Squid Game Ep. 9

SPOILERS FOR SQUID GAME FINALE

One Lucky Day

How do I feel about this?

Betrayed. Angry. Disappointed. Impressed.

The finale of Squid Game is a real gut punch in a lot of ways. The twist of the episode is something I’ll look at later.

The Squid Game finale finished with a brutal battle between Gi-hun and Sang-woo in the final game, which was clearly always going to be the Squid Game. This struggle in the rain was unbelievably violent, brutal and realistic. It was down in the dirt, literally. It was able to show the progression of Gi-hun’s character during this series with the way he reacted to the potential win and the refusal to kill Sang-woo.

Gi-hun showed that he truly was a good man at heart and that he was willing to let Sang-woo redeem himself despite all the horrible things that he had done during the game. Then, when Sang-woo jammed the knife into his own throat, he took a step back into being the childhood friend and he kept Gi-hun from sacrificing everything and giving up the money.

So Gi-hun was returned to his life, with his 45 billions. and a huge case of PTSD. His mother was dead. He would not touch the money and we have a time jump.

1 year later.

Here was the twist. Here was the betrayal.

Il-nam is alive. Il-nam was the Host. He was behind everything.

How does this make me feel? The emotions from episode 6 were real. Now though, they are tainted. I just do not know if having this unforeseen twist at the end of the show was worth taking everything from episode 6 and warping it. Having Il-name behind it all and turning out to be nothing more than a cruel and bored rich guy makes me reconsider everything that I loved about that character from the first part of the season.

Don’t get me wrong, it was a surreal twist that I did not see coming. That is always welcome, but was it worth it? His answer to why he set these games up was basically “I have so much money, I was bored.” Doesn’t that make him every bit as bad, if not worse, than any of those VIPs that attended the last few games?

There was more done with the episode at the end, but this was the moment that swung everything. This moment is one that I am still not sure how I feel about. I appreciate how it played with my emotions, but did it cross a line? Did it go too far? I am not sure what to think about it yet. And the twist, being able to accept it and deal with it will color my opinion of Squid Game from episode one through the finale. This one point in time where Player 001 was not dead and in fact was the evil entity behind the whole thing, a character that I loved and mourned over….

I just do not know.

By the way, I guess Jun-ho is dead after falling off that cliff in episode 7 because we never once even make a fleeting reference to him in the finale. That felt like a major piece that is just left dangling.

Would I be in on a season two of Squid Game on Netflix? Honestly, right now, I am not sure. I loved episodes 1-8, but that finale really made me question how much I loved those earlier episodes.

It is a wait and see from me.

Squid Game Ep. 8

SPOILERS FOR EP. 8 OF SQUID GAME

Front Man

So the wild speculation I made back around episode four turned out to be 100% on the nose. The Front Man turned out to be the brother of Jun-ho, In-ho.

Lee Byung-hun, who played Storm Shadow back in 2013’s G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra, is a well-known Korean actor and, according to the research I’ve done, is the most familiar face among the cast. I am pretty proud of myself for wildly speculating Front Man’s true identity back in the early part of the series. His confrontation and unmasking on the edge of a cliff with his brother was tense and potent. Both of the actors involved in this scene did tremendous work. You can see that, even though he shoots his brother in the shoulder causing him to fall off the cliff and into the water, In-ho was tying to maneuver it so he could take his brother in alive. (BTW, there is no chance that I think Jung-ho is dead. He’s coming back in the finale…count on it). The scene where In-ho sees his brother’s reflection in the mirror gives us a deep look into the mind of Front Man.

The brotherly confrontation was one part of this episode. The other part was the pay-off from last episode’s exploding glass bridge and the choices made prior to it blowing up. Gi-hun confronted Sang-woo about his cold-blooded shove of the guy from the glass company. This was brilliantly written as Gi-hun asked him if it had been him on the glass in front of him, would he still have pushed him. Sang-woo verbally attacked Gi-hun, blaming him for being here and Gi-hun masterfully turned that around, wondering why Sang-woo, the “golden child” and highly educated college man, was here too. They were clearly placed as opponents moving forward.

