Squid Game: How the Korean thriller became Netflix's biggest hit of all time

A series of playground games take a highly sinister and gory turn when a mysterious stranger invites 456 people to risk their lives for a multi-million-pound jackpot.

By Rhys Lewis Published: 13 October 2021 - 10.06pm
Netflix Squid Game

Would you risk your life in a series of childhood games to become a multi-millionaire?

That’s the question posed to 456 players in Netflix thriller Squid Game, and millions of viewers have tuned in to find the answer.

Since its release on September 17, the Korean drama series has surpassed all expectations, topping the Netflix charts in 90 countries and becoming Netflix's biggest ever series launch: the drama was watched by 111 million households in its first 28 days, comfortably surpassing Bridgerton’s 82 million-household record.

What is the plot of Squid Game?

Squid Game Netflix

In Squid Game, 456 debt-ridden people are invited by a mysterious organisation to play six playground games over six days for a jackpot prize of 45.6 billion won (£28.6 million). The catch? If you lose, you die.

The first episode in the nine-part series sees the contestants play a deadly version of statues, in which masked assassins – overseen by the Front Man - kill anyone at the slightest hint of movement.

The series focuses on the exploits of a handful of the 456 contestants, including #456 Seong Gi-hun (played by Lee Jung-jae), a divorced gambling addict playing to settle his debts, #218 Cho Sang-woo (Park Hae-soo), an investment banker wanted by police for embezzling funds, and #067 Kang Sae-byeok (Jung Ho-yeon), a North Korean defector who wants the money to bring her surviving family members across the border.

Squid Game Netflix

Other players include an elderly man with a brain tumour, a gangster, a pastor, a married couple and a foreign worker from Pakistan who needs to provide for his family.

Policeman Hwang Jun-ho (Wi Ha-joon), meanwhile, breaks into the facility and poses as a guard in order to find his missing brother.

As the games continue the surviving players have to form alliances in order to give themselves the best chance of proceeding to the next game.

The gory challenges culminate in the Squid Game, in which the last player standing faces the ultimate moral dilemma in order to win the money.

Why has Squid Game been such a big hit?

Squid Game Netflix

Largely unheralded on its launch, the Korean series has become a real word-of-mouth global hit, and has been declared “one of the most bingeable shows ever” by fans and is arguably the biggest and best Korean drama on Netflix.

Writer-director Hwang Dong-hyuk believes its success is down to the universally recognisable characters he has created and the fact that the series simply represents the Game of Life, albeit in its most extreme and melodramatic setting.

“I wanted to write a story that was an allegory or fable about modern capitalist society, something that depicts an extreme competition, somewhat like the extreme competition of life. But I wanted it to use the kind of characters we’ve all met in real life,” Hwang told Variety

“As a survival game it is entertainment and human drama. The games portrayed are extremely simple and easy to understand. That allows viewers to focus on the characters, rather than being distracted by trying to interpret the rules.”

Is there a trailer for Squid Game?

There is. Get a taste of the series by watching the preview clip below.

Will there be a Squid Game season 2?

Squid Game Netflix

Hwang has said that he currently has no plans for a second season, but if he did consider a follow-up, production would be on very different terms to the first series, in which he wrote and directed every episode by himself.

"I don't have well developed plans for Squid Game 2," he told Variety. "It is quite tiring just thinking about it.

"But if I were to do it, I would certainly not do it alone. I'd consider using a writers' room and would want multiple experienced directors.

“I’m not great at team-work,” he admitted.

“Writing Squid Game was harder than normal for me as it was a series, not a film. It took me six months to write and rewrite the first two episodes. Then I consulted verbally with friends, and picked up clues for improvements through my own pitching and from their responses.”

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