If you’ve been on the internet in the past two weeks, there’s a good chance you’ve heard about Squid Game either through meme, tweet, or plain old fashioned review form. The new Korean series debuted on Netflix (NFLX) September 17, and has since dominated the online conversation thanks to its sheer WTF factor. While Korean culture has been making its mark on western audiences in recent years with movies like Parasite and pop groups such as BTS, this bona fide hit cements the country as a 21st-century pop culture juggernaut.
So… what is Squid Game?
Netflix describes the series as follows: “Hundreds of cash-strapped players accept a strange invitation to compete in children’s games. Inside, a tempting prize awaits – with deadly high stakes.” While that offers a nice little overview, the streamer hardly lets viewers know the more outrageous elements of the show. If you thought tug-of-war was rough during your elementary school field day, then you’ve got another thing coming.
Trapped inside a candy-colored fortress and overseen by masked guards who transform hot pink into a surprisingly threatening color, players are forced to participate in dementedly amped up versions of kids’ games to try to win a $40 million cash prize. But in Squid Game, when you’re out, you’re out. The players, all of whom are in desperate need of money for different reasons, go from fighting for the fortune to fighting for their lives. It’s a show about the cutthroat nature of capitalism, both literally and figuratively. In that sense, it’s a modern play on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1987 dystopian action drama The Running Man.
PSA: it gets gory, folks—Squid Game is not for the squeamish!
Why are so many people talking about Squid Game?
Well, for one thing, the show has elicited universally positive reviews. Mix that with the rapid rise in popularity of K-dramas on Netflix (we highly recommend period zombie piece Kingdom) and a creative critique of capitalism, and you’ve got yourself a hit. Plenty of Korean films have proven to be hits and won international acclaim for their engaging and action-packed take downs of contemporary capitalism, from Best Picture winner Parasite to the Chris Evans-starring Snowpiercer and the bone-chilling zombie movie Train to Busan. Evidently, Squid Game is continuing that tradition, a series that’s whip-smart and entertaining in equal measure. It’s also absolutely batshit insane in the best way possible, which give it a social media-friendly sheen of highly sharable GIFs and OMG moments.
Ok, great—now where can I watch Squid Game?
Squid Game premiered on Netflix on September 17 and is available to stream in its entirety here. All nine episodes of Season 1 dropped at once, ranging from 30 minutes to an hour long, making it perfect for a mid-week binge session. Unfortunately, director Hwang Dong-hyuk doesn’t sound as if he’s up for a second season, at least not in the immediate future.
What if I already watched Squid Game?
Good for you, you’re ahead of the curve! Now that you’re done with that bonkers thrill ride, there’s plenty more to watch just like it. Along with the recent Korean movies mentioned above, other works like Squid Game include Japan’s controversially violent thriller from 2000, Battle Royale, and 3%, a Brazilian series with class divide at the heart of its competitive conflict.
Keeping Watch is a regular endorsement of TV and movies worth your time.