“Squid Game,” written and directed by Hwang Dong-hyuk, is the latest Netflix hit. Even though it only came out Sept. 17, it’s made an impressive debut. One way to tell? Vans shoes, which all of the main characters wear, has had a 7,800% spike in sales.
The Korean drama follows people who have entered a game in hopes to pay off their debts. While they don’t know when they join, it is soon revealed that each game is played to the death. Even though the games are all common Korean childhood games, the stakes have never been higher than during “Squid Game.”
Although the players get a chance to return home with a guarantee of not being killed, many still return, desperate for the prize money. Each episode becomes more devastating than the last as you get to know the characters before they lose. A game that started with over 400 players must end with only one winner.
The show is very tense and highly emotional. Many times I didn’t realize I had been holding my breath until the episode was done. For some, it can be hard to binge because the content is heavy. Even so, the show quickly became the top streamed show in 90 different countries.
Though the show ends in a way that could set up a second season, there are no current plans for that. The first season had been scripted since 2008 and got picked up by Netflix in 2019. During the entire process of creating the show, the director reported losing teeth from stress. He wrote the entire series by himself.
Even with the mass popularity, there have been some criticisms of the show. One of the main grievances is around the English subtitles and dubbed version. The dubbed version changes much of the dialogue and has been said to take some of the emotion out of the story. The subtitles are receiving flack also for changes in dialogue. While the changes are less extreme than the dubbed version, there are still moments that are more meaningful in the true original. However if English is the only option you have for watching, subbed is the recommended way to go and look up what was lost in translation after finishing the show.
Another important character detail that is lost to English viewers is related to character Kang Sae-byok. Sae-byok is from North Korea but she hides her accent to most of the players. The only times her accent is clear is when talking to her younger brother. While someone who watched the English version might not catch this, it shows the lengths that the character went to assimilate in order to win.
Gore and violence is integral to the show, but it doesn’t take away from the beautiful cinematography. The lighting and shot composition is stunning and often poignant. “Squid Game” doesn’t rely on the shock of blood, it uses interesting angles and lighting to keep viewers guessing and engaged.
There are many different themes that are explored throughout the show. Many of the themes could be interpreted that capitalism is oppressive and that the richest people can control the middle and lower class. Whether that’s how you view the show, it delves into the inherent cruelty and kindness that exists in humans.
“Squid Game” is a must watch for all, whether it’s your first time watching foreign media or your 456th.