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What is Squid Game? Netflix’s ‘Biggest Show Ever’

In just two weeks, South Korean series Squid Game has gone from unknown title to Netflix blockbuster. Number one on the streaming platform in 90 countries including Australia, the dystopian horror series has captured the attention of the world, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, the drama is on track to become Netflix’s biggest show ever.

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Image: Netflix

Despite racing out of the blocks with little marketing behind it, Squid Game has achieved the rare occurrence of satisfying both the critics and the wider streaming community. With a perfect rating of 100 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes, the industry has spoken and it could mark a complete change in our viewing structure.

Earlier this week, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos said in a press conference in Los Angeles that the show would “definitely” be the streaming platform’s biggest non-English language show in the world. “It’s only been out for nine days, and it’s a very good chance it’s going to be our biggest show ever,” he said.

So, what is Squid Game and why has it blown up?

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Image: Netflix

What is Squid Game About?

Playing off the dystopian themes we’ve seen in classic films such as The Running Man and Death Race, Squid Game dials up the details a little more. The nine-episode series follows a group of indebted people thrust into a high-stakes survival game played out on a remote island. The premise is simple. Survive to the end and you could win enough money to free yourself and your family from poverty.

As viewers, we fixate on Seong Gi-hun, expertly played by The Housemaid’s Lee Jung-Jae. The struggling chauffeur is forced to steal from his mother to fund a gambling addiction, leaving him without enough money to afford a birthday present for his daughter. In a flurry of confusion and despair, Seong Gi-hun finds himself embroiled in the intense Squid Game.

Brutal, bloody and entirely unmissable, the ‘game’ pits competitors against one another in a series of deceptively simple tasks. While childlike in nature, the challenges represent serious consequences. One by one, the 456 competitors are culled, brutally murdered and whisked off into obscurity. For the last man standing, 45.6 billion Won, equivalent to more than AUD$53 million awaits.

At times, Squid Game is hard to watch. Stunning and heart-breaking, the Netflix show is essentially nine hours of torture porn, with every stabbing, shooting and killing played out in bright, pastel sets, surrounded by oversized children’s toys. Like a dark Takeshi’s Castle, the spirit of humiliation television is there, but with an added threat of imminent death. In a word, Squid Game feels hopeless, and that’s what makes it unmissable.

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Image: Netflix

Each character in the series is positioned as poor and downtrodden, but in an almost Dickensian-like approach, their suffering is brought to the surface through flashbacks are retellings. From the teenage North Korean defector at the mercy of people smugglers to the businessman driven to commit riskier and riskier deals, every contestant has their own sad reasonings for being there. Even Seong Gi-hun.

As the series goes on, the protagonist reveals he witnessed his colleague killed at a worker’s strike. A case of PTSD was followed by the breakdown of his marriage, and it’s here that we learn more about his reason for being, his 10-year-old daughter.

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Image: Netflix

Response to Squid Game

While the premise is dark, Squid Game has managed to bring a level of intensity and interest not seen since The Last Dance craze of 2020. The South Korean dystopian series has been compared to The Hunger Games and The Condemned, albeit with more impressive structure and visual language.

Images of the masked guards in their fluorescent pink hazmat suits have been beamed across the globe, sparking new interest in the foreign language series. According to director Hwang Dong-hyuk, Squid Game is designed to offer social commentary about contemporary South Korea.

“I wanted to write a story that was an allegory or fable about modern capitalist society. Something that depicts an extreme competition, somewhat like the extreme competition of life,” Hwang Dong-hyuk told Variety. “As a survival game it is entertainment and human drama. The games portrayed are extremely simple and easy to understand.”

Considering the series is not yet a month old and is already the number one watched title on Netflix in 90 different countries, you can expect to see the streamer respond. Based on the success of the Squid Game, it would be remiss of Netflix to not invest further in South Korean cinema, a fact that Sarandos alluded to.

“There’s a show on Netflix right now that is the No. 1 in the world, like everywhere in the world. It’s called Squid Game. Squid Game will definitely be our biggest non-English language show in the world, for sure,” Sarandos told Vox Media’s Code Conference in Beverly Hills, California.

Squid Game Season 2

There has been a lot of speculation over whether there will be a Squid Game season 2. While no confirmation has been made by Netflix, the ending of Squid Game clearly sets things up for a second season, but don’t expect it to come any time soon. Hwang Dong-hyuk began writing the original Squid Game script in 2008, so it could be a while before season two is released.

“I don’t have well-developed plans for Squid Game 2,” he told Variety. “If I were to do it, I would certainly not do it alone. I’d consider using a writers’ room and would want multiple experienced directors.”

For now, Squid Game season 1 might be your best bet for dystopian sci-fi series, but it does open up the door for further viewing. Korean cinema has regularly pumped out stunning feature films that have captured the industry’s attention. If you’re looking for something along the Squid Game line, check out films such as Oldboy and Train to Busan. 

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General FAQs

Is Squid Game going to have a Season 2?

There is no release date for Squid Game season 2 just yet, as it has not yet been ordered. Should it continue, the lengthy pre-production process and complex production would likely push the release back until 2023 at least.

What is Squid Game about?

Squid Game is a new South Korean thriller that follows a group of financially embattled people compete for a cash prize by participating in deadly challenges on a mysterious island.

What were the games in squid game?

There are six rounds of games in Squid Game. These include; Red Light, Green Light, Tug of War, and the titular squid game. Those who fail are eliminated, and the pool of money for the remaining players grows larger.