But there was a third wheel here and it was Sae-byeok. It had looked like she was injured after the glass bridge was blown up, and, in fact, she was as a huge glass shard was shown to be imbedded in her side.

She tried to bandage herself up, but this was going to require more than what she was capable of. As the Squid Game soldiers provided a final meal of steak, she was not eating much because she was in such bad shape. The soldiers left each of the three of them a steak knife, which you knew would come into play.

Gi-hun approached Sae-byeok in the night to check on her and to try and build an alliance with her against Sang-woo. They had a great conversation about their families and Sae-byeok tried to get Gi-hun to promise to look after her brother if he won the money. She knew at this point that she was most likely not going to survive this side wound. Gi-hun would not promise, saying that they could get out together and split the money. When he noticed that Sang-woo had fallen asleep and had dropped his knife, Gi-hun was going to go kill him, but Sae-byeok stopped him by telling him that he was not that kin of person and that he had a good heart.

It was at this point that Gi-hun realized that Sae-byeok had an open wound in her side and he ran to try and get help from the door. When it opened, there was the soldiers with a casket. Gi-hun turned around and realized that Sang-woo was standing by her bed and that he had stabbed Sae-byeok in the neck, killing her.

There have been some terrible deaths in the series that has elicited some powerfully emotional responses, in particular Oh Il-nam and Ali Abdul in episode 6, but this one was one of the worst yet because Sae-byeok was already badly injured, perhaps even fatally, and he still went and took advantage of her situation to kill her. I said last episode that Sang-woo had become the “Big Bad” at the end and it is clear that he is exactly that. It is coming down to Sang-woo vs. Gi-hun in the final game, which I assume will be the Squid Game itself.

This was the shortest episode of the season, but it was fully packed with powerful moments and fantastic acting. I am so glad that I did not continue on with the dubbed version on Netflix because I just do not think the dubbed version would have delivered the emotional depth and potency of the scenes. And, like all other subtitled films I have watched, the best ones make you forget that you are reading the movie.

Even though I had figured out who Front Man was, I have no idea how this series is going to end. That is a great feeling. I do not even have any wild speculation to toss out now. I sure hope that Sang-woo gets what it coming to him, though.

Squid Game Ep. 7

SPOILERS FOR SQUID GAME EP. 7

VIPs

After the last episode with so much emotion and anxiety during the marbles matches, episode 7 picks right up with the suspense as the players are thrown into a game where they have to choose one of two glass squares to jump on. One is strong enough to hold up to two people while the other one is not strong enough to hold one. Choose poorly and you fall to your death.

This was a great way to get rid of the remaining “Red Shirts” of the show (an allusion to Star Trek, of course). One of the things this show has been tremendous with has been giving a little bit of character to the Red Shirts. They may not be incredible complex or deep of characters, but they all have something to make them more than just cannon fodder. Case in point, in the Tug O’ War episode, we met married couple that Sang-Woo rejected for his team. We also saw that this couple formed a pair in the marbles, meaning one would survive and one would not. The husband (number 69) survived the marbles but was immediately crushed by the loss of his wife. We knew so very little about either of these characters and yet their loss and their pain resonates with us because we understand the feelings. We also understand when Player 69 killed himself instead of facing life of guilt knowing that he lived because his wife died.

The episode is entitled “VIPs” because the VIPs arrived to watch the final two games live and in person on the island. These characters were shown to be the stereotypically worst people imaginable. They were betting on the outcome of the games while they sipped wine an couches with real naked women acting as feet rests and pillows. They all spoke English too, which is clearly a commentary on the American way of life. One could see someone like Donald Trump beneath one of those sparkly golden masks.

These VIP character were simply there for us to hate, bringing little more than that to the story. There was one horrendous VIP who embodied the worst of the gay stereotypes, probably not a character that would make it through in the American culture nowadays. These characters were very much caricatures, but it did feel like that was their purpose. Perhaps these are the rich men who bankroll the Squid Game. It gave an impression that there are Squid Games going on in more than just this location and these men may be involved in these. I’m not sure we are going to be going into more detail with these people, but I do believe those explosive charges we saw a few episodes ago may have a purpose with these men.

