Not since HBO’s The Leftovers has a show so successfully managed to cloak and dagger its audience by revealing its high concept premise as a character drama.
At the conclusion of episode one, you would not believe there would be any chance of escape. Revisiting this premise, audiences haven’t been given one before. In every Battle Royale prior (Battle Royale, Hunger Games, PUBg, Fortnite, Call of Duty: Warzone) there has never been offered a reprieve.
Yet after arguably kidnapping and killing its victims Squid Game takes the unprecedented step and offers its remaining contestants the chance to walk away. We as the audience know they just have to return, but the freedom the show gives by allowing its characters to walk away from its premise and find themselves elevates the game.
It turns out the local authorities (all but one) find the predicament just as unlikely.
The most fascinating thing you can do to a character is give them a choice. And in putting in the work, the show places its characters through a nail-biting exercise. Dangling false hope in front of the audience is a dangerous thing, only it turns out not to be false. I did not expect the chance to get to know the characters so well and never expected a visit back to the real world but after another round of table setting and an understanding of the personal stakes, I’m ready for what comes next.
456 getting the opportunity to get money for his Mom by throwing away his relationship with his daughter is an easy impossible solution no one would blame him for taking. It’s fascinating how the show handles its push-pull factors. I’m even invested in the outcomes of the main characters’ family members. In Hunger Games, the death of Prim was shocking but it wore off because the book and film never take her that seriously as a character. She is a plot device. Here the mother has diabetes and has been in the hospital, and the daughter lives with her mother and step dad. Their lives exist outside of the main character. That’s incredibly strong writing.
What about the few contestants who do not want to return? Will they be forced? They were only decided by a vote of one. [A shocking move I expected the terminally ill old man #001 to be selfish. But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised in the consideration of elders. This is why we respect them folks. They in the past and unlikely future may hold our lives in their hands.] No way this would happen in any good American adaptation.
Will the local cop crack the case wide open or become an unwilling participant in these games? Perhaps he’ll throw a wrench into it.
No notable character deaths yet. 456 contestants. 200 remaining. 45.6 million won.