Season 1 of the Korean thriller ‘Squid Game’ is now streaming on Netflix. The story follows a host of down on their luck citizens forced to take part in some deadly games with a chance to win an excessive amount of money.
The story starts off with the focus on Seong Gi-hun (Lee Jung-jae), a lazy but well-meaning man who’s living on the back of his elderly mother’s meagre income. Gi-hun is a divorcee with a young daughter who he has made a habit of disappointing.
He’s knee-deep in debt and uses up the money his mother lends him to feed a troublesome betting habit. He lucks out at the track and wins a lot of money but he runs into some debt collectors and while trying to get away from them, he’s pickpocketed by a young girl. The collectors catch up with him and make him sign a physical contract promising his organs in case of any more delays in payment.
That night at a subway station, he meets a well-suited gentleman who offers to play a fairly simple children’s game with a catch. If Gi-hun wins a round, he’ll be paid 100,000 won, but if he loses a round, the gentleman slaps him in return.
After multiple rounds of failure, Gi-hun finally wins one and is given the money. Along with that, he’s given a card with a phone number, an offer to join a game that promises to be the solution to the end of all his problems. After much contemplation, he calls the number and agrees to take part.
The people who agreed to play are picked up and taken to an undisclosed location. They all wake up in a room with beds and wearing numbered jumpsuits. A group of men in masks come to explain that they’ll have to play 6 games and win them all in order to get the prize money. When one contestant questions why they should play after they were drugged and had their belongings taken from them, the masked men remind the players that each and every one of them is under a lot of debt and this game is key to their survival.
At the venue, Gi-hun meets his childhood friend Cho Sang-woo (Park Hae-soo) who’s supposed to be a university graduate and currently abroad on a business trip. It is revealed that he is actually charged with fraud and embezzlement, which is why he finds himself in this predicament.
The first game they have to play is ‘Red light, Green light’. However, in a horrible twist, if a player is caught in this game, elimination equates to death. Everyone starts panicking and is subsequently shot down until the remaining players decide to actually play the game. By the end, almost half of all the players are eliminated with the rest in shock regarding what they have signed on for.
Bringing up one of the rules of the contract, they decide to have a vote to leave the game. The Majority vote for the game to end and they’re all released with the offer to return and continue the game still open. After spending a few days outside and realizing that their lives are no better, most of the contestants decide to return. This time, a detective named Hwang Jun-ho (Wi Ha-joon), manages to sneak aboard the ship to the venue in search of his missing brother.
The next game they’re made to play is sugar honeycombs. The players have to carve out a particular shape from a biscuit without breaking it. Thanks to a hint from Kang Se-byeok (Jung Ho-yeon) who had sneaked through the vents earlier, Sang-woo guesses what the game is but doesn’t share that knowledge with Gi-hun. Despite getting the umbrella shape, Gi-hun figures out a trick to make things easier and survives the second game as well.
Alliances begin to form among the players and after an altercation leads to the death of a player with no real consequences, a riot breaks out at night to thin out the herd. The third game contested is the Tug-of-War, and despite having a weaker team on paper, Gi-hun and his group survive thanks to the sage advice of the elderly Oh Il-nam (Oh Young-soo) and some quick thinking by Sang-woo.
The masked men instruct the players to make teams of two for the next game which turns out to be marbles. The twist is that players in each team actually play each other. Sang-woo joins up the simple Ali Abdul (Tripati Anupam) while Gi-hun teams up with Il-nam. Sang-woo is close to losing when he decides to trick Ali into giving him all the marbles, Gi-hun takes advantage of Il-nam’s dementia to get through to the next round.
A group of wealthy VIP’s arrive at the island to witness the final two games in person, betting on the competitors to make things more interesting. On the outside, a search is carried out for Jun-ho, who’s running his own investigation to find out the truth behind this sick game.
The fifth game is revealed to be glass stepping stones. With two adjacent bridges, the players have to choose between a normal glass or a tempered glass step. The wrong choice means the glass will shatter under their weight, sending them down to their doom. Players sabotage each other to get ahead with only three of them getting to the end, Sang-woo, Gi hun and Se-byeok. At the end of the game, the remaining glass steps shatter in an explosion with one shard stabbing Se-byeok, wounding her.
Before the final game, the three contestants are treated to a fancy dinner and at the end of the dinner, they are encouraged to carry along their steak knives with them. Gi-hun sticks with Se-byeok in case Sang-woo decides to attack but when she collapses due to excessive blood loss, he rushes to the door for help. During this time, Sang-woo seizes the opportunity to land the final blow and bring it down to the two players.
Who will win the final game and walk away with the prize? Who is really behind this game and why did they do this?
Squid game ending explained in detail (Episode 9: One Lucky Day):
Friends turned foes
The final game between Gi-hun and Sang-woo turns out to be the squid game. Gi-hun wins the toss and chooses to go on the offense. While playing the game, the two of them argue about how they ended up here and how they chose to play the game.
Sang-woo calls Gi-hun a simpleton who cannot fend for himself in the real world and Gi-hun retorts saying that despite being so smart, Sang-woo made many silly mistakes that led to him dropping down to the level of the simpletons that were forced to paly this game.
Gi-hun manages to get the upper hand after a tough brawl but just before he’s about to win, he changes his mind and tries to convince Sang-woo to drop out of the game. Sang-woo doesn’t want to go back to the life he lived outside and sacrifices himself with his last request being that Gi-hun promises to take care of his mother.
Out of the shadows
Gi-hun is sent back out to the city with an ATM card and he confirms that he has the prize money in his account. Riddled with guilt, he heads home to see his mother. Unfortunately, he finds her cold dead body lying on the floor and bursts into tears of sadness.
The story moves a whole year into the future with Gi-hun living the difficult life he did before, refusing to spend the winnings from the game. He receives a card similar to the game invitation, asking him to show up at a particular address and it is signed by a surprising acquaintance.
He shows up at the address to see Il-nam in a hospital bed. Il-nam reveals that he was the real person behind the games because he eventually got bored of the life that he was living. He had so much money with no idea of what to to do with it. Gi-hun scolds him for lacking all morality but Il-nam sticks to his words, claiming that all those people that decided to take part, did so of their own volition and he didn’t force anyone to stick around.
Il-nam asks Gi-hun whether after all that he’s been through, does he still believe that there is kindness on this earth before taking his final breath and passing away.
A man on a mission
Gi-hun finally decides to clean himself up and starts spending his wealth the right way. He seeks out Se-byeok’s younger brother like he had promised and leaves him with Sang-woo’s mother. He also leaves her a suitcase filled with cash and a note saying that it’s the money he owed Sang-woo.
He then plans to visit his daughter who’s in the US but on the way to the airport, he comes across the suited gentleman playing a game with another man. He rushes over but is not able to catch the gentleman in time. He grabs the card from the player and calls the number.
He threatens them but the voice on the other side tells him that minding his own business would be what’s best. He claims that he will find out who they are and put an end to the game once and for all before deciding not to board the flight to meet his daughter.