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What Is the Squid Game?

by Scott Kacsmar
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What Is the Squid Game?

Squid Game is arguably Netflix’s greatest, unexpected success story, and the South Korean survival drama series is set to return soon with a new season before 2024 ends.

No one could have imagined that when it debuted in September 2021 Squid Game would become Netflix’s most-watched series at launch with over 142 million households tuning in within 28 days of its availability. It reached No. 1 on the Netflix charts in 94 different countries as praise for the show spread through word of mouth on social media during what was still the COVID-19 era.

If you somehow missed the craze 3 years ago, you might be wondering if the hype is legitimate. As an avid TV watcher and critic, I can tell you that yes, Squid Game is one of the best shows Netflix has ever licensed.

The good news is you have plenty of time before Season 2 drops to catch up on the critically acclaimed 1st season. Before we head to the top-rated sportsbooks and start wagering on Season 2’s outcomes, we have prepared a (fairly spoiler-free) guide on all things Squid Game, including the reality competition series it inspired, and what little we know about Season 2 so far.

What Is the Premise of Squid Game?

Squid Game is a dystopian survival drama series created by South Korean filmmaker Hwang Dong-hyuk, who was previously best known for directing and writing the 2011 film Silenced, which is also worth your time.

Hwang wrote the story in 2009 with the title being a play on words with a popular children’s game in South Korea. However, it was not until 2019 that Netflix took an interest in his project in an effort to expand their foreign-language library.

In Squid Game, there is a secret contest where 456 people experiencing financial hardship are approached to enter for a chance to win 45.6 billion won (100 million won per person), which is equivalent to roughly $38 million USD.

However, as our characters quickly discover during a game of “Red Light, Green Light,” these children’s games they are supposed to play to win the contest are deadly, and only one person is going to stay alive to claim that huge prize money.

Actor Lee Jung-jae plays the lead character Seong Gi-hun (No. 456), a divorced chauffer and gambling addict who is trying to pay off his debts so he can financially afford to keep custody of his daughter before she leaves for the United States with her mother.

Lee-Jung-jae-Squid-Game

Through the 9 episodes, Gi-hun becomes acquainted with some of the other contestants, including former classmate Cho Sang-woo and an elderly man with a brain tumor named Oh Il-nam (No. 1), played by O Yeong-su.

Without giving away many spoilers, let’s just say you are going to see a lot of shocking deaths, including some characters you grew to enjoy, and there is a twist with an ending that leaves the door open for more seasons. You’ve had almost 3 years to watch it, so what are you waiting for? If you’ve ever enjoyed a Saw movie or watched the similar Japanese series Alice in Borderland (also on Netflix), you absolutely should be watching Squid Game.

What Was the Reception for Squid Game Season 1?

Beyond setting Netflix viewership records, Squid Game’s 1st season was well-received by critics, audiences and award shows.

Squid Game holds a 95% fresh score from critics at Rotten Tomatoes (76 reviews). It also has an 84% rating from the audience. It is also still holding an 8.0/10 rating on over 539,000 votes at IMDb.

Squid Game also had record-setting success at award shows for its 1st season:

  • Squid Game is the 1st non-English language TV series to receive any nominations at the Primetime Emmy Awards, winning 6 Emmys on 14 nominations.
  • Actor Lee Jung-jae, director Hwang Dong-hyuk and actress Lee Yoo-mi became the 1st Asians and Koreans to receive an Emmy with their wins for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series and Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series.
  • Yeong-su’s win for Best Supporting Actor – Television makes him the 1st Korean-born actor to win a Golden Globe.
  • It is the 1st non-English language TV series to win at the SAG Awards.


While the quality of Squid Game’s 1st season stands on its own, it no doubt had great timing to aid its success:

  • The COVID-19 pandemic limited the production of new TV series and films in 2020-21, so when Squid Game was released in September 2021, people were starved for new content to watch.
  • The pandemic also was a financially difficult period for many people, so the show’s themes about poverty and risking your life to win money probably resonated with viewers more than usual.
  • The success of South Korean film Parasite (2019) at the Oscars, including a win for Best Picture, was a glass-ceiling moment for wider acceptance of foreign-language film.

If Netflix rolled this one out in 2017 before Parasite and the pandemic, it may not have hit as well as it did. Timing is often crucial for most things in life.

What Is Squid Game: The Challenge?

Leave it to Netflix to milk a good thing for every penny. In November 2023, Squid Game: The Challenge debuted as a British offering of a reality competition based on the South Korean series.

Similar to the show, it featured 456 contestants who were trying to win the grand prize of $4.56 million, which would be the largest cash prize in the history of reality television. Obviously, contestants are not playing these games to the death like in the show. But they did emulate some of the most popular games from the 1st season, including Red Light, Green Light and the Glass Bridge game.

squid_game__the_challenge

A total of 10 episodes were aired with the finale airing on its own on December 6, 2023. That same day, the show was renewed for a 2nd season with an undetermined air date.

Was the reality competition a success? It depends on who you ask. Ratings were obviously good enough to get a season renewal, but critics were not fond of it. Squid Game: The Challenge holds a 48% score from critics at Rotten Tomatoes, but audiences were more forgiving at 79%. On IMDb, it only has a 5.8/10 rating on 16,000 votes.

Still, the reality show was the proper bridge between Season 1 and Season 2 of the main show, giving hardcore fans something to whet their appetite after the long delay between seasons.

What Do We Know About Squid Game Season 2?

A 2nd season for Squid Game was officially announced in June 2022. The ending to the initial season was open-ended enough to make this possible, though Hwang has already expressed regret about killing off certain characters that he won’t be able to bring back as he was not expecting a sequel when those decisions were made.

It has been confirmed that Jung-jae (Gi-hun) is returning as the lead. The Front Man, the overseer of the contests (played by Lee Byung-hun) is returning with an expected bigger role for the 2nd season. We will also see the salesman who serves as the recruiter for the game again, which is played by Gong Yoo.

There is also expected to be a boyfriend to Young-hee, the infamous girl doll that has already been made into an action figure and Funko Pop.

The only other thing we know for sure is that Wi Ha-joon is going to reprise his role as Hwang Jun-ho, the police officer who snuck into the game, disguised as a guard, to find his brother. The role of the police may be a bigger focus in Season 2.

As for when this will be released, the best we can say is Season 2 of Squid Game will be on Netflix before the end of 2024. The wait is almost over.

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Scott Kacsmar
NFL football picks are Scott Kacsmar's expertise, serving as his main focus. He has contributed to various sports websites and blogs, such as NBC Sports, ESPN Insider, FiveThirtyEight, and, JoeWager. Originating from Pittsburgh, Scott maintains a love-hate connection with the Pirates.

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