What we will absolutely be getting as a resolution before this show ends is the reveal of an identity of the Front Man. I am even more sure that Front Man is the missing brother of detective Jun-ho. I made that random wild speculation several episodes ago and now it just makes more sense. Especially since we know that the Front Man still reports to someone above him, The Host. Front Man notices the little details and he moves with a gun like someone who knows what he is doing. There is definitely a reveal coming with this character and, since he has been connected to Jun-ho, it makes sense narrative wise.

While I am talking about Jun-ho, can we comment on the battery life on dude’s cell phone? Where can I get that model? I have to be charging mine every other day if I am not using it much.

Then there was the most satisfying moment of the whole episode. As they are moving along the bridge of glass, Deok-Su decides to stop and blackmail the rest of the players behind him so someone else would go first. Who steps up? It is crazy woman, Han Mi-nyeo. She wound up spared last episode because of the leftover rule (those of us chosen last for dodgeball, we know what that feels like). She was back and she pretended to take the lead from Deok-su, only to grab him around the waist and throw them both off the bridge, crashing through the next glass step and falling to their deaths. That was such a satisfying moment because Deok-su was such a horrible person and really deserved to die, and Mi-nyeo was able to deliver on her promise to kill him she had made after he betrayed her in the Tug O’War. I could not think of a better way for this pair to go out than what the show gave us.

We are down to the final three. Gi-hun, Sang-woo and Sae-byeok. Sang-woo has really set himself up as the next “Big Bad” to be faced off with. He has had a secret through this entire series, something that he has been hiding from Gi-hun and I am sure that we will have that reveal soon too. Episode 8, interestingly enough, is a shorter 32 minutes. I’m not sure why this was, but I am fine with it. I have two more episodes to finish and I will get to them today. I did not anticipate being done with this series this weekend, but once I started, I could not stop.

Squid Game Ep. 6

SPOILERS FOR SQUID GAME EP. 6

Gganbu

Okay, that one was tough.

Never will look at marbles the same way again.

The show flipped the script on us once again as the people in charge of the Squid Game had the players choose partners. We all thought that they were choosing partners to work together with, but instead, they chose someone they were going to have to play against with marbles. Whoever ended up with all 20 marbles would be the winner. So we had a fun little section at the beginning with these characters pairing up, with plenty of character moments, only to pull the rug out. Seeing the pairings, the fears that we would be losing some of our favorite characters was obvious.

The pairings were:

Gi-hun and Number 001

Ali and Sang-woo

Sae-byeok and Ji-yeong

Doek Soo and Player 278

Things were set up for some painful moments. And then the episode was spent showing amazing character moments and development that gave us more insights into who these people were. Ji-yeong and Sae-byeok in particular told us a great deal about their tragic pasts and what they may or may not do when they “win” the money.

Sang-woo showed his true colors in his pairing with Ali, as he was losing badly to the innocent soul that was Ali. He suckered Ali into giving him the bag full of marbles after Ali nearly won everything. Sang-woo betrayed the young father, who reminded us about his family during the emotional dialogue. Sang-woo has been sketchy throughout the first five episodes, but this was the worst thing he had done. The sound of the gunshot was painful. Thankfully we did not have to see the blood spray from Ali.

Of course, perhaps the worst one was Gi-hun and Player 001. The old man was suffering with the brain tumor, but was winning the majority of the marble rounds. Gi-hun was becoming more frustrated and afraid with every failure, until the opportunity presented itself to him. Player 001, who had told Gi-hun that they were now gganbu, best friends in marble playing, could not remember what he had said and Gi-hun lied to him, manipulating him so he could start to win some. This became the continuous stretch as Gi-hun kept lying to him. Gi-hun told the story of his own guilt and fear on his face. When Player 001 had one remaining marble, he wandered off, forced Gi-hun to follow him.

