‘The 8 Show’ Netflix Review: We Do Not Have Another Global Hit In Our Hands

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It is no surprise that in 2024 we will get yet another Webtoon adaptation on Netflix. I suppose the show doesn’t really emulate Squid Game, but I won’t be the only one making comparisons. The 8 Show tells the story of 8 individuals who are trapped in a fake scenario in an 8-story building, where they earn money for every minute they’re there. The show is rather unserious for its subject matter and is a flailing mess that ultimately has no real substance. In all honesty, I was quite skeptical going into The 8 Show because not only did the explosive popularity of Squid Game make me wonder if I was the problem, but it also made me step away from the K-drama world for a bit because it seemed the tides were changing toward something I didn’t like very much. From the trailer, it did appear as if The 8 Show was going to be similar to Squid Game in terms of giving us a sort of Black Mirror experience of the world we live in. However, I was wrong to think it would make any sense at all. You could call me stupid, but The 8 Show really isn’t the life-altering masterpiece it was hoping to be. 

The satirical show starts with the introduction of our main lead, the guy who plays the narrator whenever the occasion calls for it, Bae Jin-Su. Played by actor Ryu Jun-Yeol, who was recently embroiled in a scandal, Jin-Su is definitely the most fleshed-out character in the show. If you’re looking for comprehensive TV, I promise you The 8 Show is not for you. While Squid Game offered a reference point for what the participants must do within the show, The 8 Show simply allows the participants to live as they like while somebody, presumably the rich, watches on. I suppose the concept and themes seem eerie, to begin with, but as the show progresses, they get quite random. The irony of the show is that, despite the way it progresses, we continue to watch it even when we truly don’t want to. The money game, the title of the game within the show, is all but a show that entraps the desperately poor with the promise of opulence if they’re able to entertain those watching from above. In this make-believe world, your every move is watched and considered entertainment, even excreting (barf). 

Unlike in the afore-mentioned Squid Game, where there are games to play, and they lead to fatal outcomes, in The 8 Show, the participants are left with a few basic rules, one free meal, and water for the day, and that’s about it. They have to pay for anything else (including a toilet) and everything has a “special rate,” i.e., it costs 1000 times more within the money game than outside in the real world. There’s nothing in this show that will make you root for a certain character. Even Jin-Su, aka number 3, who is the only participant that we get a lot of backstory on, makes certain decisions that come out of nowhere. Instead of feeling pity or hurt for these people, I’m left feeling like a hollow shell of a human being singing the “Linkin Park” song you’re all thinking about now. I mean, seriously, in any other circumstances, this content should be making me feel repulsed at the very least, but The 8 Show just feels like sadistic voyeurism. 

As the title card plays out at the end of the episode, the number 8 turns like a ticking clock, both denoting that time is money and that the chances of getting out of the money game as a normal person are infinitesimal. I suppose The 8 Show satirizes Korea’s obsession with variety show culture; the first example that comes to mind is I Live Alone, where a camera crew follows celebrities in their daily life routine as single people living alone. At least we had a reasonable conclusion for Squid Game though it might’ve left many people disappointed. However, The 8 Show seems more afraid of judgment, so it allows us to fill in the gaps wherever necessary based on our liking. It’s not that the hostility is baseless; it’s just that the end result is rather peculiar. 

Culturally, The 8 Show offers nothing nuanced about Korean classism because it is a grain of sand lost on the beach of the discourse. Loan sharks, suicide, and the expense of procreating are all quite common themes in the Korean drama sphere, though not depicted so directly. The 8 Show attempts to take tiny steps into the many cultural ideas it wants to explore, but ultimately, like the fake pool within the fake world of the money game, the show fails to pack a punch. All the actors do a good job with what they’ve been offered—stereotypes for characters. You’ve got the violent ones, the innocent ones, the insane ones, and then the saints, but in the end, they’re just hollow shells with no real purpose. Chun Woo-Hee tries her best to deliver a satisfying performance as a crazed exhibitionist, while Park Hae-Joon gets to play the bad guy yet again (his role in “The World of the Married” is unforgettable). Bae Seong-Woo is convincing, Moon Jeong-Hee is a bit odd, and Lee Yul-Em does a fantastic job of being both innocent and annoying. Park Jeong-Min is your typical stoic, smart guy who grapples with fear and intelligence. But for me, the standout was Lee Joo-Young, whom I hadn’t seen before. She’s captivating, and though she’s reduced to a person with an outrageous violent streak, she’s got quite a presence on screen.

What’s disappointing is that The 8 Show urges you to watch because it seems like it’s going somewhere; however, the end result is nasty, and I don’t think it’s worth the time. I feel like the irony of such shows is that they want the viewers to feel like they’re doing something wrong by watching them, but at the same time, enjoy them as well. That’s when the lines blur, and you get an unsatisfying and confusing mess. What are you trying to tell me, really? Is it that I’m at fault for watching a show such as The 8 Show and enjoying it because it’s a fictional depiction of how deranged the human mind is? Or am I just meant to make observations about the way money has ruined our lives? Is it simply a commentary on a materialistic and capitalistic society? Or, at the end of the day, am I just meant to focus on the whole “content creation” bit of the whole thing? 

Maybe it is the last one because the main focus of The 8 Show is to amuse an invisible audience. Maybe the implication is that this upper-class audience that is enjoying the show is just us, the viewers. So, how far are we willing to let people go for entertainment? Well, if you’d like, you can give it a watch and find out. However, if you don’t care for violence and hatred, I’d say steer clear of The 8 Show because I’m certain there are other shows out there that’ll give you the same food for thought in a much better way. I’d give the show 2.5 out of 5 stars. 


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Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika Bhat
When not tending to her fashion small business, Ruchika or Ru spends the rest of her time enjoying some cinema and TV all by herself. She's got a penchant for all things Korean and lives in drama world for the most part.

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