The dystopian show portrays people caught up in South Korea's massive consumer debt culture.
When habitually down-on-his luck gambler and divorced dad Gi-hun finds himself broke and humiliated, salvation comes calling in a secretive series of children's games turned violent. Win, and he'll get enough money to pay off his many debts. Lose, and he'll die.
There's nothing new about the concept of murder games, though the Korean show Squid Game adds its own creepy twist by attaching death penalties to familiar kids' pastimes such as "redlight, greenlight," tug of war, and even marbles. Part of the power of Squid Game is that its dystopia takes place in the now—many of the 456 participants, like Gi-hun, are caught up in South Korea's massive consumer debt culture.
Like Gi-hun, many participants are also black sheep. One of the series' dark early twists sees the contestants freed after the first harrowing round, only to have most of them voluntarily return to the game, unable to work out any other solution to their own financial problems. Their deadly struggles, of course, turn out to be idle entertainment for a pack of the world's wealthiest leaders.
The nine-episode show was released worldwide on Netflix in September and quickly became a hit. In October, Net-flix claimed Squid Game was its most popular show ever, hitting No. 1 in 94 countries, including the United States. In the past, U.S. viewers would have to wait for a cable network to import a foreign series such as this one or even for an English-language remake to be produced. Not anymore.