They wound up in a house that Player 001 said was his old house, and then he asked why Gi-hun would be fooling him. The pain just flooded out of Gi-hun. Player 001 gave the remaining marble to him, accepting his fate. The last words from Player 001 was that he remembered his name and that it was Oh Il-nam. As Gi-hun walked away, we heard the fatal gunshot.

This was a painfully emotional episode. One of the best of the series and it really moved the story forward.

Squid Game Ep 5

SPOILERS FOR SQUID GAME EP 5

A Fair World

As we wrapped up the Tug O’War cliffhanger from last episode, the fifth episode took a deeper look at the organ harvesting operation being run out of the Squid Game. We found out that the whole organ harvesting and subsequent selling of organs to the Chinese was outside of the typical part of the game. The villain in the black mask knew what was going on, but he turned his eyes away from that aspect. He wanted to keep the fairness of the game, which had been tainted by the use of the Doctor, giving him inside information on what was the next game. This is a warped view of what was going on, but that is what makes the villain a good villain.

We also go into the story of the detective Ha-Joon and his search for his brother. This took some serious twists in episode 5 as Ha-Joon found himself in the records room of the Squid Game and he discovered that his brother was not among the current players but had been a winner in 2016. This makes me wonder if my rampant speculation from a few episode write-ups ago is going to turn out to be correct. Is the Black Mass boss man his brother? When he was looking at the records, the camera specifically darkens out the picture of his brother from the upper corner of the sheet, and I feel as if the brother is definitely here somewhere. I am unaware of who else the big boss may be otherwise as the show has definitely spent time to conceal that identity.

Back in the dorm room, Gi-hun is really showing how much growth he has shown in the short time he has been in the Squid Game. He is taking care of Number 001, humorously interacting with Sae-byeok, and playing reverse psychology with Deok-su. That scene with Deok-su where Gi-hun carefully plants the seeds of mistrust in Deok-su’s head toward his other team mates, suggesting that they may want to attack Deok-su because he is the strongest in the game. It was a brilliant maneuver and kept Deok-su from launching another attack in the night.

The doctor in the show, who had been harvesting the organs in exchange for info, continued to be shown as not the best of the medical profession. He was becoming irritated with the other soldiers around him in “his” operating room and he started yelling at people. His behavior only escalated when he discovered that the soldiers did not know yet what the next game was going to be. This turned into a huge chase with the doctor trying to get away, only to find death at the end of the road. He was an obscene character and I was glad to see him eliminated.

We start to see what may be the eventual downturn in health of Number 001. He broke into a fever during the night and Gi-hun tried to help cool him down. He was laying down when the soldiers had come over to him to have him move, Gi-hun tried to protect him, but the soldier pulled the covers away to reveal that Number 001 had urinated over himself in the night. Teh sadness of the scene was terrible as Gi-hun flashed his expressive face. I am worried that Number 001 may not be long for the series.

I am watching this much quicker than I initially had intended. I was going to watch maybe one a day or one episode every few days. Now I am done with five on Saturday (going to watch one more tonight before the Dodgers start) and will have only three left. I guess that speaks to the brilliance of the series as well as anything does.

Squid Game Ep 4

SPOILERS FOR SQUID GAME EP. 5

Are you freakin’ kidding me?

Not fair! Not fair!

I’m talking about the tug o’war at first even though it ended the episode because of how it ended the episode. It was the cruelest cliffhanger cutaway that I have seen in a long time. When Gi-hun’s team was losing their mojo in the life or death tug o’ war match, they tried a desperate ploy that did not work on ABC’s Battle of the Network Stars back in the early 1980s. They were going to take three steps forward and then try and catch the other team off balance. Except the show went to break just as they did it and ended for the episode. I literally jumped out of my seat and yelled at the screen.

The strategy laid out by Number 001 as a way for their smaller team to win the Tug O’ War was fantastic too and there was so much anxiety during the matches that it was palatable.

And if that was the only moment in this episode, it would have been great. However, there was an insane riot in the bunk beds room too.

Set up by shorting the group their food, the Squid Game boss wanted the participants to attack each other, eliminating the weakest among the remaining people.

The riot was utterly breathtaking. I sat and watched with a stunned silence as they reigned violence down upon each other.

