Squid Game – 2021 – Season 1

Squid Game

Squid Game has taken the world by storm. I think that it has also paved the way for some other South Korean or even Asian series as a whole into the western world. Now, South Korean cinema is not so different from western, and American movies. Apart from the language of course. There are other countries in Asia, especially Japan where the culture is way different and usually comes up with really crazy stuff. I think one of the main things stings known to us in the west is the crazy Japanese games shows. Maybe it’s a myth but on the other hand, I’ve seen some crazy stuff.

But, Squid Game is from South Korea and it’s apparently named after a children’s game. I have never heard of it but I guess it’s kinda equivalent to plat hopscotch or something. You have a drawn figure on the ground and are supposed to do different things to win. It seems more physical than hopscotch though. The rules are even explained in the opening minutes of the show. That is good because I think that explaining the things we don’t understand if we’re not raised with them sucks us deeper into the narrative.


Well, that’s a short intro to the series of course, but we still don’t know what to make of it. Of course, we need to establish a base to stand on and is introduced to this loser character. He’s a grown man, lives of his mom, and even steals her money to get a bet on the race track. Of course, being a born loser, he always bets on the wrong horse and owes some loan sharks a lot of money. Actually, money is a hard thing to relate to.

Depending on which country you live in you have a fair idea of what a mean might cost and in this context, the inflation seems to be very high, which means that there are a lot of zeros in the amounts. It’s hard to translate how much ten thousand won or thirty million won is in your own currency. But the main thing is that he doesn’t have a lot and that he struggles with life in general.

There are some more characters introduced to us in the opening episode but let’s skip ahead. After all, I don’t wanna spoil it for you. It’s actually pretty hard to write something without giving away essential information anyway. So, one thing leads to another and our main character is given a chance to win some money. Pretty much money I would say, but still not enough to solve all of his financial problems. Ok, moving ahead. There is a calling card central to the plot. He is given that and there’s a number on it that he can call if he’s interested in playing some more games and winning some real money. Well, it wouldn’t become a series if he didn’t participate, would it?

The Contract

He ends up in an unknown location among a few hundred other people. They all have financial difficulties in common. All of them live on the lower tier of society. There are some thugs, but also people whose lives have just been a series of bad luck or no break whatsoever. They’re all in debt and in desperate need of money. They’re all given a choice to participate in games over six days and the winners will receive astronomical amounts of money. There’s a contract to sign which has three clauses in it.

  1. Players must compete in the game. They cannot refuse to participate
  2. If they do not participate, they will be eliminated
  3. The game can be terminated if the majority of the players agree to stop it.

I won’t go into the games they play here because that would be a major spoiler. But rest assured that they are cleverly thought out and very deadly if you fail. That’s the main strength of the series I think. There are a lot of shocking moments to be sure. But it’s just about brutality. It’s absolutely not over the top gory or anything like that, just totally merciless.

The Game Show

Of course, there are also some subplots going on. There is some organ harvesting going on. Police are on to them and so on. And, of course, there is the usual grouping of people like in any reality game show. People work together and solemnly swear to protect each other, but when it suits their need they break the fellowship and metaphorically stabs each other in the back. But, in this case, it might not be so metaphorically after all.

But, Squid Game is not just about a horrifying game where your life is at stake all the time. It’s also a story about morals and doing the honest thing. To care about other people or just to rationalize your actions even if it means other people will suffer for it. All to stay alive. I thoroughly enjoyed Squid Game from start o finish, there were a couple of lesser fascinating episodes but I think there were very well needed for the narrative.

There’s a lot of things going on to be sure and I think that I bought a fraction of them the first time around. After completing the episode I saw some “hidden easter egg” video on youtube. Of course, this is just hey interpretation of the show but it seems very complex indeed! I bet I would see lots of more stuff if I were to reprise the first season. But for now, I long for season 2!

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Tommy Snöberg Söderberg

Autodidact film scholar and music-loving thinker who reads the occasional book.

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