Before long, Gi-hun accepts the proposal and while unconscious, is taken to a mysterious location, where he wakes up surrounded by 455 other players, all dressed in green jumpsuits with individual numbers on their clothes. The players, all in similarly dire financial situations, learn they’ll be able to win billions if they complete six games over six days. The first of these is ‘Red Light, Green Light’. On the face of it, it’s a familiar Korean childhood game – but it has deadly consequences, which leave the remaining participants reeling. Who will be the winner, and what is the purpose behind this series of competitions? And who are the faceless guards dressed in pink hazmat suits – and their black-masked leader – who are overseeing the whole operation?
By the second episode, the world opens up, and we become more familiar with some of the other players. There’s Cho Sang-woo (player 218), the head of the investment team at a security company. Once a gifted student who studied at Seoul National University, he’s now wanted by the police for stealing money from his clients. Oh Il-nam (001) is an elderly man with a brain tumour who chooses to play the game rather than waiting to die in the outside world. Jang Deok-su (101) is a gangster who enters to settle his massive gambling debts. Kang Sae-byeok (067) is a North Korean defector who enters the competition to pay for a broker to find and retrieve her surviving family members who are still across the border. Abdul Ali (199) is a foreign worker from Pakistan who’s struggling to provide for his young family after his employer refuses to pay him for months. And Hwang Jun-ho is an undercover police officer who sneaks into the game as a guard to find his missing brother.
With nine hours to play with, Squid Game starts off a little slow for those who might have read the hype and expected the show to drop you straight into the action. This isn’t helped by the drama initially focusing on Gi-hun, whose increasing haplessness and selfishness might begin to grate. This is the point, of course: does he deserve to win financial freedom? But as soon as the first game begins – and the interweaving stories of the increasingly small pool of contestants come to the fore – we promise you’ll be hooked.