Ask any of Netflix’s millions of subscribers. The consensus is clear: Squid Game lives up to the hype.
The South Korean series could have been another flash in the pan for its streamer, but gripping storytelling and heart-wrenching twists help demystify why the series has instead become a global phenomenon.
If you’re not convinced, one episode of the series contains a number of hidden twists that set up the series’ best moments. Here’s how Squid Game crafted the smartest episode of the year.
Episode 6 of Squid Game follows the remaining players as they begin learning how to strategize to maximize their chances of winning. No longer just a game of Red Light Green Light, the gameplay is more akin to Survivor.
The game depicted in this episode requires the players to pair up, which poses an obstacle for players: do you play with someone strong? Smart? Manipulative? Nobody wants to play with elderly player Oh Il-nam, so protagonist (and degenerate gambler) Seong Gi-hun offers to pair up — despite Il-nam’s failing mental state.
The other pairs of interest are businessman Cho Sang-woo and Pakistani immigrant Ali Abdul, and righteous murderer Ji-yeong and North Korean defector Kang Sae-byeok. Each of these pairings is made in the hope they’ll play the game in conjunction with one other, but the first twist of the episode is the pairs have to play against each other in a simple game of marbles, with the loser’s life ending.
Each of these three pairings works to deconstruct what we’ve learned about the characters so far and foreshadows what will happen to them later. Here’s how each game breaks down.
Warning: Spoilers for the entirety of Squid Game ahead!
Game #1 - Oh Il-nam and Seong Gi-hun
For Il-nam and Gi-hun, choosing a game isn’t difficult. As a longtime gambler, Gi-hun gels well with a simple game of guessing and wagering. However, with his life on the line, Gi-hun isn’t willing to leave everything up to chance. When Il-nam’s memory fails him, Gi-hun takes advantage of the moment to ensure he’ll survive.
Right at the end, Il-nam reveals he knows Gi-hun was dishonest but lets him win anyway. It’s a sad moment, at face value, but after finishing the entire series, there’s much more to it. In the final moments of the series, we learn Il-nam was the hidden host of the Squid Game all along.
This seems like a giant shock, but it was foreshadowed by the marbles game. Il-nam seems like the most feeble person both in that match and the larger Squid Game, but there’s good reason for that: he knows what’s going on at all times.
Game #2 - Kang Sae-byeok and Ji-yeong
Kang Sae-byeok and Ji-yeong take another approach to the game: they’re going to spend it getting to know each other, and then do a quick round at the end to decide who will perish. As they get to know each other, Ji-yeong realizes Sae-byeok isn’t participating in the game for her own enrichment, but for the sake of her family. To Ji-yeong, who murdered a member of her own family, this hits home.
When Ji-yeong loses the game at the end of the allotted time, she’s at peace with that outcome, knowing Sae-byeok has more to play for. This foreshadows Sae-byeok’s untimely end later in the game, when she peacefully accepts her fate knowing Gi-hun will take care of her brother if he wins.
Game #3 - Cho Sang-woo and Ali Abdul
For Ali and Sang-woo, the marble game isn’t a game of skill, but one of manipulation. After being convinced by Sang-woo to carry all the marbles in a sack around his neck, Ali wanders around looking for Sang-woo, only to realize he doesn’t have the marbles. Instead, he has a bag of pebbles.
It’s a heartless betrayal, but Sang-woo chose to sacrifice Ali and keep living. However, this decision doesn’t come without guilt, which foreshadows Sang-woo’s ultimate demise. There, he sacrifices himself in order for Gi-hun to win.
If you look closely, the end of the Squid Game is built into its beginning, and into this episode in particular.
Squid Game is now streaming on Netflix.