The very essence of a game is to have fun. But in a competitive world, everything is about winning or losing. And fun is the only missing element. For most people, childhood was their only phase when they actually enjoyed a game without worrying about its consequences. As grown-ups, we’ll do anything to regain that feeling. Anything. Netflix’s South Korean series, “Squid Game,” traces the limits of human madness and their immoral pursuit of entertainment.
Created by Hwang Dong-hyuk, the television series “Squid Game” (Ojingeo Geim in Korean) lures financially burdened people to compete in a series of redesigned children’s games. The traditional games are laced with deadly twists, and the last player standing will earn a hefty sum of money that will change their future. The question is, are they ready to gamble their present for an uncertain future?
‘Squid Game’ Plot Summary
A 47-year old man, Seong Gi-hun (Lee Jung-jae), is a gambling addict who survives on his ailing mother’s income. Due to his gambling habits and laid-back attitude, he faces a financial debt and fails to get custody of his 10-year-old daughter, Ga-yeong. On his daughter’s birthday, Gi-hun’s mother gives him an allowance to buy dinner for Ga-yeong. But a greedy Gi-hun steals her mother’s debit card and gambles the money on horse racing. Luckily, he wins a considerate amount to buy gifts for her daughter but soon encounters his debt collectors. In the chase, a pickpocket, Kang Sae-byeok (Jung Ho-yeon), steals the prize money, and Gi-hun has to forcefully sign away his physical rights. The collectors threaten to take one of Gi-hun’s kidneys if he fails to pay them by next month.
At the subway station, a devastated Gi-hun meets an unusual man. The well-dressed salesman invites Gi-hun to a survival game, “Squid Game,” that will earn him enough money to solve all his problems. However, he decides to enter the game when he finds out that Ga-yeong is moving to the U.S. with her mother and step-father. The Squid Game is Gi-hun’s last hope to gain financial credibility and, in turn, get his daughter’s custody.
Following the pattern, 456 financially burdened people end up in a strange warehouse. They are all given numbers printed on their uniforms. A group of masked men wielding guns narrates the game rules. Each player will participate in six different games over six days. Those who win all six games will receive a handsome cash prize.
The players casually enter the first game, “Red Light, Green Light,” searching for cash. However, as the game begins, the masked management starts shooting the eliminated players. The ones remaining on the field finish the line to save their lives. Will the surviving players be able to finish the remaining games?
Major Spoilers Ahead
What is a Squid Game?
Most of the games in the series are redesigned children’s games that have a deadly twist. On the same note, The Front Man explains to the VIP that Squid Game is a traditional children’s game in Korea that was played many years ago.
It is called “Squid” because it’s played on a court shaped like one. Children are divided into two groups, the offense, and defense. Once the game starts, the defense can run around on two feet within the boundary. But the offense, outside the court, is only allowed to hop on one foot until the attacker crosses the waist of the squid and passes the defense. After that, they are allowed to run on both feet.
For the final battle, all the attackers gather at the entrance to the squid. They need to tap the small closed-off spaces on the squid’s head with their foot to win. But if the defense manages to push them outside the squid’s boundaries, then the offense will lose the game.
According to Front Man, the squid game was the most physical and violent children’s game. Thus, they chose it as their final survival game. In the game, any kind of violence is allowed, which intrigues the VIP bidders more.
Who was the Front Man?
All the coordinators of the Squid Game wore masks to ensure fair games and confidentiality. While the management was dressed in red sweatsuits, the Leader was seen in all-black attire and flaunted a black prismatic designed mask.
On their second entry into the game, a Korean cop, Detective Hwang Jun-ho, followed Gi-hun and sneaked into the Squid Game facility. Detective Hwang had an older brother who went missing, and while searching his room, Hwang found a similar invitation card that he saw with Gi-hun.
Detective Hwang infiltrated the facility to find out about his missing brother. He disguised himself as one of the guards/coordinates and slowly learned the operations inside the facility. However, he had to compromise his cover to bust a corrupt gang of guards selling the organs of dead players. One guard informed Detective Hwang about an archive room in the Leader (or Front Man) room where he would find a list of all the players that ever participated in the Squid Game.
Hwang Jun-ho searched the Squid Archives and found records dated from 1988 to 2020. In the list of winners records, he discovered that his brother, Hwang In-Ho (player 132), won the 28th Squid Game in 2015. But if In-Ho won the game and earned the prize money, then why did he disappear?
The mystery was revealed when Front Man and his minions chased Detective Hwang to an isolated island. At the cliff, Front Man removed his mask and showed his face. It turned out that Front Man was none other than Hwang’s older brother, Hwang In-Ho (Lee Byung-hun), for whom he had been looking all along. Probably, In-Ho would have got addicted to the game, and thus he became the Front Man to satisfy his obsession.
