With more than 111 million viewers worldwide, Squid Game has become Netflix’s most-watched show, and for good reason. A not-so-subtle critique of late-stage capitalism, Squid Game explores the resilience of human connection in a game designed to, literally, cut people apart.
The K-drama includes veteran stars Lee Jung-jae, acting as the scrappy, divorced father Gi-hun, and Heo Sung-tae as the formidable Filipino gang member Deok-su, as well as some newcomers to the movie scene, including Anupam Tripathi starring as Pakistani immigrant Abdul Alim, and HoYeon Jung making her mark as number 67, North Korean defector Sae-byeok. The show follows a group of people from the South Korean working class who have been lured by a charming man to play children’s games for the equivalent of $36.8 million. The catch? Only one contestant can win, and the other 456 won’t make it out alive.
Squid Game combines gory, senseless deaths with childhood games and playground sets, along with straightforward character development and plot lines in order to create a sick interpretation of childhood nostalgia. The violent twists to familiar games, such as episode one’s take on red light green light, keep viewers on the edge of their seats, but the actors’ depict stereotypical character types in such a way that allows for emotional depth, driving the show.
These diverse characters depict the modern South Korean class divide with brutal honesty, with masked workers and a Front Man leading the operation, working as cogs in a machine under the VIPs, anonymous billionaires who see the games as a sick source of entertainment. This twisted parody of our modern reality is horrifyingly close to the truth, especially in the past year where the pandemic has illuminated the warped reality of society’s richest.
Squid Game explores human connection under the darkest circumstances through symbolic costuming, diverse characters, and colorful, hand-built sets. While in the first episode it is difficult to reason with the senseless deaths that contestants are subjecting themselves to, it becomes increasingly apparent that the reason our contestants find themselves at the center of a Hunger Games-esque cash competition is because they were left with no other options.
Besides its binge-ability, Squid Game has become a spectacle of 2021. South Korean media has long been alienated by what the award winning director of Parasite, Bong Joon-Ho, called “the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles” at the 2020 golden globes award show. Squid Game is a continuation of South Korean media’s upcoming dominance in global media, and represents a leap over the barricade dividing American audiences from multicultural entertainment.
A bloody, heart-wrenching tale of human connection, Squid Game is a must-watch. If you’re up for poignant storytelling with relatable characters to fall in love with, and a bloody twist to childhood nostalgia, then Squid Game is the show for you.