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Squid Game

2021 South Korean Netflix TV series

Squid Game
Korean promotional poster
Also known asRound Six
Hangul오징어 게임
Revised RomanizationOjing-eo Geim
McCune–ReischauerOjingŏ Keim
Genre
Created byHwang Dong-hyuk
Written byHwang Dong-hyuk
Directed byHwang Dong-hyuk
Starring
ComposerJung Jae-il
Country of originSouth Korea
Original languageKorean
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes9 (list of episodes)
Production
Camera setupMulti-camera
Running time32–63 minutes
Production companySiren Pictures Inc.[1]
DistributorNetflix
Release
Original networkNetflix
Picture format
Audio formatDolby Atmos
Original releaseSeptember 17, 2021 (2021-09-17)

Squid Game (Korean오징어 게임; RROjing-eo Geim) is a South Korean survival drama television series streaming on Netflix. It was written and directed by Hwang Dong-hyuk, and stars Lee Jung-jae, Park Hae-soo, O Yeong-su, Wi Ha-joon, Jung Ho-yeon, Heo Sung-tae, Anupam Tripathi, and Kim Joo-ryoung.[2] In Squid Game, a group of 456 people from all walks of life are invited to play a series of children games with life-threatening consequences to have a chance to win a 45.6 billion (US$38.7 million) prize.[3][4]

Squid Game was released worldwide on September 17, 2021, and distributed by Netflix.[5][6] The show received generally positive reviews, and within a week was one of Netflix's most watched programs in several regional markets.

Cast and characters

Main cast

Numbers in parentheses denote the character's assigned number in the Squid Game.

  • Lee Jung-jae as Seong Gi-hun (456),[7] a chauffeur and a gambling addict, he lives with his mother and struggles to financially support his daughter. He participates in the Game to settle his many debts.
  • Park Hae-soo as Cho Sang-woo (218),[7] the head of the investment team at a securities company, he is a junior to Gi-hun and was a gifted student who studied at Seoul National University, but is now wanted by the police for stealing money from his clients.
  • Jung Ho-yeon as Kang Sae-byeok (067),[8] a North Korean defector who enters the Game to pay for a broker to find and retrieve her surviving family members who are still across the border.
  • O Yeong-su as Oh Il-nam (001),[9] an elderly man with a brain tumor who prefers playing the Game as opposed to waiting to die in the outside world.
  • Heo Sung-tae as Jang Deok-su (101),[10] a gangster who enters the Game to settle his massive gambling debts.
  • Anupam Tripathi as Abdul Ali (199),[9] a foreign worker from Pakistan who enters the Game to provide for his young family after his employer refuses to pay him for months.
  • Kim Joo-ryoung as Han Mi-nyeo (212),[11] a mysterious and manipulative woman who claims to be a poor single mother.
  • Wi Ha-joon as Hwang Jun-ho,[12] a police officer who sneaks into the Game as a guard to find his missing brother.

Supporting cast

Game participants

  • Yoo Sung-joo as Byeong-gi (111),[13] a doctor who secretly works with a group of corrupt guards to traffic the organs of dead participants in exchange for information on upcoming games.
  • Lee Yoo-mi as Ji-yeong (240),[14] a young woman who was just released from prison after killing her abusive father.
  • Kim Si-hyun as Player 244, a pastor who rediscovers his faith during the Game.
  • Lee Sang-hee as Player 017,[15] a glass-maker with more than 30 years experience.
  • Kim Yun-tae as Player 069, a player who joins the Game with his wife, Player 070.
  • Lee Ji-ha as Player 070,[16] a player who joins the Game with her husband, Player 069.
  • Kwak Ja-hyoung as Player 278, a player who joins Deok-su's group and acts as his henchman.
  • Chris Chan as Player 276,[17] a player who joins Seong Gi-hun's group in the Tug of War round.

