Red Light (Red Flag)
- Suhavi Dhillon
(This review contains spoilers!)
It is virtually impossible to be present on the internet and not have a clue about what Squid Game is. The show that portrays the harshest truths of our world with the help of children's games took the world by a storm. Squid Game has made about $891.1 million–roughly forty two (yeah, forty two!) times its budget–and was consistently #1 on Netflix after its release. From a crypto scam, to the dalgona challenge and Mr Beast spending $2 million on recreating the set of Squid Game, it is safe to say that the show has been extremely influential and successful.
But first, what is Squid Game about?
This Korean drama shows 456 debt-ridden contestants competing against each other in seven games played by children for a cash prize of 456 million won. The catch is, for every game that they play, either they win advance onto the next round, or, they die.
The first game they play is Red Light, Green Light, (yes, the one with the iconic doll.) Before they play, the contestants sign a document with three clauses:
1: A player is not allowed to voluntarily quit the games.
2: A player who refuses to play will be eliminated.
3: The games may be terminated upon a majority vote.
The contestants, at the time, do not truly understand the consequences of being eliminated. When the game starts and people start getting shot left and right, the crowd is sent into a frenzy, which naturally makes things worse and more people get shot. After the first game, a vote is taken to decide whether the game should be continued and the majority decide against it.
This is where things get spicy, because after going back to their lives, back to the debts they owe, the responsibilities they have, the people that rely on them, the contestants willingly come back and risk their lives for the less than 0.3% chance that they might, might, win 456 million won. The show does a painfully accurate job showing just how much man is willingly to sacrifice in the face of desperation. That’s what this is-desperation. The people did not come back because they were greedy, they were desperate. The show depicts poverty not just as a plot device or a build up for a rags-to-riches story but simply to show that it exists. That the cycle of poverty is in fact real and that people are willing to go to the most extreme lengths to get out of this vicious circle. The show does not use loan sharks as convenient villains for the hero to beat up because that’s not how it works in real life, for there are simply too many loan sharks, too many debt-burdened people and too few heroes.
One of the most popular episodes was the sixth one: Gganbu. From the incredibly emotional conversation between #240 (Ji Yeong) and #067 (Kang Sae-Byeok) and #240’s subsequent sacrifice, to #218 (Cho Sangwoo) and #199 (Ali Abdul) ‘s game of cat and mouse, to #456 (Seong Gi-Hun,our main character,) and #1 (Oh-Ilnam) ‘s tear-jerking goodbye, this episode left me SOBBING.
In the end, the main character does, as always, win.
What I liked the most about Gi-Hun’s character was that they kept his flaws, in fact they showcased his flaws, he was a gambler and a mediocre father/son at best and they made it a point to present him as imperfect. What I didn’t like, however, was how at some points it felt like they were forcing this image of a kind, moral and naive man. They show him repulsed and angry at Sangwoo’s methods in the last few episodes, they show him as the most morally white character, yet, they also show him trying to deceive the old man in the marbles game, they also show him forgetting his daughters birthday and using money his mother gave him for a gift for his daughter to gamble. If hypocrisy is one of the imperfections they were trying to show, then they did a good job.
Speaking of Sangwoo, my favourite character actually, I find it really funny that people villainize Sangwoo. They’ve missed the whole point. The system is the villain, the rich people betting human lifes for giggles are the villain, the old man who believes he can actually justify the existence of such a horrific game is the villain, inequality of wealth is the villain, but a man simply trying to win–lest he die–is not the villain. Cho Sangwoo, easily the smartest guy in the show, was, in my opinion, the only person who actually played the game. What is the use of dignity and honour in a world that chewed these people and spat them out in a heartbeat? In a genuine life-or-death situation, would you truly not prioritize yourself?
Even though the show did live up to its hype, there were several things that I wish had been addressed more or in a better manner. The backstory of the police officer and the brother, the history between Sae-Byeok and Deok-su, more about our characters' pasts, and the list goes on. I simply feel like it would have given us a chance to actually connect more with the characters which would have made their deaths significantly more impactful. I also feel like the police officer's death, specifically, was very anticlimactic, the set-up for his plotline was brilliant and had a lot of potential but his death felt very boring and rushed, though a very common fan theory is that he is still alive.
Regardless, the show has incredible cinematography, acting and special effects. The plot and concept is exceptional. While some of the reveals felt a bit underwhelming, the show overall still managed to evoke a variety of emotions in me. I wouldn't say it’s a five-on-five star rated show for me, but, I would personally give it a solid 7.5/10 and would recommend anyone to watch it.
Illustrated by Avani Gupta