[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Squid Game" Episode 4
By William Schwartz | Published on
The second game of honeycomb toffee carving concluded with no one especially important dying, except maybe the square mask guard who might have caught on to Joon-ho being an undercover cop. It's a bit comical just how easily Joon-ho has infiltrated the game's command structure, which seems poorly designed for dealing with nearly any degree of subversion. The game theory of the games themselves is likewise questionable, as we get explicit confirmation that the rules incentivize the murder of other players.
Neither of these flaws are necessarily continuity errors, since they can be explained by just generally incompetent management. This is especially true when we learn that the third game relies far less on technique than the first two. Likewise, when the known to be murderous Deok-soo comes up with the killing idea, that doesn't make it a good idea. It's actually a pretty stupid idea. The first two games did not require losers at all and four games yet remain where other players could be useful if only as cannon fodder.
I am, as usual, overthinking the game theory aspect. The actual message of "Squid Game" is pretty straightforwardly cynical. People, when given any vague incentive to behave destructively, will do so with minimal provocation. Despite the economic desperation of the competitors in the game, their personal faults are being emphasized more than the system which drove them to such desperation.
Deok-soo is a better villain than any of the actual employees if only because we actually know something about him. Although we do learn a little bit about the thugs wearing masks. Their behavior is craven, yet practical. It's also confirmed in a few scenes that whatever motivation the front man has for wanting to kill all these random people, it's not to harvest their organs. Otherwise, it would be impossible to smuggle the organs outside the compound to third parties.
Speaking of which, Byeong-gi (played by Yu Seong-ju) is a doctor who has to start dealing with Deok-soo on the advice of his collaborators from the inside. And Ji-yeong (played by Lee Yoo-mi) is a new character of some importance, who joins up with the other six characters for the third game. Incidentally, we don't actually see the conclusion of the third game, despite its ultimate result being foregone. Why a Netflix production would bother including a cliffhanger for a drama that had all its episodes released on the same day is quite beyond me.
Review by William Schwartz
"Squid Game" is directed by Hwang Dong-hyuk, written by Hwang Dong-hyuk, and features Lee Jung-jae, Park Hae-soo, Oh Young-soo, Wi Ha-joon, Jung Ho-yeon, Heo Sung-tae. Broadcasting information in Korea: 2021/09/17~Now airing, Fri on Netflix.
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via email@example.com. He also has a substack at williamschwartz.substack.com where he discusses the South Korean film industry in broader terms and takes suggestions for future movies to review.