Others

  • Kim Young-ok as Gi-hun's mother[18]
  • Cho Ah-in as Seong Ga-yeong, Gi-hun's daughter
  • Kang Mal-geum as Gi-hun's ex-wife and Ga-yeong's mother[18]
  • Park Hye-jin as Sang-woo's mother
  • Park Si-wan as Kang Cheol / Sae-byeok's brother

Special appearances

  • Gong Yoo as a salesman who recruits participants for the Game (Episodes 1 and 9)[19]
  • Lee Byung-hun as The Front Man (Episodes 8–9)[20]
  • Lee Jung-jun as Guard (Episode 3)[21]

English cast (dubbing)

Episodes

No.TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal release date
1"Red Light, Green Light (무궁화 꽃이 피던 날)[a]"Hwang Dong-hyukHwang Dong-hyukSeptember 17, 2021 (2021-09-17)
Seong Gi-hun is down on his luck, having accumulated enormous debts with loan sharks. While at a train station, he is asked by a well-dressed man to play a game of ddakji for money. After playing, the man gives Gi-hun a card, inviting him to play games with higher stakes. Gi-hun accepts and is taken, while unconscious, to a mysterious location with 455 other players who awaken in a dormitory and are identified by numbers on their clothes. The location is managed by masked staff and overseen by the Front Man, also masked. The players are all in similarly dire financial straits and will be given billions of won in prize money if they win six games over six days. Gi-hun befriends Player 001, an elderly man, and recognizes among the players Cho Sang-woo, a former classmate and businessman, and Player 067, a pickpocket who stole his money. The first game is Red Light, Green Light, where those who lose are gunned down on the spot. Gi-hun, though terrified, is encouraged by Sang-woo to play, and is saved from falling by Player 199. All three are able to complete the game.
2"Hell (지옥)"Hwang Dong-hyukHwang Dong-hyukSeptember 17, 2021 (2021-09-17)
More than half the players were killed in the first game, and some survivors beg to leave. According to the third clause of the game's agreement, if the majority agree to end the games, all players will be sent home. The players vote, and Player 001's deciding vote has all of them sent home safely. Upon returning, Gi-hun goes to the police but no one believes his story except Detective Hwang Jun-ho, whose missing brother received the same card as Gi-hun. The game staff give the players the chance to resume playing, and many return, including: Gi-hun, whose mother needs a medical procedure; Sang-woo, who is about to be arrested for financial fraud; Player 001, who feels he has nothing to live for; Player 067, who wants to smuggle her parents out of North Korea; Player 199, who attacked his employer for withholding wages; and Player 101, a gangster on the run. Jun-ho secretly follows Gi-hun when he is picked up by the game staff.
3"The Man with the Umbrella (우산을 쓴 남자)"Hwang Dong-hyukHwang Dong-hyukSeptember 17, 2021 (2021-09-17)
Jun-ho hides among the masked staff as they travel to the game's island location. After waking up in the dorms, the players are more prepared and start forming alliances. Gi-hun, Sang-woo, Player 001, and Player 199 team up, and note that most players returned, including Player 212, who was the first to beg to leave. Player 067 sneaks into the vents and observes staff workers in a kitchen. In the second game, the players are to pick a stamped shape out of a sugar honeycomb snack. Sang-woo identifies the game quickly, using information from Player 067, but does not warn his teammates and picks the simplest shape for himself. Gi-hun completes the game despite having the highest difficulty shape, an umbrella, by licking the honeycomb to melt it. Player 212 helps Deok-su complete the game with a smuggled lighter. A player takes a higher-ranked staff member hostage before killing himself; the staff member is killed, and Jun-ho takes the new mask.
4"Stick to the Team (쫄려도 편먹기)"Hwang Dong-hyukHwang Dong-hyukSeptember 17, 2021 (2021-09-17)
Player 111, a doctor, is given information of each game beforehand, and is working with a handful of staff to harvest organs from the dead players. He joins Deok-su's team by offering game info. Gi-hun realizes that Sang-woo could have helped their team in the previous game. The staff foment discord among the players and Deok-su kills another player, which only results in the prize money being increased. After lights out, a riot erupts and numerous players are killed. Player 067 joins Gi-hun's team, who protect her from Deok-su's gang. When Player 001 begs everyone to stop, the Front Man has the soldiers end the riot. Gi-hun's team exchange names: Player 199 is Ali Abdul, and Player 067 is Kang Sae-byeok. Player 001, who has a brain tumor, seems to have trouble speaking and remembering his name. After lights out, the guard in the room next to Jun-ho coughs in Morse code. In the third game, players are told to form groups of ten. Deok-su, knowing that the upcoming game is tug of war, picks strong men and rejects Player 212, Han Mi-nyeo, who has to join Gi-hun's team of weaker players.
5"A Fair World (평등한 세상)"Hwang Dong-hyukHwang Dong-hyukSeptember 17, 2021 (2021-09-17)
