Squid Game Review: Is the Hype Warranted?


Unnatee Kumar

It’s been a few months since the release of Squid Game, and alongside increasing South Korea’s candy industry, Squid Game has amassed around 141 million worldwide viewers, rising to become Netflix’s #1 watched show; it defeated the original record-holder Bridgerton by a landslide. With a season 2 on the horizon, is this show deserving of all the praise it received? 

Many things make Squid Game stand out from all the other competitors on Netflix, but one in particular is the contrast in genre. In the US, most shows released in English (and where the primary viewership is located) include romantic dramas. Squid Game, however, focuses on a dystopian reality. The basis of the story follows Gi-Hun, a divorced father and gambler living with his mother in a large amount of debt. When he’s attacked by loan sharks and forced to pay by the next month, he takes the opportunity offered to him by a businessman in order to win enough money to get rid of his debt and take care of his daughter. Unbeknownst to him, this is a trap to get him to join a death game. The death game premise takes precedence in establishing a lot of interest because it’s a somewhat new concept to western audiences and encapsulates an interesting dynamic to a more horror-filled trope. The death game itself is a concept that has been pretty prevalent with psychological horror such as the Saw series, however, Squid Game utilizes the interesting dynamic of children’s games but is deadlier. Overall, the death game concept was exacerbated by its 13 language dub release as well as utilization of 31 published subtitles to get a wider audience.

The actors for the show do a phenomenal job in portraying their character. HoYeon Jung, the actress who plays Sae-Byeok, used Squid Game as her first entry into the media entertainment industry, previously working as a model. Her expressions do a great job of showing the complex emotion a character is facing, and sometimes even her line delivery is not necessary just to relate to a character’s feelings or understanding them. The actors in this show are praised for their work on line delivery, portrayal of complex emotion, and especially stance which is hard to notice but when you do only add more to how the character plays into the bigger picture of this dystopian reality.

The writing and directing on this show is also very commendable. While we praise the actors for line delivery, these lines are written by a talented team and translated to screen in such a well-fashioned manner. Impactful lines from the characters carry a lot of figurative weight on them, and many lines in the show can be broken down into multiple layers to form a bigger message. These metaphors don’t just end in the writing, though. From the guard jumpsuits having various shapes that form the title of the show even down to the minute details like the color of the staircases within the set design, this show aims to impress with every episode carrying its own symbolic presence in the overall plot line.

Squid Game is a great example of how focusing on the small details as they come into play with the bigger picture overall form a better show. The writing and direction work to form a fictional dystopian world that the viewer can truly immerse themselves in, and the acting only works to further the complexity in such a concept and the many layers to how someone would feel going through such an experience. You can only imagine how much more Season 2 will be in comparison. After all, with such a great introduction into the market, we can expect good things to come from the trajectory this show has set in place.