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A Look at Squid Game’s Storied Survival

A Look at Squid Game’s Storied Survival

Entertainment | October 1, 2021
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The critically-acclaimed Korean thriller series Squid Game has captured the hearts of many. Here’s why you need to watch it, right now!

If you haven’t seen this 9-episode survival series yet, then let me tell you that Squid Game is now the most successful Korean series on Netflix. In fact, it’s the biggest show on the streaming platform—dethroning Bridgerton and becoming number 1 in over 90 countries.

This surprising smash hit came from nowhere to grip us, bring us to the edge of our comfort zones, and make us question everything we believe in about how far we’d go to survive. Plus, it’s super binge-able and addictive—I finished it in just two days after trying so hard to resist watching it.

If you have seen it, then chances are, you will never feel the same when you hear Johan Strauss’ Blue Danube ever again. In fact, the brilliant use of classical music to signal the beginning of the games is enough to give to PTSD after having finished this series.

From Childhood Game to Survival Challenge

Squid Game is essentially a game show where the childhood games you used to play turn deadly. Six rounds, that is, of childhood games—elevated to a level of extreme survival, where life and death are the stakes, making you think about the human limits of morality.

The show centers around Seoul’s most desperate souls—in the very depths of debt and at the end of their lifeline. Then comes an opportunity to participate in a game that allows you to win money in the billions… instantly! The catch, though, is that you play with your life and the lives of others on the line.

As the game goes on, the only way to win is to be the lone survivor among hundreds of players, who are all eliminated through death, whether caused by the game masters or the players themselves. Overall, it’s like The Truman Show mixed with Hunger Games, where everything happens on a secluded Korean island. And yes, there is no escape—it’s either you win or you die.

Compelling Character Backstories

The show is also rich in human drama, where each of the character’s backstories is set up to make you care about them and root for them. These stories all center around the characters’ love of family, losing them because of their own failures, and wanting nothing more than a chance at redemption.

Then, as they enter the game, their stories are pitted against each other—making you, as an audience, decide which story you value most, and which character you hope will survive. What’s more, there are character arcs that are completely noble, some entirely evil, and most, very flawed—therefore, very human—making you examine your own values, while watching Squid Game.

It even makes you ask the question: If I were a player in Squid Game, how far will I go to survive?

Will I betray a stranger to save my own life?

Will I cheat if it means I get to live?

Do I see my life as more valuable than others?

Will I kill my childhood friend in order to survive?

What, really, is the value of human life? Is all the money in the world worth the life of even just one person?

Artful Storytelling and Cinematic Genius

Koreans have not only mastered the art of storytelling and conquered the world with their cinematic genius, but they’ve made the narrative a deeply provocative art form by creating layers upon layers of thought, emotion, and insight.

All their characters are well-drawn out, even if it is an ensemble cast. Their actors are excellent in portraying these colorful characters, making them the most effective vessels of the story. What’s more, their production value exceeds even that of the highest Hollywood studios. They do not scrimp on anything—story or setting.

The entertainment value is always extreme because they offer new content you would never think of—like children’s games turning deadly and flawed characters being heroes in the end. They know how to manipulate our emotions by creating characters we relate to and building monsters out of humans that when they die, we are either deeply affected or satisfied to the gut.

Squid Game: My Overall Takeaway

Never have I ever felt more satisfied seeing the death of an evil character as he fell through the glass than in this series, nor have I ever felt more sympathy and love to see the two main characters sacrifice their lives for each other—that is human drama down to the core, wrapped in a total package of pure edge-of-your-seat-thriller.

And as much as classical music sets the tone for each of the six deadly children’s games, it ends with a Western tune—a duel, pretty much like how Tarantino does it, making it a constantly evolving narrative experience.

These are the reasons why I think that Squid Game is the success that it is. Because at the end of it, with all the deaths happening around us all over the world (in the past 18 months) that may be desensitized us, here comes a show that reminds us that we still have empathy, even for the people that society has deemed the most hopeless.

And that is the gift of this show—it makes us feel that all of us, as humans—removed from every privilege in life—are at our very core, equal and alike in dignity.

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G3 San Diego is a Filipina writer, an entertainment journalist, a key opinion leader, an online talk show host, a third-generation farmer, and a modern-day romantic.
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