Gi-hun's team win their tug of war match using Player 001 and Sang-woo's strategies, but most of them are unnerved at having to kill the opposing team. Expecting another riot, Gi-hun's team builds a barricade, which Deok-su mocks until Gi-hun points out that Deok-su's teammates have to turn on him sooner or later. That night Gi-hun's teammates take turns on watch, but Deok-su's team does not attack. Jun-ho learns about the conspiracy with Player 111 for black market organ harvesting, but the conspiracy ends when the Front Man catches them. Front Man executes the remaining members of the conspiracy, including Player 111, and has a facility-wide manhunt for Jun-ho. Jun-ho breaks into the Front Man's office and learns that the game has been running for over 30 years, and that his brother, Hwang In-ho, was the winner in 2015.
6"Gganbu (깐부)"Hwang Dong-hyukHwang Dong-hyukSeptember 17, 2021 (2021-09-17)
Jun-ho secretly watches the Front Man receive a call, saying that all will be settled before the VIPs arrive. For the fourth game, players are told to pair up. Sang-woo is with Ali, Gi-hun with Player 001, and Sae-byeok with Player 240. As there are an odd number of players, Mi-nyeo is last woman standing and taken away. In the game, everyone is told to play a marble game of their choice against their partner, and whoever gets all their partner's marbles within 30 minutes will win. Sae-byeok and Player 240, Ji-yeong, agree to play a simple all-or-nothing game, but after talking about their lives Ji-yeong decides Sae-byeok has more to live for and lets her win. Sang-woo almost loses, but tricks Ali into giving up his marbles and wins. Gi-hun, about to lose a betting game to Player 001, turns it around by using Player 001's failing memory against him. Player 001 reveals that he knew that Gi-hun was tricking him the whole time despite his failing condition, but allows Gi-hun to win anyway. Before being killed, Player 001 says that his name is Oh Il-nam.
7"VIPS"Hwang Dong-hyukHwang Dong-hyukSeptember 17, 2021 (2021-09-17)
The players return to the dorm where Mi-nyeo is waiting, having been allowed to sit out the game. Player 069, who beat his wife in the marble game, dies by suicide. The VIPs arrive and are welcomed by the Front Man on behalf of his boss, the host. The VIPs are wealthy patrons who gamble on the games. Jun-ho takes a worker's place and one of the VIPs attempts to have sex with him, but Jun-ho interrogates the VIP for info and escapes the island with a scuba kit. In the fifth game the players, in predetermined order, have 16 minutes to cross a bridge with panels of either tempered or normal glass. The players at the front die off as the panels are tested. When Deok-su gets to the front of the line, he refuses to move; Mi-nyeo grabs him and they fall together. With four players left, Sang-woo pushes Player 017, killing him to reveal the last trick panel. Gi-hun, Sang-woo and Sae-byeok complete the game.
8"Front Man (프론트맨)"Hwang Dong-hyukHwang Dong-hyukSeptember 17, 2021 (2021-09-17)
As finalists, Gi-hun, Sang-woo and Sae-byeok are given a change of clothes, a fancy dinner, and a knife. After lights out, Gi-hun asks Sae-byeok that they team up against Sang-woo, but Sae-byeok was injured in the stepping stones game and suggests that they promise to help each other's loved ones if they win the game instead. Sae-byeok's injuries worsen and Gi-hun runs to get help, but when the staff arrive Sae-byeok is dead; Sang-woo took the opportunity to stab her when Gi-hun was away. Jun-ho makes it onto another island and calls his chief, but the reception is poor. Front Man and his soldiers hunt Jun-ho down, and Front Man reveals himself to be In-ho, Jun-ho's brother. In-ho shoots Jun-ho and lets him fall into the sea.
9"One Lucky Day (운수좋은날)[b]"Hwang Dong-hyukHwang Dong-hyukSeptember 17, 2021 (2021-09-17)
The sixth and final game is the Squid game, with Gi-hun on offense and Sang-woo on defense. Gi-hun beats Sang-woo, but refuses to complete the game. He invokes the third clause to end the game, but Sang-woo stabs himself and asks Gi-hun to use the prize money to help Sang-woo's mother. Gi-hun returns home to find that his mother has died. A year later, Gi-hun is still traumatized by his experience and has barely touched his prize money. One night he receives a gold game invitation card, and in answering it finds Player 001, Oh Il-nam, still alive but dying. Il-nam is one of the VIPs, the "Host" (who co-ran the game alongside the Front Man, In-ho), and the mastermind behind the game operation, which was made to entertain the bored super rich like himself. Il-nam explains that both the poverty-stricken and uber-wealthy lead monotonous lives and he was trying to find a way to derive enjoyment from life. He was also testing whether humanity had any innate goodness left in it, reminding Gi-hun that despite witnessing the bloodshed in the initial game, he and the other participants still returned and sacrificed each other's lives for the sake of earning the prize money for themselves. The specific games are based on Il-nam's childhood memories, and he decided to participate himself for nostalgia's sake. Il-nam asks Gi-hun to play one last game with him, another test to see if humanity has goodness left in it – whether anyone will help a drunk man on the street before midnight; Gi-hun wins but Il-nam dies, though presumably not before he witnesses his loss. Gi-hun snaps out of his stupor and fulfils his promises: he gets Sae-byeok's brother out of the orphanage and gives Sang-woo's mother his share of the prize money. Gi-hun is about to leave the country to reconnect with his daughter, but on the way sees someone playing ddakji with the same game recruiter who invited him. Gi-hun takes the man's card and calls the number, now determined to find out who they are.

