By Nolen Kelly
The world is a cruel place and we are all just a bunch of greedy monsters. I don’t have a funny or long-winded introduction for this review, because I’m living in a world of darkness that doesn’t deserve my delightful humor. Netflix’s new series “Squid Game” is about 456 men and women, deep in debt, who are all recruited to play games for a mysterious company that offers a gargantuan prize. With nine episodes, each clocking in around an hour each, “Squid Game” has its ups, it has its downs, and it has a lot of other stuff. I have no creative segue for this paragraph, move along now.
While there was a lot that I liked, there was a lot I did not like, namely the pacing of the show. The first episode worked really well. We got to know the protagonist and see his life, his struggles and how he becomes involved in the games. Then we see the first game: how he and everyone playing are reacting to it, and we, the audience, get to watch and experience everything as well. It effectively established characters, setting, mystery, a game, and the stakes. Every episode is full of subplots and different character dramas so it never gets boring, but sometimes a little too much is happening and there is not always enough space for some things to breathe and settle. Without spoiling anything, there is a moment between two characters I enjoyed a lot but afterwards I realized how rushed and sudden it was. The emotional punch of the moment came and went before I even got a chance to grasp what was happening. The eighth episode has a runtime of only thirty minutes which works perfectly in context to the story. If it was an hour long it would have been too much filler, but the thirty minutes helped contain the story within the story, tell the important parts and move on. Aside from the pacing, I was not a fan of the VIP characters. I know they were meant to be annoying but they really sucked, a few characters had moments of being more annoying than usual, and I think some scenes were a bit rushed in some important areas.
With that said, I liked a lot of what I saw. There were times when my anxiety rose to the levels from the last time I saw “Uncut Gems:” very high. The games were recognizable yet simple enough to grasp, but with the ever present stakes always nipping at everyone’s heels, the character drama was mostly fun to follow, the dynamic changes in power and group work, and the like. I wish the second episode was written a bit stronger but each episode has something memorable within it. Each game is a nightmarish iteration of a normal game that I now refuse to play with anyone ever again because I am afraid for my life. While the finale may be a bit divisive, I have to admit I was thoroughly enjoying it until the big notable moment happened, and then I wasn’t liking it, and then I really liked it after the moment settled and some conversation transpired. I’m not sure if it was intentional or not but I found myself laughing a few times despite the dark scenarios. If there was supposed to be comedy, it worked and I didn’t think it was forced; if there wasn’t supposed to be comedy, it worked and I didn’t think it was forced. The second game, the sugar cookie game, is probably the most popular entity from the show right now and while that may be one of the darker moments of the show, I laughed a few times from the excess of the scene. It is really violent, don’t get me wrong, but if my research in comedy movies has taught me anything, it’s that excess can be funny.
If I had to pick another fight with “Squid Game,” it would be the outside attention it has garnered. I think the show is great and is definitely worth checking out if you are looking for something intense, new and fun, but I think there may have been a little too much overemphasis on the show. I hear a lot of people slamming it and saying it is overhyped therefore they will not watch it, but that’s a terrible mindset to have. “Squid Game” is a good show and should be watched but that’s really all I need to say to recommend it without overdoing it.
I recommend “Squid Game.” I think it is a fun, twisted and unique show that I can see lasting maybe another two seasons if they decide to continue on. I want to put out a few warnings just to be safe; there is a lot of blood, and gun violence, some gore, some suicide, a bit of nudity, and a lot of intense and somewhat disturbing imagery. A lot of things happen in this show and I think it is worth the viewing at some point. I don’t really want to rate this since it is a show but I do give this a thumbs up, a recommendation, and the Annual “Hey, look, South Korea has made new content that has connected with American audiences” Award. Congratulations.