By Michelle Anne P. Soliman, Reporter

TV Review
Squid Game
Director/Writer Hwang Dong-hyuk

IF AN ANONYMOUS person invited you to play for a substantial amount of money, would you trust the stranger or any of your teammates? What strengths do you possess that give you confidence of succeeding?

The Netflix series Squid Game follows adult participants who risk their lives playing mysterious twists to familiar childhood games to win the 45.6 billion Won cash prize. But only one will be proclaimed victor.

After a man he meets at the train station gives him a business card with a circle, a triangle, and a square drawn on it, chauffeur Gi-hun (played by Lee Jung-jae) calls the number on it and later wakes up in an unfamiliar place. Wearing identical green and white outfits, the 456 participants gathered in the room are all caught in desperate situations in their personal lives.

Despite being given the option to quit the game, they are enticed to continue by the prize money. The games venue, designed and painted like a children’s playground, transforms into an arena of violence and the fight for survival.

The nine-episode series is written and directed by Hwang Dong-hyuk who described Squid Game as “one giant allegory that expresses the capitalist society of contemporary times.”

A first for a Korean series, Squid Game is currently the No. 1 trending Netflix show in 76 countries.

The first game, “Green Light, Red Light,” sets the mood:  the participants must accomplish the task and adhere to all instructions within a given time limit; they can get killed during the game or, if they fail to comply with the rules, get shot. After the first game, the participants —  and audience —  fear that things might get even worse.

The succeeding games alternate from teamwork driven games which are adrenaline stimulating and gory; and intimate games that are more emotional and are used to establish the relationships among characters.

All the actors are convincing and portrayed their roles well — some had character backgrounds the audience can relate to, and some are simply so arrogant that the viewer wishes they were eliminated earlier. There is sympathy for Gi-hun and those he makes alliances with and one roots for them to survive.

While the theme of a competition for survival is nothing new —  comparisons can be made with Battle Royal and The Hunger Games — writer and director Hwang Dong-hyuk succeeds in presenting his allegory on the flawed equality in a capitalist society and survival. The participants represent the working class, who are expected to be productive and ensure mobility. On the way to the finish line, they are killed or destroy each other —  and themselves —  in the process. The VIPs in the story are the rich who are spectators and unaffected by the hardships and horrors afflicted on the participants.

Overall, the series was an exciting and emotional experience. The ending hints at a possible sequel. By then, I hope Gi-hun gets to prove that he, along with the other participants, is not a horse that anyone can bet on, but a human.