The game’s all rigged

squid3Squid Game Season One, 2021, nine episodes, Netflix

I’m late to the party as usual (this show originally dropped in September last year), but I’m pleasantly surprised- Netflix’s survival horror/blood sport thriller Squid Game is actually worthy of the hype. Its part thriller, part satire, part crushing examination of the human condition – its both sophisticated and banal;  a quite remarkable combination. Its worldwide popularity – I believe its become Netflix’s most popular show, ever- suggests that its tensions of a growing underclass unable to get a job or pay their bills, lost under ever-growing debt, desperate enough to risk their lives for a windfall, has struck a chord in many. Makes one wonder the state of the world today if so many can so readily accept the premise of the poor killing each other for the entertainment of the minority wealthy ultra-elite.

So is Squid Game the television show of our times for our times?  What does that say of our post-Covid world, and of the evidently growing disparity between the rich and poor? There must be something universal about it, for it to be Netflix’s biggest show ever. Is life as rigged as the game depicted in this series, in which 456 enter, and only one can survive and win?

Its the old 1970s television show It’s A Knockout by way of the Roman Coliseum, or Takeshi’s Castle where failure equals death. Its The Hunger Games arguably without a hero to root for (we do root for someone but he’s hardly a hero, at one point betraying his friend and possibly the viewer too).

I’m not going to suggest that the series is perfect but it is very, very good. The cast is excellent and the art direction very impressive; the scale of the thing suggests that its a very expensive production. There are genuine surprises and shocks, moments that frustrate, moments that disturbingly remind us of those schoolyard politics we wish we’d forgotten. One of those shows full of cliff-hangers (its surely designed for binge-watching, no small part of its success I imagine) that lingers in ones head for days afterwards. Makes a nice change from that stuff that’s immediately forgotten,

I just wish it was a one-off, because I rather despair at what its success will make it- a major Netflix franchise, no doubt. Multiple seasons possibly diluting its impact, merchandising and spin-offs breeding contempt. But maybe that’s the final lesson of the show- if you’re dealt a bad hand, the misery of the game of life never ends.

3 thoughts on “The game’s all rigged

    1. Might be worth giving it another go- I agree the first episode is bit odd setting up a thoroughly unlikeable protagonist, but there’s a neat twist in the second episode- everyone goes back home having voted to end the game after the first session’s bloody carnage and that’s where the show finds its footing. With them back home we discover more background for the characters, their lack of choice and hope and appreciate why they ultimately decide to knowingly volunteer to return to the game. From that second episode they are suddenly more rounded characters and the series works like gangbusters.

      Its really quite clever plotting and an unusually structured narrative doing it the way they did, but it works.

  1. Pretty much agree with all of this — including the need to ‘stick with it’ through episode 2. I watched the first episode and liked it well enough, but thought one episode was plenty; if anything, it felt longer than its running time. But episode 2 hooked me, and after that I was watching two or even three in a sitting (unheard of for me nowadays).

    It sounds like a second season is definitely happening. Not surprising, considering its success and that it is open-ended, but I sort of hoped they wouldn’t bother — it’s that kind of open-ended where I don’t actually want to know exactly what happens next, if that makes sense. Now, we can but hope lighting strikes twice and the next run is as good as the first.

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