Who won the 2020 Squid Game?
Only three players survived the 5th game. For the final round, Seong Gi-hun had to compete against his childhood friend, Cho Sang-woo (Park Hae-soo), and pickpocketer Kang Sae-byeok (Jung Ho-yeon). However, before the sixth game began, Gi-hun found out that Sae-byeok was bleeding badly. He sought help from the guards, but in the meantime, Sang-woo slit Sae-byeok’s neck. She died in vain.
In the final game, i.e., the Squid Game, the childhood friends, Sang-woo and Gi-hun compete against each other, intending to kill their friend to win money. Ironically, the game they once played for fun now has a different meaning for them. The VIPs enjoyed vengeance. However, after a brutal brawl, Gi-hun had a change of heart. He spared Sang-woo’s life and refused to finish the game. He demanded voting to call off the game, but Sang-woo knew that Gi-hun wanted the money, like everyone else who participated in the game. To help a friend in need, Sang-woo punctured his neck. The sacrifice he made for a friend.
Seong Gi-hun (player 456) won the game but never really recovered from the loss he encountered inside the game. In guilt and grief, he refused to touch the blood money for a year until a second invitation arrived.
‘Squid Game’ Season 1: Ending Explained – Who was the ‘Mastermind’?
Gi-hun shared a special bond with player number 1, Il-nam (Oh Young-soo). He thought he lost the old man with a tumor in the Fourth Game when Il-nam sacrificed his life to save Gi-hun. However, he didn’t know at the moment that Il-nam was the host and the mastermind of the game.
After Gi-hun survived the game and came back to the real world, he found his mother dead in the apartment. A grief-stricken Gi-hun didn’t touch the prize money and led a homeless life. A year later, on 24th December, he received another invitation card that invited him to the 7th floor of the Sky Building.
A curious Gi-hun walked in and found Il-nam on a ventilator inside a large isolated room. Without wasting a moment, Gi-hun asked, “why did he treat humans like horses?”
On his deathbed, Il-nam explained that he was a moneylender who gave money to people for a living. But in his rich life, he understood a simple fact. People who are either filthy rich or tragically poor have no fun in their life. If one has too much money, then all the spending becomes boring for them after a point of time. All his clients felt there was no joy in their lives. So they got together and designed the game to have fun. Betting on human survival was their medium of merrymaking.
Gi-hun was enraged by the idea of men putting men in life-threatening situations for entertainment. But Il-nam argued that he never compelled anyone to participate in the game. The men and women agreed to enter the game, and they had their own motives for it, just like everyone else. It is how business works.
Nevertheless, Il-nam and his rich VIPs had their motives to fund the game, but Il-nam soon understood that watching people playing was no fun at all. Therefore, he entered the game and met Gi-hun. Playing with them made him feel like a child again, and it brought back his innocence. Symbolically, throughout the game, it was Il-nam who enjoyed it because he had nothing to lose. He knew he would die of a brain tumor, and when a man sheds off his fear of death, he becomes invincible.
To summarize the theme, the game was a rich thing they did to feel young again. They had their motives sorted. They didn’t lose their loved ones, and that was why none of them felt guilty. But Gi-hun lost a lot. He lost more than he won. He lost something that money couldn’t get him back. For the final game, Il-nam and Gi-hun bet on a dying homeless drunk on the road. Il-nam didn’t believe in humanity and knew no one would come to aid a dying homeless person. But someone did before the clock struck 12. Il-nam died after that, and Gi-hun understood what he could do with the money he earned.
Seong Gi-hun used the money to fill the gaps left by the people who lost their lives in the game. He got a haircut (most important). Later, he visited Sae-byeok’s 10-year-old brother, Cheol, and took him out of the orphanage. Gi-hun handed the custody of the kid to Cho Sang-woo’s mother, who evidently lost a son. He also gave Sang-woo’s share of prize money to the mother for her welfare and raising Cheol. The most human thing he did in his life.
Finally, Gi-hun decided to visit his daughter in the States.
‘Squid Game’ Season 2: Expectations
Gi-hun saw the strange salesman again at the airport, deceiving another innocent man in his evil scheme. The salesman ran away, and an enraged Gi-hun snatched the invitation card from the new player. He called the number and, on the call, the Front Man threatened Gi-hun to drop his futile battle.
But Gi-hun explained to him that humans aren’t horses. They are not meant to be puppets for their nasty entertainment. Gi-hun decided to end the Squid Game once and for all. He didn’t board the flight and turned back to take vengeance.
‘Squid Game’ Season 2 will follow Seong Gi-hun’s pursuit to uproot the game and confront the nemesis, the Front Man.
Squid Game (Ojingeo Geim in Korean) is a 2021 South Korean survival game television series created by Hwang Dong-hyuk. Season 1 with all 9 episodes is streaming on Netflix.