Squid Game: Keeps viewers glued to the screen | Sunday Observer

Squid Game: Keeps viewers glued to the screen

17 October, 2021

Squid Game is a South Korean survival drama television series streaming on Netflix. Written and directed by Hwang Dong-hyuk, it stars Lee Jung-jae, Park Hae-soo, Wi Ha-joon, Jung Ho-yeon, O Yeong-su, Heo Sung-tae, Anupam Tripathi, and Kim Joo-ryoung. The series, distributed by Netflix, was released worldwide on September 17, 2021.

The series centers on a contest where 456 players, drawn from different walks of life but each deeply in debt, play a set of children’s games with deadly penalties for losing for the chance to win a W45.6 billion prize. Hwang had conceived of the idea based on his own economic struggles early in life as well as the class disparity within South Korea.

Though initially scripted in 2008, Hwang had been unable to find a production to support the script until Netflix around 2019 found interest as part of their drive to expand their foreign programming offerings. Hwang wrote and directed all nine episodes himself.

‘Squid Game’ received generally positive reviews. Within a week of its release, it became one of Netflix’s most-watched programs in several regional markets.


Seong Gi-hun, a divorced and indebted chauffeur, is invited to play a series of children’s games for chance with a large cash prize. Accepting the offer, he is taken to an unknown location and finds himself among 455 other players, all with similar large debts. The players are kept under watch at all times by masked guards in red and pink jumpsuits, with the games overseen by the Front Man.

The players soon discover that losing in these games results in their death, with each death adding ₩100 million to the potential ₩45.6 billion grand prize. Gi-hun allies with other players, including his childhood friend Cho Sang-woo, to try to survive the physical and psychological twists of the games.


Hwang said he chose to cast Lee Jung-jae as Gi-hun, a character inspired by the organizers of the SsangYong Motor labor strike of 2009 against mass layoffs, as to “destroy his charismatic image portrayed in his previous roles”. Jung Ho-yeon was requested by her new management company to send a video to audition for the series while she was finishing a shoot in Mexico and preparing for New York Fashion Week.

Although this was her first audition as an actor and her expectations were low, Hwang said, “The moment I saw her audition tape from New York, I immediately thought to myself, ‘this is the girl we want.’ My first impression of her was that she is wild and free like an untamed horse”. Both Gong Yoo and Lee Byung Hun had worked with Hwang during his previous films, ’Silenced’ and ’The Fortress’ respectively, and Hwang had asked both to appear in small roles within Squid Game. On casting Ali Abdul, Hwang said, “It was hard to find good foreign actors in Korea.” He chose Anupam Tripathi because of his emotional acting capabilities and fluency in Korean.

Critical reception

The show received largely positive reviews. The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gave the series an approval rating of 91% based on 43 reviews, with an average rating of 8/10. The website’s critics consensus reads: “Squid Game’s unflinching brutality is not for the faint of heart, but sharp social commentary and a surprisingly tender core will keep viewers glued to the screen – even if it’s while watching between their fingers.” On Metacritic, the series has a weighted average score of 75 out of 100 based on 10 critics, indicating “generally favorable reviews”.

Joel Keller of Decider opined that the concept of the show was creative. When writing about the narrative, he described it as “a tight narrative and a story that has the potential to be tense and exciting.” Keller concluded, “STREAM IT. ’Squid Game’ takes a fresh idea and spins it into a thrilling drama; we hope it continues to build the tension we saw in the last 20 minutes throughout the season.” Pierce Conran of the ’South China Morning’ Post rated the series with 4.5 out of 5 stars and wrote, “Overall, this is still a savagely entertaining slam dunk from Netflix Korea, which is likely to be embraced around the world as its predecessors were.”

Hidzir Junaini of ‘NME’ rated the series with 4 out of 5 stars and opined, “Thematic intelligence aside, ’Squid Game’ is also a white-knuckle watch, thanks to its visceral competition element.” John Doyle of ’The Globe and Mail’ described the series as “a brave, dark, ambitious tale, at times moving and at times terrifying”, and added: “Its power is in its understanding that money is survival. This is not some dystopian fantasy like Hunger Games. This is present-day life in all its complex awfulness”.

Brian Lowry of CNN wrote that the series “presents a visually arresting variation on themes seen plenty of times before, which include tapping into the class divide – and the rich essentially preying on the poor and destitute – at a moment when the audience might be more receptive to that message.”

Henry Wong of ’The Guardian’ compared the show favorably to the 2019 South Korean film ‘Parasite’, and used the “present-day, very real wealth inequality” in South Korea as a backdrop to keep the viewer interested in its characters. Caitlin Clark of American socialist magazine ’Jacobin’ also compared the series favorably to Parasite and said that it “shreds the capitalist myth that hard work guarantees prosperity.” Melanie McFarland of American progressive website ’Salon.com’ described the series as “an excellent distillation of how predatory capitalism works.”

The series drew some criticism upon release for its similarity to the Japanese film ‘As the Gods Will’, released in 2014. It is an adaptation of a manga and has a story based around dangerous versions of children’s games such as “Daruma-san ga koronda”, the Japanese version of Red Light, Green Light.

Responding to allegations of plagiarism, director Hwang Dong-hyuk stated that he had begun working on the script as long ago as 2008 and that similarities between the two films, of which he had been made aware during the process of filming, were coincidental. He acknowledged that he had been inspired by Japanese comics and animation, including ’Battle Royale’ and ’Liar Game’.