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Netflix’s Newest K-Drama Might Be a Worthy Successor to Squid Game

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There was nothing like Squid Game fever. The Korean series followed a secret competition where childhood games were given lethal twists, and it captured a global audience with its brutal bloodshed and anti-capitalist allegory. Countless imitators soon popped up, from twisted thrillers like Mask Girl to reality shows like The Devil’s Plan and even a real-life game show version of Squid Game itself.

While each of these shows replicated one facet of what made Hwang Dong-hyuk’s series so singular, only one Netflix original managed to recapture the complete feel of it. And while it may not reach the soaring heights of its inspiration, it more than justifies your time.

The 8 Show doesn’t hide its influences. Although it’s based on Bae Jin-soo’s webtoons Money Game and Pie Game, the premise is eerily similar to another Game: Jin-soo (Ryu Jun-yeol) is heavily in debt and about to end it all when he gets a mysterious offer to join a prestigious game show. He randomly selects a card — #3 of 8 — and enters a strange facility with eight rooms on eight floors overlooking an artificial town square.

Within his room, he discovers he earns money at a stunning rate (30,000 won a minute), but his room contains nothing, not even a toilet. When he tries to buy a blanket via an intercom, he finds everything is a thousand times more expensive than usual.

The next morning, he meets the people on the other floors, and they become known to each other by their floor numbers. You can probably puzzle the class allegory out for yourself; while Jin-soo on the Third Floor makes 30,000 won a minute, the conceited Eighth Floor woman earns 340,000, while the former circus clown on the First Floor only gets 10,000.

Together, the eight participants must run their little society by dealing with food, chores, and even waste management, while also following the arbitrary rules of the show’s producers. It’s a lot to cram into one series, but The 8 Show squeezes a lot into the eight episodes it gets. Every episode begins with a prologue showing how one character got involved, and Jin-soo’s origin story is an extended sequence heavily influenced by, of all things, Charlie Chaplin films, a concept that touches every episode that follows.

The eight contestants meet in their sterile living quarters for the first time.


The 8 Show also loves the surreal. Whole scenes unfold before they’re revealed to be a character’s dream, fantasy, or delusion, leaving viewers to wonder if every plot twist — and there are several — is real or just another fantasy.

While The 8 Show isn’t as brutal as Squid Game (one of the show’s rules is that any fatality will immediately end the game), by Episode 7 the fragile society erodes into something that’s arguably far, far worse. It’s intense, but after hours of watching the screws tighten and the pressure builds, it’s easy to understand what went wrong.

Between its distinct style, clear allegory, and rich characters, The 8 Show has what it takes to become the next global dystopian fascination... if audiences have the stomach to reach the end.

The 8 Show is streaming on Netflix.

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