewer screams for our main protagonist Gi Hun to survive. Throughout the 9 episode series, the audience concentrates on a group of participates throughout their journey as more people are killed using innocent childhood games. Set design, use of contrasting pastel colors and story guidelines, gives the group plenty of room for diverse personalities and character decisions that are individually motivated.
Violence aside the series has plenty of Easter Eggs, a subplot that takes you behind the scenes of the arena and it scratches the surface of the emotional toll sudden death takes on the human psyche while trying to survive. “Squid Game” is in the Hunger Games, Alice in Borderland genre but the key difference is its origins. In Squid Game, everyone eventually volunteers to play knowing the huge consequences in exchange for being rich which sheds light on a new low of human desperation. For the players including Gi Hun, living is not enough. The risk of death at any level is not as important as getting out of debt or getting over 45 billion won. The audience gets to see how each person in the group shifts their priority of life verses money which makes the show relatable, captivating and secretly despairing. What would you do for 37 million dollars? What if this game actually existed? Squid Game might be your answer.