Well, I guess everyone who’s going to watch it has watched it already, but nevertheless I’ve tried to avoid any major spoilers in the below. Here’s the list of things that struck me most about the hit series.
Most enjoyable reveal
Runner up was the identity of the multi-gazillionaire who set up the game, But the most pleasing reveal was the actor playing the Front Man – the man in the Darth Vader mask. I wasn’t expecting that! The actor’s name is not included in the cast list – at least, not in the UK version of Netflix – so maybe it’s meant to be a surprise, though you can find spoilers in many articles; and of course Front Man’s identity within the plot is also meant as a surprise. There’s also a nice cameo role by another major star, as the salesman that recruits players into the game.
Most predictable plot element
The identity of the winner of the game.
Most implausible plot element
Well, where to start? That a multi-gazillionaire blew so much cash in establishing a secret lair worthy of a Bond villain to conduct these games in the first place, and managed to maintain such secrecy for so many years despite the huge army of goons needing to be employed? That the same multi-gazillionaire lavished so much care and attention on that beautiful pink Escher-like set which had absolutely no useful function other than to delight the viewers’ eyes? That there are meant to be so many VIPs in this world who are prepared to bet millions on which player is going to be eliminated next? Well, for me it was that those same super-rich VIPs were prepared to spend so much money to get to the game venue to enjoy the final, and then agree to wear those stupid masks (the VIP with the deer antlers must have felt *such* a twat) … masks that meant they couldn’t have a sip of their Chateau Latour without tipping their heads back at an uncomfortable angle of 45 degrees because otherwise the lip of the glass would catch on their golden snouts. Not very cool.
Most comment reason cited for enjoying it
The striking visuals and the social commentary (but really, the violence).
Most interesting social commentary articles
- People living in poverty become targets of hate in Korea, Korea Herald, 18 October
- The Real-Life Auto Strike Behind the Runaway Netflix Hit Squid Game, LaborNotes, 13 October
- ‘Squid Game’ strikes nerve in debt-ridden Korea, Korea Times, 13 October
The controversy that sparked the most column inches
Runner-up was the quality of the VIP actors. But the controversy that most caught my attention was the one about the subtitles. To be honest, until I got about two-thirds of the way through the series and saw some of the Twitterstorm on the subject, I didn’t know what closed caption subtitles were. Yes, I noticed that they translated “oppa” in some odd ways and raised an eyebrow at the pre-watershed versions of some of the spicier phrases. But I think people could tell from the acting and tone of voice with which the words were spoken that the printed text was giving us a toned-down version of the dialogue.
It took me a while to find the “real” subtitles in my Netflix settings. Did they enhance my enjoyment of the series? Not noticeably. I take the view that subtitles are never going to be perfect and you make allowances.
Did Koreans feel “erased” by the cavalier treatment of their language, or were they just bemused that a Korean show was so popular? It really depended on which social media threads you happened to be following. Here’s a couple of the more in-depth articles on the subject:
- Netflix’s ‘Squid Game’ Subtitles Mar the Pride of Seeing a Korean Show Succeed, Vice, 8 October
- Lost in translation? The one-inch truth about Netflix’s subtitle problem, Guardian, 14 October
Join the series of workshops on “Translating Squid Game” to see where you stand on the subject.
You can buy T-shirts, track suits, sneakers and more. Some of it is official, probably most of it is not. But thanks to Sokeel Park for sharing the below, which I’m guessing is in the latter category.
Most unexpected real-world consequence
It was perhaps to be expected that Dalgona sales would see a boost; and actress Jung Ho-yeon who played the North Korean exile has deservedly increased her marketability (including a Louis Vuitton contract); less predictable that people would suddenly remember that squid is a good snack with beer. But I’ll bet Netflix didn’t expect to get sued by Korean provider SK Broadband to recover the costs of all that streaming bandwidth usage…
Most nerdish audience speculation
How long will it be before the bank where the Won 45.6bn was deposited for an unknown lucky winner gets slapped with a massive fine for failure to conduct adequate customer due diligence and comply with international anti-money-laundering standards? And how big will that fine be?
Most interesting audience speculation
Was player 001 (O Yeong-su) really player 456’s father? Maybe we’ll find out if there’s a second series.
(images courtesy and © Netflix)