This was the best episode so far for Number 001. He gave us the range of emotion from fear to confusion to confidence. Actor Yeong-su Oh ha been a highlight so far in the drama, but in this episode, he just soared into the atmosphere.

Again this episode had the participants shoring up their allies/groups. Gi-hun invited the pickpocket Sae-byeok to come to their side before the chaos erupted when the lights went out. After the riot ended, the group exchanged real names in order to build more trust with each other.

Our villains were getting together more as well, including the doctor who continued to be getting secret messages in his food, letting him know what the next game is. We found out why in episode 4. He is doing the organ harvesting on the dead bodies of the participants, so he had worked out a deal to keep him alive. So we know that the Squid Game deals with selling organs, presumably on the black market.

This was, by far, my favorite episode of the series so far. The constant uneasiness is just pervasive through the show, but there are some excellent characters that are proving to be worth rooting for. They have several villains too that are just pushing every button right.

And then they had the cruelest cliffhanger….

Squid Game Ep 3

SPOILERS FOR EPISODE 3 OF SQUID GAME

The Man with the Umbrella

Squid Game continued on in episode three with some of our characters forming alliances, a couple of people going undercover or stealthy, and a rousing and unbelievably tense game of Honeycomb.

I really enjoyed the forming of the team with Gi-hun partnering up with Sang-woo, Ali Abdul and Number 001. I will say immediately that Gi-hun has taken a huge step in likeability for me. For the first few episodes, he was not a character that I cared much for despite being our protagonist. Maybe it is more like I saw this character as a rotten person and I did not want to like him. However, in this episode, that took a turn as he became more than just the whiny, money grubbing jerk that he was. Just the smile on his face as he was interacting with his teammates really went a long way to making this character appealing.

And there is no doubt that I love Number 001 and Ali (Number 199). These two characters are going to be heart-wrenching if and when they die.

Honeycomb was this episode’s game and I cannot imagine how horrendous it would be trying to do this detailed work, trying to cut out certain shapes from the honey cookie, with people being shot all around them and dead bodies bleeding out on the ground beside you. All of the peripheral events could not be help to make you more anxious and less careful, I would think.

We are also beginning to get a look at the inside of Squid Game thanks to our friendly neighborhood detective, Jun-ho. He was able to tail the vans to the ship that would take the participants back to the island. He was able to jump one of the “guards” and take his place. He found the going to be very challenging considering that he was not sure of the procedures of the game and his job. There were several points where it seemed as if he was going to be caught, but he was able to slip through and survive.

This show has a combination Hunger Games/LOST feel to it. LOST because of the island aspect, plus how most of these people had bad lives before arriving on the island. In LOST, we got flashbacks showing how rotten the lives of the survivors were and how they were not good people. The characters on LOST many times were not very likable in their past lives and we get to see a new side once they were on the island. This is very much like most of these characters in the Squid Game. There is also the mysterious organization behind the whole thing, much like the Dharma Initiative.

Only six more episodes to go. I had really not intended to watch these as closely together as I have, but they are engaging and easy to consume. I did go back to the Korean language with English subtitles this episode (which I will do for the remainder of the season). It is just so much more emotional to hear the real voices that matched the lips and the facial expressions coming from these actors.

A few more items:

  • What is up with the guy who got the message in his bread?
  • Sae-byeok is one bad ass character.
  • Our villain in the black mask is very mysterious. Wild speculation: Could he be Jun-ho’s missing brother?
  • Poor young kid under that square helmet. What is the story behind these “guards?” Are they as much of victims as the players?

There are a lot of questions being raised about exactly what is going on here and how something this large and intricate can be carried out. I am excited to see where this goes from here with six more episodes to go.

Squid Game Ep 2

SPOILERS FOR SQUID GAME EPISODE 2

Hell

So, with episode two of Netflix’s Squid Game, I tried something different. Episode one I watched with the subtitles in the actual Korean language. For episode two, I tried the dubbed version. Typically, I do not like the dubbed versions of entertainment, but I wanted to see if this would be an exception.

It wasn’t.

