Squid Game is a highly bingeable nine-episode show that can be described as a variation of the Hunger Games series (albeit better, less generic, and even more brutal). It is a dystopian flick that nobody wanted until everybody did—with this ruthless South Korean hit trending as #1 on Netflix. I can’t say that it is one of my all-time favorite shows, nor would I necessarily consider it to be “high art” per se. But I do recommend it. To me, it seems that there are two main types of popular television: the cheesy shows that consist mostly of instant gratification, and the anomalies that not only generate insane traffic but are also well-done. Moreover, the show features some scintillating social commentary on the rich vs. the poor. This—combined with equally striking action—renders a scrumptious blockbuster.
The pilot episode takes a while to draw viewers in, with some backstory that dragged at times. But once you’re in, you will remain on the edge of your seat. The central plot is as follows: 456 people (particularly people facing insurmountable debt) are lured into an elaborate game on a secret island with a prize of nearly $40 million. The rules are simple. 1. Contestants play children’s games. 2. There are six rounds, each containing its own game. 3. Each round, those who lose will be eliminated until only one winner emerges from the final round. The assumption is that losers will simply leave. Little did they know that “elimination” entails something far more nefarious: death, which they don’t discover until over 200 people are killed in cold blood. Another interesting facet is the guards. They too are moved around like cannon fodder by the elites who run this sick, elaborate spectacle.
Squid Game has plenty of redeeming factors. The quality of the acting, which I found too histrionic in the beginning, is ultimately believable. The screenwriting is as sharp as it is creative. The cinematography paints a surreal, colorful world that feels like the backdrop of a video game, all exaggerated shapes, sizes, and harsh edges. Also, the characters are compelling; you find yourself rooting for some to win triumphantly and others to fail dramatically. Many of them undergo enormous trauma and transformation, and the actors rise to the challenge of portraying believable emotions in an unbelievable setting. To be fair, this show will not go down in my head as a “classic,” but it was enough to lure me into devouring all nine episodes in less than 24 hours. Granted, Squid Game is too graphic for even some of you who tolerated the Hunger Games series. Otherwise, this is truly an immersive and stupendous experience with some crazy twists that will leave you shocked.