Netflix's Squid Game Is Extremely Predictable and Yet, Difficult to Let Go Of
Squid Game, created by Hwang Dong-hyuk, is on track to be one of Netflix's most successful shows.
(Warning: This article contains SPOILERS)
Squid Game is touted to become Netflix’s biggest show yet, with an audience in almost 90 countries. It’s also one of the rare shows that Jeff Bezos appreciated, calling the makers’ strategy ‘impressive and inspiring’.
However, right off the bat, Squid Game was extremely predictable. Like all horror or thriller TV shows or movies, I refused to watch the show’s trailer to give it the best chance to shock me. And yet, there were probably two minor things in the show that I didn’t see coming. Weirdly enough, that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to stop watching.
It’s not a pioneer show; there’s nothing truly spectacularly new about it. The concept is essentially Hunger Games, except the contestants don’t know that they’re signing up for death. For those unaware, the survival K-drama’s premise is this: 456 contestants compete in a series of children’s games for a cash-prize which they all desperately need.
The Concept of Choice
The show would be reminiscent of Hunger Games and the Saw series, for those who’ve watched these films. It’s a survival competition where people inevitably must turn on each other to win. However, the reason Squid Game stands out is ‘choice’. Clause 3 in the waiver the contestants signed clearly states that the contestants can exit the game if a majority agrees.
That’s the first hook of the show: will they leave or will they stay? Anybody watching the show would reason that leaving is the sensible choice. However, one contestant’s sardonic comment rings true: it’s worse out there. The real world is a system that is designed to make them fail, and at first, the Squid Game seems like it’s giving them a chance.
As the show progresses, you realise that that’s true, if you hadn’t surmised that from the first few scenes. One contestant (Lee Jung-jae as Seong Gi-hun) has signed off his body to debt collectors and he enters the game to meet a prodigy who squandered his future (Park Hae-soo as Cho Sang-woo), a North Korea defector (Jung Ho-yeon as Kang Sae-byeok), and an immigrant trying to fend for his family (Anupam Tripathi as Abdul Ali).
If you’ve watched Squid Game, you definitely had favourites that you were rooting for. It would be very tough to only have ONE favourite, a luxury many other thrillers or horror shows give the audience. The show gives you dark, often sympathetic backstories to a handful of the 456 players. It’s only natural to start rooting for them, in a rather upsetting way, not unlike the VIPs.
Yet, with each progressing episode, you grapple with the reality that one of your favourites (rather, all except one) will die.
Personally, that is one of the major reasons the show’s predictability doesn’t affect the show. While most of the major deaths are foreshadowed, the humane part in the viewer stays hooked, hoping their instincts are wrong.
Would you survive the ‘Squid Game’?
Would I survive the Hunger Games? Most probably not, owing to my absolute lack of combat skills and willingness to leave my house. The very fact that Squid Game uses children’s games in their twisted game means that it’s inevitable that the audience wonders if they would survive.
There’s obviously a higher chance that most of us would bet our lives on a game of hopscotch instead of sword combat. It also gives the viewers a higher chance to root for characters because the rules are so simple. Of course, the rules are broken several times.
‘Squid Game’ is Frustrating to Watch
Frustration might not be someone’s go-to emotion when they decide to watch a show but subconsciously it plays a great role in horror-thriller and dystopian games.
The game’s host keeps reiterating: ‘everyone in this game is equal’, ‘everyone here has an equal shot’, ‘nobody is an outcast’; even going so far as to kill the doctor who was at an advantage, and all those who helped him.
However, you eventually realise that contestant 456, probably also one of the contestants the audience would root for, is at an unfair advantage, courtesy contestant 001. Even Han Mi-nyeo has an advantage in the honeycomb game, but the game lets all of that slide.
What is frustrating is realising something that was very obvious early on: The game isn’t an equal chance, it isn’t a twisted philanthropic gesture; it is, like everything else, a ruse for the rich and famous to pass time.
Another factor would be the inner judge in all of us. How many times have you yelled, ‘Don’t go TOWARDS the sound?’ during a horror flick? It’s that same instinct that makes Squid Game so interesting. I remember sighing in dejection every time someone trusted another player, hoping against hope that they don’t pay a fatal price.
Squid Game has parallels to multiple films and shows, even the Sanjay Dutt-starrer Luck, but I would argue that it’s similar to one movie in particular: The Platform. Goreng, from the latter, bears a principal similarity to Seong Gi-hun. It is very obvious that the real villain is the system: the rich and famous.
In Squid Game, the VIPs gamble on human lives like they’re horses (just a more vindictive and perverse version of rooting for your favourite to win, if you think about it). Yet, the main indictment of society that Squid Game emphasizes on is a human’s tendency for self-preservation, and natural selection.
So is The Platform, in principle, a game of natural selection. You must let go of your morals to survive. Yet Goreng and Seong Gi-hun both try to hold on to them, making discretions they’re forced to make anyway because the world is a zero-sum game.
Squid Game works lesser as a thriller and more as a tragedy. So, even though, every twist and turn is more or less predictable, it's human nature to keep rooting for the underdog, over and over again.
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