Review: Is Squid Games Worth the Hype?
As I’m sure you all have already heard, Hwang Dong-hyuk’s Squid Game has swept the globe as Netflix’s most-watched series ever, racking up approximately 111,000,000 views since its release this past September.
If you are not yet part of this massive viewer pool, proceed with caution, as this review contains minor spoilers; plus, I predict that you might receive some judgement for not watching it yet. Abandon your disdain toward mainstream entertainment and go hitch a ride on someone else’s Netflix account just this once—it’s worth it. Then again, if you read this article without actually watching the show, you’ll have some super genius talking points to bring up in the inevitable “have you seen Squid Game?” confrontation... So let's get to it.
Starting with the basics: the sensory components of this show are masterfully crafted and beautifully compliment the emotional intensity of the plot. Every scene carries with it a sort of paradoxical balance and unease. The visual and audio elements blend perfectly, yet certain moments feel strangely out of place when, in reality, their misplacement is exactly what is supposed to knock viewers off their guard. The audience is given the stressful bird’s eye view—we can see what lurks beyond the peripheral, unbeknownst to the characters on screen until it is too late.
The soundtrack alone is a prime example of the stunning interwovenness of sense and psychology. Each jarring note or dissonant key elicits a deeply-rooted subconscious fear—an ominous and terrifying type of fear that your mind can’t reflect upon itself intuitively enough to fully identify. As for the lighter sounding tracks, they perfectly match the irony of a deadly children’s game, sounding both juvenile and instinctively off-putting at the same time.
Plotwise, Squid Game absolutely supersedes the standard that other “social commentary” TV series have previously set. Although labeled as risky, we’ve seen other works that try to make a statement, such as 13 Reasons Why and its highly questionable representation of mental illness. It may just be my perspective as both a film-lover and avid social activist, but other politically charged shows, entertaining as their other aspects may be, fail to live up to the potential boldness of their core message. Excluding Parasite, another South Korean masterpiece, most movies and shows tend to sugarcoat their ideology, reducing their protest to a few buzzwords and ultimately diluting their impact on public opinion. From an artistic lens, it's disappointing to see real potential for change go to waste.
However, Squid Game brought me shocking and delightful relief. Please interpret its message any way that you please, but I would argue that as a critique on the consequences of late stage capitalism, it hits the nail on the head. The brutal games played in the show, puppeteered by the enormously wealthy and aloof, depict a scarily accurate metaphor for survival under a plutocratic capitalist system. The players, drowning in debt, are left with no other option than submitting to the Squid Game, and despite the lure of “fair competition,” they are still subject to the same deadly circumstances as the outside world.
A slight downside to this message is the violence of its presentation, as it may turn some away from watching the show; however, on a deeper level, the violence magnifies the ruthlessness and brutality bred by an economy driven by competition and greed. Squid Game definitely did not try to dismissively dance around the topic with its bold contribution to anticapitalist media.
My examination in this review is quite concise compared to the far more vast analysis of this show I wish I had the time to create, so I urge you, dear reader, to take my opinion and run with it. Agree with it, ignore it, add to it, drag it through the dirt; do whatever you wish with my interpretation. What I want to prioritize most, as always, is the appreciation of art from all perspectives, and I hope this analysis serves some inspiration to do so.
Happy binging, fellow Netflix friends!