I guess you’ve watched “The Squid Game” already. And if you haven’t well, I’m sure you’ve heard about it and you’re sick and tired of seeing memes of people in a green jumpsuit or all dressed in red with a black mask on their faces. If that’s the case, I apologize in advance because I’m about to talk about it for a while. I had no choice.
For starters, it had been so long since I last watched a TV series as it came out. In the last few years I’ve been a late adopter when it came to TV series, but this time I picked it up very early. And once I did it, there was no turning back.
For the few who knew nothing about it and are still following, here’s an introduction. Several desperate people are recruited to participate to a game they know nothing about in advance. The only thing they know is that they will get paid for playing childhood games but, once they begin to play, they realize they’ve put their own life in danger.
In facts, the games are organized as a leisure for a few incredibly rich and powerful people who place bets on the contestants’ lives. And then there is this mysterious game master whose face is hidden behind a mask, and also the people who set up the games and ensure they go smooth wear jumpsuit and masks.
Wait, where did I see that already? That’s right, one of the things that convinced me to watch The Squid Game is its resemblance to Headspace, a book I’ve read last Summer (and you should read that too). And if the society depicted in that book seemed cruel, it gets so much worse in The Squid Game.
The most astonishing this is that, as much as the concepts behind them look so similar to each other, they never feel like a carbon-copy of the other. Why’s that, and how is that even possible?
I’ve thought about it, and I suppose it’s because of the theme. I’ve spent months, almost years trying to wrap my head around the concept of theme of a story, and how it uses the plot while being a different entity entirely. But sometimes you need a practical demonstration to understand and abstract concept, and there it was.
In both Headspace and The Squid Game suffering of the contestants is somehow spectacularized, but the difference from where the punch in the gut arrives is different. Headspace showed us how easy it is to become a freak show in an era when everything is entertainment, The Squid Game showed us what people can do when they’re desperate.
At the beginning of episode two, the contestants are allowed to leave. But then, after showing us how bad their life is, the vast majority of them gets back to the island. That moment looked like a kind of twisted mock for the call to adventure for me, and I think that giving them the choice was brilliant. It was also the same exact moment when everyone of the contestants lost their own innocence: in a certain way, going back to the game after you saw it could get so cruel (even though you didn’t know how cruel it could get yet) makes you less of a victim.
Is it really possible for someone to get so desperate to be willing to do anything, even something twisted and cruel that will probably kill you? And if it doesn’t kill you and you get the money, will you be able to sleep at night?
And what about the viewers of the show? How come I was fascinated by the show, and got to the end through a full slate of gut-wrenching moments? What does it say about me? Am I really better than those assholes with the golden masks?
Because yes, as you watch the show there is the small chance that you think stuff like “well, but they knew what they signed up for the second time around”. There is an episode where the frontman finds out that someone is cheating and “disqualifies” them and “fires” the guards (meaning he kills them, of course) because they “rigged a game that was supposed to give everybody the same chances.”
It’s incredible how the concept of “fair chance” seems like a positive one, but ends up as a parody of itself applied to the games’ context. If the show taught me anything, is that fair doesn’t mean human. There is so much cruelty in the show that even the small spark of hope in the last episode (when someone finally cares about the drunken man) is not enough to make the viewer feel better.
To sum it all up, well, I just had to put a few ramblings into words after looking at the show, even though it took me a few weeks to process them all. And yes, to end it on a brighter note, I love how I found a valuable lesson about storytelling in an unexpected place.
What did you think of the show? Did it impress you as it impressed me? How far would you go for a chance at winning 456 million won?
P.S. I wonder how season 2 will unfold. If I have to guess, they won’t shatter our hearts again as they did in season 1. Maybe we’ll get a few answers, who knows. Yes, THAT answer too.