'Squid Game' Is Worthy of Its Place Atop the Netflix Throne

Directed by Hwang Dong-hyuk

Starring Lee Jung-jae, Park Hae-soo, Wi Ha-joon, Jung Ho-yeon, O Yeong-su, Heo Sung-tae, Anupam Tripathi, Kim Joo-ryoung

Photo: Noh Juhan / Netflix

BY Sarah Jessica Rintjema Published Oct 13, 2021

Exploring themes of income inequality, capitalism and Hunger Games-esque nature vs. nurture sociology through a South Korean lens, Squid Game has raced out of the gate to become Netflix's most popular series to date.

The plot follows Seong Gi-Hun (Lee Jung-jae), our indebted, miserable, deadbeat dad of a protagonist as he navigates the "opportunity" to win billions of South Korean won by surviving a series of deadly children's games in an isolated arena created by a masked group of sociopathic elites.

Beginning the series with a protagonist as unlikeable as Gi-Hun can often be a recipe for disaster, but writer-director Hwang Dong-hyuk does a great job at providing Gi-Hun with enough villains for him to finally rise to the occasion and stand up for those around him — even if the evil nature of his enemies sometimes comes across as more stylized than realistic.

Characters have a tendency to fall into tropes, and some of the jokes feel off-putting rather than a lighthearted break from the darkness, but Squid Game's palpable tension makes the series a heart-racing binge.

The heart of the story lies in the everyday struggles of poverty, illness and attempting to keep your loved ones afloat financially when you can barely feed yourself. It's a story that, in 2021, feels all too familiar for people around the world saddled with debt — a story where desperate times cause desperate measures. It demands you to ask yourself: would you play the Squid Game for a chance at digging yourself out of a hole? Would you risk your life for financial freedom? Would you put others' lives at risk for the sake of your family?

Although not a spotless masterpiece, Squid Game will rightly be remembered as one of Netflix's top gems.

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