Sommerleigh Pollonais, Senior Writer
Plot: Squid Game tells the story of a group of people who risk their lives in a mysterious survival game with a massive cash prize.
Review: You know every now and again I hear people talking smack about the quality of programming found on Netflix and how most of it is bad. Well personally, if I had only one streaming service I was allowed to watch for the rest of my life it would be the big red N. Because while they may swing for the fences and miss now and then, I know for a fact if it wasn’t for Netflix I would never see half the awesomely entertaining and unique shows this world has to offer. Which brings me to the South Korean television series that everyone’s talking about, Squid Game.
A silly sounding name for a series I know, but if you’re a fan of survival thrillers, drama and Battle Royale-styled action, you are going to love Squid Game. The story focuses mainly on protagonist Seong Gi-hun aka Player Number 456. Gi-hun is a loveable and friendly guy who is down on his luck and, due to his gambling habits and self-pitying nature, tends to make poor decisions that only makes thing worse for himself, his mother and his loving daughter. Deep in debt with no way to pay back the loan sharks on his back and in danger of losing his daughter due to his ex-wife and her new family’s plan to relocate to the United States, Gi-hun has hit rock bottom. That is until a seemingly serendipitous meeting takes place when a man approaches him at a train station and offers to play a simple kid’s game. If Gi-hun wins the stranger will give him 100,000 won (equal to about 80USD); if he loses Gi-hun has to pay him. Even with no money at his disposal Gi-hun agrees to play and this sets the tone for what is ultimately a satirical look at society, the disposable way those less fortunate are treated and looked upon, and the levels some of these desperate people will go to in their fight for survival and a better way of life.
I freakin’ LOVED this series! As a fan of anime, I couldn’t help but see the parallels to shows like Death Parade, Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor or Netflix’s own Kakegurui (well, not THEIR own, but it is part of their lineup). Squid Game will also bring to mind (for those who’ve had the pleasure of seeing it) Battle Royale, a Japanese action-thriller that scarred most people who saw it back in 2000 so much it was banned in entire countries and eventually ripped off, repackaged and called The Hunger Games for US audiences, but that’s a whole other topic of discussion.
This series beautifully blends drama and well-developed characters with over-the-top action and thrills to give us a story that on its face is ridiculous but at its core is heartfelt and deeply engaging. Episode One titled “Red Light, Green Light” sets the tone and drops the hammer with a resoundingly thrilling and heart-stopping scene that immediately makes viewers want to see what happens next. There’s nothing better than a movie or series that manages to make you feel like you’re actually taking part in the events unfolding. And the tension of this episode is so tight, you might find yourself pausing to take a break before seeing what comes next.
Personally my favourite episode was number six, titled “Gganbu”. It’s the one that truly exposes the heart of all the players involved. Even if you had a solid idea of what each of the main players would do when put in a situation such as the one found here, it was gut wrenching to watch these events unfold. And for me “Gganbu” is the point where the stakes were at their highest and Squid Game was at its darkest.
As I mentioned before, the characters are very well-written and for this viewer, they are the strongest aspect of Squid Game. The series wouldn’t have worked as well if you didn’t completely care about them, even the ones you’ll love to hate like the corrupt and selfish securities head Cho Sang-woo and vicious gangster Jang Deok-su. They all play integral parts of keeping you invested right up until the end. And the great thing about South Korean shows? You’ll never truly know which of them will make it across the finish line unless you watch right up to the end.
Yes, Squid Game is a must-see for anyone who loves this particular genre (and should be avoided by the more sensitive viewers out there) but it’s not perfect. There a moments that felt like they dragged the pacing down and conversations that go on a bit too long (just get to the juicy bits already!) but overall I’m calling this series a winner and just another reason Netflix is worth the price of admission.
And after Squid Game, I don’t think you’ll ever think of your favorite childhood games the same way again.
Sommer’s Score: 8 out of 10
So have you checked out Squid Game? What did you think of it? And you can check out more thrilling thriller reviews below:
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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