‘Squid Game’ stuns with brutally high stakes, receives international praise

Angela Lim, Life & Arts General Reporter

In the secluded, dystopian world of “Squid Game” run by masked billionaires, a simple game of Red Light, Green Light could lead to your death.

“Squid Game” gained exponential popularity since its release on Sept. 17, its hashtag amassing over 28.5 billion views on TikTok. Currently the No. 1 Netflix series in over 90 countries including the U.S., the Korean drama is on track to become Netflix’s most watched show in any language. Directed by Hwang Dong-hyuk, this global phenomenon follows 456 contestants in dire need of funds as they play children’s games for a $45.6 billion (about $38 million) cash prize.

The vibrant, maze-like set of “Squid Game” contrasts its cruel premise. Sudden interludes of classical music create a chilling atmosphere, signaling another fatal fanfare to begin.

The elaborate tournament presents high stakes with bounties increasing as more players get eliminated. As tension grows, viewers can expect bloody fights to ensue even during break times, as well as heartbreaking betrayal among allies. Thus, the rules of “Squid Game” inevitably disrupt moral compasses. The main protagonist Seong Gi-hun (played by Lee Jung-jae), a divorcee and gambler, tries to remain steadfast in his hope for humanity amidst the chaos, avoiding casualties at all costs.

Throughout the show, viewers encounter contestants who have nowhere to go, are buried in debt or separated from their families. Within just nine episodes, Hwang creates engaging characters without extensive backstories. Willingly competing in life-threatening games already speaks for itself. Instead, the director places emphasis on their hopeless pursuit of a better life.

Although each episode lasts roughly an hour, they pass by quickly, always ending abruptly and suctioning the audience into the next episode. The cycle continues into the finale, which also ends with an unresolved conclusion, possibly opening doors for a second season.

Even with the show’s great amount of violence and gore, it’s just too hard to look away. The appeal of “Squid Game” lies in the simplicity of its mechanics, combined with the extreme risks and complex characters that viewers can both root for and despise. As the series sheds light on societal issues of class and inequality, the morbid twists make it all the more intriguing.

4 ppopgi (뽑기) out of 5.