Production

Development

Hwang says he originally developed the script in 2008 when he was in a bad financial situation and living in a Manhwabang, reading books such as Liar Game and Gambling Apocalypse: Kaiji; however, he feared the storyline was "too grotesque and complex" at the time.[23] Regarding his return to the project, he commented, "It's a sad story. But the reason why I returned to the project is because the world nowadays has transformed to a place where these unbelievable survival stories are so fitting, and found that this is the time when people will find these stories intriguing."[23] The character of Gi-hun was inspired by the people who organized the SsangYong Motor labor strike of 2009 [ko] against mass layoffs.[24]

On September 2, 2019, Netflix announced through a press release that it would create another Korean original series, initially titled Round Six, to be written and produced by Hwang Dong-hyuk. The story is inspired by a popular Korean children's game from the 1970s and 1980s known as squid game.[25][26] Hwang stated, "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. But I wanted it to use the kind of characters we’ve all met in real life."[27] Hwang wrote all of the series himself, taking nearly six months to write the first two episodes alone, after which he turned to friends to get input on moving forward.[27] Hwang mentioned that he has no immediate plans to write a sequel to Squid Game, stating that he did not have well-developed plans for a follow-up story and if he were to write one, he would likely have a staff of writers and directors to help.[27]

Casting for the series was confirmed on June 17, 2020.[28]

Music

Squid Game
Soundtrack album
ReleasedSeptember 17, 2021 (2021-09-17)
GenreSoundtrack
Length69:49
Language
  • Korean
  • English
Label

The soundtrack was released on September 17, 2021.[29]

Squid Game track listing
No.TitleMusicArtistLength
1."Way Back Then"Jung Jae-ilJung Jae-il2:31
2."Round I"Jung Jae-ilJung Jae-il1:19
3."The Rope Is Tied"Jung Jae-ilJung Jae-il3:18
4."Pink Soldiers"23230:38
5."Hostage Crisis"23232:22
6."I Remember My Name"Jung Jae-il 3:13
7."Unfolded..."Jung Jae-il 2:38
8."Needles and Dalgona"Park Min-ju 3:44
9."The Fat and the Rats"Park Min-ju 1:52
10."It Hurts So Bad"Jung Jae-il 1:13
11."Delivery"23 4:55
12."Dead End"23 5:25
13."Round VI"Jung Jae-il 5:54
14."Wife, Husband and 4.56 Billion"Jung Jae-il 4:26
15."Murder Without Violence"Park Min-ju 1:53
16."Slaughterhouse III"Jung Jae-il 8:16
17."Owe"Jung Jae-il 2:26
18."Uh..."Jung Jae-il 3:38
19."Dawn"Jung Jae-il 6:41
20."Let's Go Out Tonight"Jung Jae-il 3:27
Total length:69:49

