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The 3 Biggest Problems With ‘Squid Game’ — The #1 Show On Netflix

By News Creatives Authors , in Business , at October 5, 2021

Squid Game is absolutely worth watching if you can stand all the violence and tragedy. As much as it’s a show about people competing in a deadly, real-life version of Fall Guys (basically) it’s also a cautionary tale about the many terrible ways that money—whether you have too much or too little—can ruin lives.

Beyond the games themselves, this is a show about poverty, inequality and desperation—and the insidious ways money can turn us against one another. Greed and power make the world go ‘round, but Squid Game shows that even so, good can still triumph over evil. At a cost.

As social commentary, it mostly works. As a show about brutal, larger-than-life games to the death (think “The Most Dangerous Game” but with a lot more people and a lot more killing) it also mostly works.

I won’t summarize too much of the plot but there will be spoilers ahead. I assume if you’re reading a piece about the biggest problems with Squid Game, you’ve probably already seen it. If not, be double warned: Something spoilery this way comes . . . .

The Story

Squid Game stars Lee Jung-jae as Seong Gi-Hun, the show’s protagonist, alongside HoYeon Jung as Sae-Byeok, a North Korean defector and pickpocket, and Park Hae Soo as Cho Sang-Woo, a disgraced businessman.

The cast is rather sprawling, but a few other noteworthy characters include:

  • The Frontman (Lee Byung-hun) the manager of the games;
  • Oh Il-nam (O Yeong-su), an elderly contestant in the games who joined when he was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer;
  • Jan Deok-su (Heo Sung-tae), a ruthless gangster with no moral compunctions whatsoever;
  • Abdul Ali (Anupam Tripathi) a Pakistani migrant who joins the games to help his impoverished young family;
  • Han Mi-nyeo (Kim Joo-ryoung) a manipulative woman with an oversized sense of her personal talents;
  • and Hwang Jun-ho (Wi Ha-joon), a police officer who infiltrates the games looking for his brother.

Seong Gi-Hun has fallen on hard times. He’s lost his wife and daughter. He’s a chronic gambler who steals from his elderly mother. He is deeply in debt to ruthless loan sharks and the little bit of winnings he just won at the race track were stolen by a pickpocket—Sae-Byeok—who he later meets at the games. He, like most everyone else in the games, joins without realizing the stakes. With 45 billion won up for grabs, it’s a chance at a new beginning. But the price 455 contestants end up paying is higher than anyone imagined. Elimination from the games costs you your life.

There are six games and each is increasingly horrible, though I think the pancake game—in which contestants had to carve out one of four different shapes from a hard pancake without breaking any of the edges—was the most tense.

Squid Game is not one of those shows that you necessarily enjoy, though it can be quite funny at times. It’s a show you can’t really look away from—its violence so engrossing and terrible, its characters so clearly desperate in both the real world where they struggle with money problems and in the games where they fight for their lives.

But the show is not without its flaws. Let’s look at the top three.

1. The VIPs are so annoying.

I had very few complaints for the first six episodes of Squid Game. The games were harrowing, the drama and humor were on-point and you really started to see Seong Gi-Hun’s transformation.

Then the VIPs show up in Episode 7 and things take a major turn for the worse. The VIPs—uber-wealthy Westerners for the most part—are painful in every way. Their dialogue is awful and made more jarring by bad voice-over work. Suddenly we’re listening to English instead of Korean and every single line is just bad.

The VIPs take up a ridiculous amount of screen-time from the moment they’re introduced until the end of the games and I hated every single second of it. The show would have been better served to cut all their lines and just have them as mysterious masked observers. We would have gotten the point.

Instead, we have to listen to these deeply grating characters jabber on and on and on, totally undermining their cool golden animal masks and any sense of dread or mystery they might have otherwise possessed.

2. The cop / Front Man subplot was . . . pointless and confusing.

The VIP issue is definitely the worst in Episode 7 (VIPs) but Episode 8 (Front Man) introduced another major problem.

In this episode we learn that the mysterious Front Man—the guy in the scary black mask running operations—is actually the brother of Hwang Jun-ho, the police detective who sneaks into the games when all the contestants go back for a second try.

This is actually pretty confusing. I don’t know if I missed something in the timeline, but when we meet Hwang Jun-ho he’s looking for his brother. He goes to his tiny apartment and finds one of the mysterious cards with the PlayStation buttons on it. We hear him on the phone, possibly with a parent, saying that he’s looking for his brother in his usual spots.

It seems as though his brother has been missing for maybe a couple weeks. But when Hwang Jun-ho finds the records room he spots his brother’s name in the winner’s list. Apparently he won in 2015 and instead of taking all those billions and seeing the world, he’s taken over as the Front Man.

I guess he’s cut out for the job. He ends up killing his own brother and the plot just sort of . . . goes nowhere. The cop does nothing to help the contestants, there’s never any police backup and he doesn’t even kill the lecherous old VIP that wanted to have his way with him. Just a totally pointless subplot that achieves nothing and only serves to confuse us in the end.

3. The final twist ruins the show’s most powerful moments for no reason.

As bad as these first two issues were, the very worst part about Squid Game is its totally pointless, entirely awful “twist.” In the end, Seong Gi-Hun wins the games after a brutal showdown with his once-friend—and certified psycho—Cho Sang-Woo.

But the victory comes at a cost. Seong Gi-Hun is depressed. The money feels like blood money. It sits in the bank and our hero lives like he used to, on the brink of poverty despite something like $38 million USD in the bank.

Then one day he receives a message on one of those little cards. It’s signed “Gganbu” which is what the old man, Oh Il-nam, called Seong Gi-Hun during the marble games. So he goes to the address and finds contestant #001 laying in bed looking out his window. It turns out that Oh Il-nam was the founder of the games, one of the chief villains from the start.

Far from a clever twist, this just felt like a betrayal and a “gotcha” moment that didn’t ever need to happen. Oh Il-nam and Seong Gi-Hun’s marble game and final parting were some of the best moments in the entire show.

‘Gganbu’ was perhaps the most emotionally powerful episode of the entire show and it was all thrown into the trash by the show’s entirely pointless final twist. And all of Oh Il-Nam’s other crucial moments feel cheapened as well, including the tug-of-war scene and his fever and infirmity.

Maybe it’s just me, but I really hated it even more than I hated Seong Gi-Hun’s pink haircut and even more than I hated him not going to visit his daughter in the end so that they could set up Season 2 which, by the way, will almost certainly not be as good as Season 1.

So while the first six episodes of Squid Game were excellent in just about every way, the final three stumbled all over the place. There were still some great moments—the final game was so intense, I wasn’t at all sure what to expect—but as far as final acts go, Squid Game stumbled pretty badly. Not a full-blown crash and burn, but definitely a weak ending to a show that started off with such promise.

What did you think of Squid Game? Did any of these issues annoy or enrage you as well? Let me know on Twitter or Facebook.

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