Squid Game: The Netflix Sensation

Previously published December 4, 2021.
Squid Game: The Netflix Sensation
Hans Splinter

Previously published December 4, 2021.


The Korean drama Squid Game currently reigns over Netflix as its most-watched show. Audiences around the world are enthralled by the brutal survival game involving hundreds of contestants. Wide-spread social media recognition paired with positive critical reception has undoubtedly contributed to the show’s popularity. In its beginning, Squid Game was just another survival game show, too violent for producers to invest in. Director Hwang Dong-Hyuk was rejected by countless studios for over a decade, even selling his laptop to keep afloat. Dubbed as “too gory,” it was not until 2019 that Netflix approved the idea. Proposed as a TV series instead of a movie, new potential for storylines was opened up involving non-contestants. Among many attributes, Squid Game is frequently praised for its remarkable set design, engaging plot, and dynamic cast of characters.

Upon its release, critics and audiences have all agreed that Squid Game’s production value was through the roof. Art Director Chae Kyung-Sun, heading up the set design, has been acclaimed for the fantastic work done to make scenes feel so impactful, with her most iconic creation being the doll featured in the “Red Light, Green Light” game.

The show follows 456 contestants in a series of death games, wherein the destitute, indebted, and impoverished gamble everything in order to win more money than they have ever seen before in their lives. The matches in which the players compete are all well-known children’s games, such as Red Light, Green Light, yet most struggle to stay alive. Successful contestants advance to the later stages of the game, getting closer and closer to victory. The main character, Seong Gi-Hun, a gambling addict, wagers his life for a chance at millions of dollars after receiving a suspicious business card from a stranger. The mystery surrounding the origin of the deathmatch and the leading organization is gradually revealed as the show progresses.

While the concept for Squid Game may resemble other horror-survival shows or filmsfrom 2010, such as Hunger Games and As the Gods Will, Dong-Hyuk originally came up with the idea in 2008. Wanting to portray the competition of a modern capitalist society and the lengths to which people will go to rise to prosperity, the director crafted a masterful story with intricate subtext. Each character has distinct motivations to win the money, be it for family, debt, or simply the temptation of wealth and luxury. Despite the majority of the contestants seeming humble and meek, their true colors show through shocking betrayals during the games. The writing process was certainly taxing for the director and his team, but producing the survival drama proved to be his greatest challenge yet: Dong-Hyuk was not accustomed to teamwork and had to adapt to a large-scale filming process. He still has yet to adapt to collaborating with others, as he stated that the first season was so exhausting he would not want to think about producing a second without the help of a writers’ room and many experienced workers.

As one of the most popular TV shows as of late, Squid Game is certainly another success for Korean entertainment. It seems like every new production from Korea is a record-breaking hit worldwide; everyone is wondering what groundbreaking project will come out next since nowadays audiences expect only the highest quality works from Korea’s performers, actors, writers, and directors. However, this makes the industry even harder to find success in, which is why Hwang is not jumping to create a sequel to the series, despite its huge accomplishments and popularity. Nonetheless, the show certainly deserves all the love it is getting and is absolutely worth a(nother) binge on Netflix.

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