By Dave B.
In Squid Game, a degenerate, but kind father is given the opportunity to change his life forever. All he has to do is win a series of children’s games against several hundred other similarly desperate people. The catch? If you lose, you die.
Superficially, Squid Game has similarities with movies such as “Tag” and “Battle Royale”, as well as the recent Netflix show “Alice in Borderland”. However, aside from ubiquitous hyperviolence, Squid Game is distinct due to its overtly anticapitalist messaging. Squid Game excels in several areas: it combines fairly detailed character development with an uncanny ability to make viewers sympathize with even minor characters. The games themselves are intense. Despite the results not being particularly surprising, watching how the games play out is often a nerve-wracking experience. Additionally, the mystery of how such a situation can exist and why, plus frequent cliffhangers, make Squid Game very bingeable.
Despite how watchable, even enjoyable Squid Game can be, its biggest failing is that its completely lacking in subtlety. An anticapitalist message in a show isn’t good or bad in and of itself. But being bludgeoned with that message in the most blatant of ways for hours on end makes the message seem unsophisticated and amateurish instead of thoughtful and compelling. Further, there are very few “gray areas” when it comes to the characters. For the most part (with a few exceptions) someone is either good or evil, generous or selfish, honest or duplicitous. Such stark dichotomies, when combined with ham-fisted messaging, display a lack of respect for an audience’s ability to make moral judgements for themselves.
Overall, I like Squid Game. Despite a slow start, it eventually becomes one of the most engrossing shows that I’ve seen this year, and for that reason, I recommend it (at least to those who aren’t squeamish about extremely high levels of violence). But I vehemently disagree with any claims that this show is groundbreaking or subversive. It’s entertaining, and sometimes that’s enough.
Approx. Episode Length: 55 Minutes
Language: Korean (English Dub)
I have no clue what I'm doing, but I'll keep doing whatever it is to the best of my ability.