When it premiered on Netflix in 2021, Squid Game was nothing more than another South Korean, foreign language series. However, it only took a short period of time before the it became Netflix’s most-watched series ever, attracting 1.65 billion viewing hours in its first month. Fourteen Primetime Emmy nominations and six wins later, including one for Lee Jung-jae for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, Squid Game has struck a chord for many reasons.
It tells the story of desperate people being recruited for a secret contest. They just need to play a series of children’s games. The last person standing of 456 players wins the prize pot of 45.6 billion won, or about $36 million dollars. But there’s a catch: surviving the game is literal. Losers are killed in the most heinous, twisted ways, often at the hands of other competitors willing to do whatever it takes. Squid Game, however, is about a lot more than terrifying games and mass murder, and it’s definitely more substantial than the reality show spin-off, Squid Game: The Challenge, that premiered on Netflix in November. There are many reasons Squid Game is still the best Netflix show to watch.
It’s topical social commentary
Squid Game is about more than just the game. It’s a social commentary on economic and class disparity and inequality. The game is only promoted to people at their absolute lowest, recruited when they are in their most vulnerable state. They have no money, they’re in trouble, and they see no way out. Scenes with masked wealthy elite white men saddling up to watch the games while indulging in drinks, food, and sexual fantasies bring this theme home. It’s a sport to them and the players aren’t valued as humans.
The show is as brilliantly subversive as Black Mirror. Even after knowing the stakes, players decide to move forward anyway because they have nothing to lose. Society has disregarded them anyway, so why not take the risk? There are deeper themes going on behind the surface story and gruesome scenes in Squid Game.
The story in Squid Game progresses with every episode and each one reveals a new, more sinister and elaborately concocted game. It’s a visual spectacle. As the lead character Seong Gi-hun (Jung-jae) is faced with seemingly impossible decisions, it causes viewers to wonder what they would do in similar scenarios. Is your moral obligation to others worth more than your life? Would you sell someone else out, even a friend, if it meant you could win millions?
It isn’t just about Seong, though. Every character is compelling. As they make difficult decisions, fans wonder if circumstances have caused them to become the worst versions of themselves or if they are just bad people to begin with. It’s an emotional roller coaster throughout. The protagonist initially seems like an awful person but later proves himself to be one of the strongest, most resilient, and caring of the bunch, marking the ultimate redemption story as well.
There’s a game show about it
Squid Game was so popular that it spawned a reality competition show based on it. Squid Game: The Challenge is offering the largest ever single cash prize in both reality show and game show history with a prize pot of $4.56 million. True to the series, there will also be 456 players competing in games inspired by those from the show, marking the largest-ever cast in reality TV show history as well.
Of course, players’ actual lives are not on the line. But it’s a testament to the creativity and compelling nature of the games on Squid Game, all inspired by popular children’s schoolground games, that a reality show would be created on such a massive magnitude. The series, which begins streaming November 22, 2023, consists of 10 episodes. Meanwhile, filming for the second season of Squid Game has already begun.
Stream Squid Game on Netflix.