I’m at what is possibly the end of the series, not just the season. Yes, there will supposedly be a second season of Squid Game, but who knows when and how that will come to pass?
Regardless, there’s something to be said for trying to retain something like human dignity.
That does seem to be the message at the end. Gi-hun can win the last game easily, and it’s a squid game. He and Sang-woo are given the game and if one wins, the other dies. On offense, Gi-hun can win by crossing a finish line. On defense, Sang-woo can win by knocking Gi-hun out of bounds. They both still have a steak knife and can use any methods necessary to win. Sang-woo has already killed three contestants, two that Gi-hun knows about for certain, and he’s justified it to himself while doing so. There’s a brutal fight in the rain–a nice touch considering it might be the only environmental factor that the people behind the scenes didn’t set up–and Gi-hun wins the fight, leaving a badly beaten Sang-woo on the ground. All he has to do is step across one line.
Except, as Sae-byeok pointed out in the previous episode, Gi-hun isn’t a killer. Anyone who has died in the game, Gi-hun didn’t directly cause it. Indirectly? By winning games, sure. But he never set out to murder anyone. He even naively thought the powers-that-be would have given Sae-byeok medical assistance for her stab wound. The closest Gi-hun came was when he thought he was cheating the Old Man, but then he tried to ensure the Old Man had a marble anyway as time was running out.
Instead, Gi-hun does something decent and, instead of stepping across that line, he proposes to Sang-woo that they invoke the third clause and quit together. Both men can live, neither will get the money, but the spectators will be denied a chance to see a satisfying conclusion. Gi-hun, in this final episode, leans heavily into his humanity. He wants to be about more than the money.
But then Sang-woo kills himself with a discarded knife, causing Gi-hun, still confused over all this, to win by default.
From here, Gi-hun gets drugged, blindfolded, and returned to civilization with a debit card containing his prize money, money that does him no good as his mother has already died by the time he gets back. He does do right with his newfound wealth where he can. He eventually rescues Sae-byoek’s kid brother from an orphanage and gives the boy and a suitcase full of cash to Sang-woo’s mother to take care of. But that comes later. First, he has to see the Old Man again.
Turns out the Old Man was hiding a few things. He was dying of a brain tumor, but he also was the rich guy behind it all, wanting to relive his own childhood playing the games one last time. He set these things up out of boredom, something men of his wealth and privilege apparently feel, and he will even go so far as to blame the contestants for coming back. There may be some truth to that, but the contestants didn’t set up the system where the only way for them to truly survive would be to do something that will get them killed. I’ve said before that Squid Game is clearly a condemnation for the capitalist system, and even little moments like that reinforce the whole thing.
But ultimately, the show does also suggest that there are limits to what money can do. Gi-hun couldn’t get back to his mother in time, and for all his wealth, the Old Man still died while a homeless man on the street below got help. The Old Man compared Gi-hun and the other contestants to horses, simple pack animals there to work for humans and not worthy of consideration. Gi-hun clearly disagrees, and the series showed he, more than many of the others, didn’t fit that mold. He wasn’t perfect, but he had a core decency inside of him that many of the others lacked. Narratives like this do suggest he “won” because he “deserved” it more than anyone else in the games, even the ones who also clearly had problems that needed addressing. For all that Gi-hun did right by Sae-byoek and Sang-woo’s families, Ali’s wife and baby didn’t even get that much. Those two were at least as innocent as Sae-byeok’s kid brother and Sang-woo’s elderly mother, and Ali was also a fairly innocent man who seemed inclined to help the others, whose only real fault was trusting Sang-woo when their lives were both on the line, then even Gi-hun’s best efforts will fall short.
Can Gi-hun, in a second season, somehow bring to light who these mysterious people running the games are? The Old Man is dead and the games continue, so something more is coming. Somehow, I am not sure Gi-hun can really do anything about all this, but likewise, I can at least pretend Logan Roy was one of the masked men betting on the games.
Let’s say this gets a 9.5 out of 10 masked men in the event that that second season never comes out. Besides, I think it would be hard to accomplish what this first season did. Anticipation would be a bit too high, and apparently Squid Game‘s creator wasn’t necessarily planning on more before changing his mind.
But now I need something for Tuesdays. I figure something a bit more light-hearted is in order, and Watson was raving about Only Murders in the Building.
I think I can get behind something like that right about now.