Marketing

In the Philippines, a replica of the doll used in the show was exhibited on Ortigas Avenue in Quezon City in September 2021.[30]

A more complete set replica was exhibited at the Itaewon station in Seoul. However, the exhibit was prematurely closed due to COVID-19 quarantine regulation concerns.[31]

Reception

Public response

The series became the first Korean drama to top Netflix's top 10 weekly most-watched TV show charts globally. It reached No. 1 in 90 countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom.[32][33][34] Hwang believed that the popularity was due "by the irony that hopeless grownups risk their lives to win a kids' game", as well as the familiarity and simplicity of the games that allowed the show to focus on characterization.[35] The diversity of the characters that play the Squid Game, drawing from different walks of lower- and middle-class life, also helps draw audiences to watch as many could find sympathy in one or more of the characters.[35]

In South Korea, the popularity of Squid Game led to a surge of network traffic which caused SK Broadband to file a lawsuit against Netflix, seeking monetary damages to pay for increased broadband usage and maintenance costs associated with the program.[36] One of the phone numbers used in the show belonged to a private residence, and the man reported receiving up to 4,000 calls each day from people, several who claim interest in actually playing in a real-life version of Squid Game. Netflix was working with the man to resolve the matter, though the man has also been given offers to purchase the number from others.[37]

Critical reception

The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gave the series an approval rating of 100% based on 21 reviews, with an average rating of 8.40 out of 10.[38] On Metacritic, the series has a weighted average score of 76 out of 100 based on 4 critic reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[39]

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."[40] Jonathon Wilson reviewing the show for Ready Steady Cut rated it with 4 out of 5 and wrote, "Aside from being stretched just a touch too thin in spots, I'd say [Squid Game] deserves all the praise it's going to get."[41] Pierce Conran reviewing for 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."[42] Hidzir Junaini reviewing for 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."[43] Henry Wong of The Guardian compared the show favorably with 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.[34]

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.[44][45] He acknowledged that he had been inspired by Japanese comics and animation, including Battle Royale and Liar Game.[27]

Impact

Shortly after the show's release, users of social media adapted some of the games featured in Squid Game as Internet challenges, including the first "Red Light, Green Light" game and the second honeycomb cookie game.[46] Users of the interactive environment Roblox created numerous games in the system that were based on one or more of the Squid Game challenges.[47]

Notes

  1. ^ The English title references the game Red Light, Green Light . The Korean title references the korean version of the game.
  2. ^ The title is a reference to the 1924 Korean novel with the same name that tells the story of a rickshaw man initially being happy earning a lot of money from having a lot of customers on a rainy day, and thrilled to buy his wife some soup, only to find his wife dead in her house.

References

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  11. ^ Jeong Hee-yeon (June 17, 2020). "'오징어 게임' 허성태-위하준-김주령-정호연 캐스팅 확정 [공식]" ['Squid Game' Heo Seong-tae, Wi Ha-jun, Kim Joo-ryung, Jeong Ho-yeon casting confirmed [Official]] (in Korean). Sports Donga. Archived from the original on September 22, 2021. Retrieved September 29, 2021 – via Naver.
  12. ^ Jang Ah-reum (June 2, 2020). "[단독] 위하준, 넷플릭스 오리지널 '오징어 게임' 합류...이정재와 호흡" [[Exclusive] Ha-Jun Wi joins Netflix's original 'Squid Game'...Breathing with Lee Jung-jae] (in Korean). News1. Archived from the original on September 29, 2021. Retrieved September 29, 2021 – via Naver.
  13. ^ "Squid Game Cast & Character Guide". Screen Rant. Archived from the original on September 26, 2021. Retrieved September 28, 2021.
  14. ^ Sang Hyun-ho (September 18, 2021). "넷플릭스 '오징어 게임' 신스틸러 김주령-이유미, 과거 출연작 재조명" [Netflix's 'Squid Game' scene stealers Kim Joo-ryeong and Lee Yu-mi re-examine their past appearances]. Top Star News (in Korean). Archived from the original on September 19, 2021. Retrieved September 29, 2021.
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External links