The dubbed version was considerably less engaging than the Korean language/subtitle version and, because of that, I just did not enjoy episode two near as much as I did episode one. I also think it was a major error in choice for me because episode two turned out to be so different than the first episode with the majority of the group voting to leave the Squid Game and return to their own lives.

Did not see that happening.

But, it meant that there was more emotional depth going on as we see the different characters and the horrible lives that they were living prior to being recruited into the Squid Game. With the dubbed version, these emotional bits did not land near as well. The original Korean may not be understandable, but the real voices and the sound of the voices were so much more real… so much more tonally correct than these dubs that it feels more like acting going on. It felt more cartoony with the dub and that did not work with the story that was being told. Watching a review of the episode on Preview’d with Jay and Adam, the scenes they showed were just so much more thrilling or powerful with the original Korean language than what I watched.

Moving forward, I will be watching the subtitled version from now on.

This episode dove deeper into the back story of most of our main characters, giving us an idea of what their lives were like. Our main characters decided that they had to go back, and were given an opportunity to do so. At this point, there will be less of a feeling of this being something that was done to them and more of something that they chose to do to try and escape the hell that their lives had become.

A few moments that stood out:

  • The crushing of the hand. Whoa… brutal.
  • The inclusion of the detective following the Squid game pick up van brings anew wrinkle.
  • The pickpocket still being awake in the van after the gas at the very end of the show.
  • Gi-hun and his interaction with his ex-wife’s husband. Another one of those powerful moments undermined with the dub.

Looking forward to everyone coming back to the land of the multiple bunk beds and seeing what happens next to out ensemble cast.

Squid Game Ep1

SPOILERS FOR SQUID GAME EPISODE 1

Red Light, Green Light

One of the cultural phenomenon in the world of pop culture over the last few months has been the 10-episode series, Squid Game, on Netflix. It seemed like the entire world was buzzing about this series. As I have said before, I have been having a difficult time to committing to watching new series, especially binging a series, lately. Especially because my time has been limited with school, the DailyView, the Dodgers and the regular movies that I am responsible to do.

However, I have had friends ask me about whether I have watched this yet, and so I was looking to plan out a time to get it done. It did not help matters that the episodes were mostly right around the hour in length. I considered a Thanksgiving binge, but I have decided that I would start this one tonight, but not worry about binging. I would do this one episode at a time when I could squeeze one in.

The first episode, entitled “Red Light, Green Light,” started in a black and white flashback with a group of kids playing a kids game called Squid Game. This was not a game that I was familiar with (I am not sure if this was made up for the show or if it were a real life game played in Korea), so I appreciated the outline of the rules. I assume this is going to come into play later in the series.

I guess I should say that I did watch this with the English subtitles on and without the dubbing. I am not a fan of dubbing English into the mouths of characters. I have heard that they do a good job with it, but it always is distracting for me so i would rather read the subtitles than put up with the dubbing. This series is, of course, made in Korea.

We get introduced to our main character, Gi-hun (Lee Jung-Jae), one of the kids we saw in the flashbacks, having much more success playing the kids game as a youth than he was having as an adult living life. He was just a slacker extraordinaire here, a divorcee, an absentee father, a gambler… as well as someone who would steal his mother’s ATM card to get money. Yes, he was getting the money to spend on his daughter (or so we think) but he was anything but likeable.

Thankfully, that means Gi-hun has quite a road to travel to find improvement in his character during this show.

The set up for the game is excellent. The whole face slapping was a funny moment, not knowing how sinister it would eventually become. The chance at changing the pattern of his life was just too much of a temptation to ignore. It was obvious right away that Gi-hun had wound up in above his head. I did enjoy the way the show began to introduce the secondary characters that will be involved in the games.

Then, with the dark version of Red Light, Green Light, we see how brutal the games were going to be. I was not quite ready for the bloody and tense children’s game. The giant girl robot was creepy and the execution of those who were caught moving was frightening. When the whole group freaked out at the start, you have to wonder what they were all thinking. I loved how into it Number 001 was too.

I enjoyed the first episode and I will be trying to find time in the schedule to watch more this weekend.