Spoilers would prefer a nice game of chess.

Perhaps I’m just a sucker for red jumpsuits, but I think I first got curious about this show due to the color palette. Then a friend of mine recommended it, and I started binging it non-stop. This show kind of pulls the rug under you. It’s a drama that changes into a mystery, then shows itself as a thriller and a human drama at the same time. Once it has you, it doesn’t hold back its punches. Just when you’re warm and cozy and feel you’ve got the knack of the show, the rug gets pulled under you. You’d better off going in without knowing what it is, so stop reading and watch it.

(Credit: Netflix)

Squid Game (2021) is written and directed by Hwang Dong-hyuk. It introduces us to Seong Gi-hun (Lee Jung-jae) a gambling addict that lives with his mother and seems unable to get his life together, even for the sake of his young daughter. You’ll know him soon as player 456. After being completely down on his luck and pursued by loan sharks, a stranger will approach him with a strange proposition to join a game for large quantities of cash. Brought to a secret location, where guards watch every move he’s going to learn that the money is real but losing in a game will cost him his life.

There he will rejoin with childhood friend and investment expert Cho Sang-woo (Park Hae-soo), who’s been stealing from his clients and is wanted by the police, now known as player 218. He will also recognize Kang Sae-byeok (Jung Ho-yeon) as a pickpocket that he had the bad luck to run into. She’s player 067. Many, many more will join the game and I’ll leave it to you to discover everyone’s stories. We’re also given some insight into the other side of the mysterious guards via police officer Hwang Jun-ho (Wi Ha-joon) who manages to infiltrate them as he looks for his missing brother. One thing is for certain though, a lot of them will not make it out alive.

The games are all based on childhood games played in South Korea, with very simply dynamics but lethal implications if you don’t win. The rules, in their literal meaning, do allow for some very narrow loopholes but in the end favor their captors. With factions of players quickly forming to protect themselves and the numbers dwindling you soon discover this survival game can turn cruel very fast. Friends turn into enemies on the spot. It’s like a guilty pleasure to see the bullies get their comeuppance but it’s also heart-wrenching when your favourite character bites the bullet.

Highly recommended with a reservation. It can be as fun to watch as it can be a tear-jerker of a drama. The violence is unrestrained, so families will need to steer clear. That being said, it can be brutal to watch and in the current climate it feels a little senseless at times to cheer for the winner given the amount of casualties portrayed. I know it’s fiction, but still consider that my only reservation to it. The ending is both climatic and anti-climatic leaving a window for a possible second season. Very much worth a watch.

That will do for now.