Red Light, Green Light

Review of Newest Korean Original Series on Netflix


Photo by Madison Shields

Once again, Netflix takes the world by storm with it’s newest original series ‘Squid Game’. After gaining popularity through TikTok, the show has proven to be well received by older and teenage audiences alike. The result being one of Netflix’s fastest growing original series ever. With its beautiful cinematography and complex storyline, there’s something to be found enjoyable by everyone who watches.

Madison Shields, Reporter


Reaching the number one spot of most watched original series on Netflix in over 90 countries, ‘Squid Game’ breaks through cultural barriers, while also captivating its audience through breath-taking cinematography and well written script.

The show is nine episodes long, each one running around 55 minutes. It was released in Korean, but there are subtitles available in 31 different languages, it’s also dubbed in 13 languages. Having the show available to so many different countries definitely influenced its popularity. But TikTok also contributed to its rise in traction. After I’ve finished watching the entire show, I can agree that the show is painful to watch at certain points. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart or younger audiences.

‘Squid Game’ follows 456 people who are deep in debt. All of them are invited to play a series of popular children’s games such as red light, green light, tug of war, marbles and more. But the catch is that, along with playing for money, they’re also competing for their lives.

Gi-hun, the main character, is your typical absent father, which explains why his ex-wife left him. He lives with his mother in a small home, tucked away in a dinky alleyway. He’s introduced to the audience when he asks his mother for more money, even though she needs it more than he does. He then steals her credit card to use for betting on a horse race. A perfect illustration of an all-around unlikable, unethical human being.

After winning a load of money while betting, he encounters a group of loan sharks he didn’t paid back. He lost his prize money and is forced to sign a contract agreeing to give away his physical rights in return for his debt. Gi-hun’s backstory is a little predictable, but it also gives a nice foundation to set off the story.

Later that night at the train station, a mysterious man asks Gi-hun to play a game of ddakji, which consists of two people throwing a piece of folded paper (ddakji), while each of them try to flip over the opposing person’s ddakji. Whoever flips over the ddakji wins 100,000 won, around 85 U.S. dollars. After the first round Gi-hun loses, but he doesn’t have the money to pay the man back, so he accepts to pay the price with his body, meaning he gets slapped in the face for every turn he loses. Numerous rounds later Gi-hun finally wins, earning the 100,000 won. After watching Gi-hun get slapped numerous times, I started to root for his win.

This scene sets the audience up to disregard common human morals, a prevalent theme in the rest of the show. While waiting for the next train, the mystery man offers Gi-hun the opportunity to earn more money by playing other games. Even though he refuses, Gi-hun is given a card with a phone number on the back, and a circle, triangle and square on the front: a connection to the start of the first episode.

I personally believe the plot is absolutely brilliant. Starting out with Gi-hun’s life before the game and showcasing why he’s willing to join in the first place gives us a better sense of understanding. The audience is able to build a better connection with him, not only as a fictional character, but also as a son and father.

Also, I find it interesting how seamlessly the storyline switches from character to character, by starting with Gi-hun, then moving on to Sae-byeok, who we also meet in the first episode. Sae-byeok is another person trying to climb her way out of debt, which is why she received the invitation as well. Her backstory is explained much later in the show. Along with a strong storyline and interesting plot, the plot twists are far from cliché, and I found them to be very surprising while watching.

When Gi-hun first wakes up inside of the “Squid Game,” he notices an old man, and soon befriends him. His name, Il-nam, is not revealed until later in the show. Throughout all of the different games they play, Gi-hun is constantly grouped and paired with the old man. In one of the most heart-breaking episodes, Gganbu (meaning “neighborhood best friends”), Il-nam and Gi-hun partner up for their game. But, after pairing together, they find out that only the winner will leave the game alive. Il-nam’s dementia supposedly acts up while they’re playing gganbu, so Gi-hun lies to Il-nam in order to take all of his marbles, which was the objective of the game. While watching this scene, you truly don’t know who to root for, since it was so easy to grow attached to both characters. But, after turning in all 20 marbles, his original ten and the ten he took from Il-nam, Gi-hun walks away and the old man is shot.

In the last episode, after the game finally concludes with a heart-shattering end, Gi-hun is given a card with an address on it, signed by “Your Gganbu,” so in pursuit of answers, he goes to the address. There, he discovers Il-nam is alive, but not looking well. This was a huge shocker. This backstabbing scene has a  dark mood to the dialogue, as the two “best friends” strike a deal about a drunk man on the street. Gi-hun discovered the old man he trusted for more than half of the game was behind the game all along.

Not soon after explaining why he created the game, Il-nam dies, but at the same time of his death, the drunk person left in the cold is finally helped off of the street. Gi-hun had won the deal. The two events leave Gi-hun and the audience with conflicting emotions. Gi-hun closes Il-nam’s eyes after he passes, but before leaving he says “You saw it didn’t you? You lost.” The dialogue was especially powerful there, since Il-nam was the creator of the Squid Game, and he lost the bet they made that night. But, Il-nam also lost his life.

Even though the show is more focused on the emotional and psychological aspects of the people playing, there are many action scenes found throughout as well. I wasn’t expecting to see such well choreographed fight scenes, and towards the middle of the show, I was blown away by how real it seemed. The series truly has something enticing for each person.

Understandably, the game takes a heavy toll on the main characters mentally, so watching each person simply go insane, or finally show their true selves is equally satisfying and unsettling. I found myself enjoying even the most upsetting scenes due to the beautiful dialogue and outstanding acting. I watched the show in Korean, with English subtitles. Because I believe the English dub doesn’t do the show the justice it deserves. The original acting done by the original Korean cast is unmatched when compared to the English voice actors that were provided.

It’s interesting to see how each character goes through the same situation, and how they react. I remember watching the show and being surprised at how easily I became attached to the characters. Since the show itself is very emotional and suspenseful, bonds are made fairly quickly. The script was written in a way that even the people who were created to be an inconvenience weren’t completely unlikable, which is a fairly difficult task to accomplish while trying to balance so many different plotlines.

Overall, ‘Squid Game’ is a truly alluring show with many different layers and complex aspects. There’s the perfect balance of drama-filled interactions and action, while also keeping the audience on their toes at all times. I recommend it to anyone who’s looking for their next show to watch, and who also isn’t sensitive to violence. The series is only available to watch on Netflix, so I urge you to watch it the next time you find yourself endlessly surfing through things to watch.