When Hwang Dong-hyuk‘s Squid Game released it quickly became one of the most acclaimed shows of all time. Not only did it light up the Netflix top streaming charts, but Squid Game garnered plenty of award praise at the Emmys, too. Fans and critics alike praised the series for its raw depiction of the class struggle and its intimately crafted emotional moments.
The themes rolled into Squid Game coupled with its global popularity made the news that Dong-hyuk reportedly “forfeited all intellectual property rights and received no residuals” for the series made audiences scratch their heads in confusion. Instead of honoring the legacy of the original series, Netflix decided to further disrespect Squid Game by directly recreating its premise and harsh conditions in a reality TV setting, exploiting its popularity for what is possibly the meanest social experiment ever filmed and released on TV.
‘Squid Game: The Challenge’ Is a Shell of the Former Series’ Glory
Without much deviation from the original series or any real creative juice sunk into the production of Squid Game: The Challenge, it comes across as an empty, and frankly cruel, attempt at capitalizing on the franchise’s success. The Challenge doesn’t rely on the audience’s knowledge of the original concept of Dong-hyuk’s series, but rather the incredibly stressful moments of “life and death” that it tries to manufacture from the former’s stakes.
We spend intimate moments with the contestants, referred to as “players” in an effort to retain an authenticity that only succeeds in further accentuating how Netflix wants to de-humanize these people to viewers. We’re given really powerful monologues from contestants to give the illusion that we’re supposed to care deeply about their stories — until they’re immediately “killed” and eliminated from the contest in future scenes.
Netflix editors even try to trick audiences by highlighting players’ storylines that seem like they might have a strong chance at the (life-changing) $4.56 million, only to pull the rug out from viewers episodes later. Of the final three contestants, Player 016 (Sam Lantz), Player 287 (Mai Whelan), and Player 451 (Phill Cain), Mai has had a far more significant spotlight to make audiences care for her one way or another. And even in this spotlight, the editing seems tainted.
Mai had a strong reputation among her fellow contestants until she chose to attempt to eliminate another Player for seemingly breaking a pact that the contestants had made, which led to the elimination of fan-favorite Player 301 (Trey Plutnicki). However, when her elimination attempt failed and she tried to explain her reasoning, the remaining contestants balked in their support. As if manipulating its contestants wasn’t enough, it seems Netflix is intent on gaslighting its audience into a specific narrative as well.
The players who do get significant screen time, like overall series villain, Player 432, (Bryton Constantin) and Player 161 (Lorenzo Nobilio) — who is notable for asking for extra portions of food and becoming the nemesis of dorm mother Player 302, (LeAnn Wilcox Plutnicki) — leave with unceremonious exits. This feels extremely ungratifying given what they put their fellow contestants through in the name of millions of dollars.
All 456 ‘Squid Games: The Challenge’ Participants Should Seek Extensive Therapy
A lot of people in the world would surely endure a lot less for a significantly smaller portion of money than $4.56 million. Production on Squid Game: The Challenge took this into full consideration while figuring out every way in the book to psychologically torture their contestants. It feels like watching animals trapped in a zoo when it plays out.
Then you have to take into account the conditions the players endured for the exorbitant amount of money. When speaking with Agents of Fandom, a frontrunner in the contest at one point, Player 182 (TJ Stukes), confirmed a recent statement from Player 301 that contestants had to use the lubrication from condoms left in the dorm to soothe their chapped lips.
This information comes on the heels of players threatening a lawsuit against Squid Game: The Challenge for experiencing hypothermia and nerve damage during the “Red Light, Green Light” contest. It seems pitting contestants against each other at every turn wasn’t enough torture, so Netflix’s production forced its contestants to live in suboptimal conditions.
‘Squid Game: The Challenge’ Is So Horrible That It Makes for Great Reality TV
In the end, it seems like the only thing Netflix was intent on doing was ruining the legacy of The Challenge‘s predecessor; to completely toss away the rich commentary of the original and squander it at every opportunity. Because they knew doing so would make for some damn great television. Or rather, that the state of the world is at such a point that this is what is considered the pinnacle of reality TV content.
Squid Game: The Challenge is streaming on Netflix. Follow the Agents of Fandom socials to stay up to date on the latest entertainment news and reviews.
'Squid Game: The Challenge' Review'Squid Game: The Challenge' Review
- Really great emotional moments between contestants.
- An embarrassment to Hwang Dong-hyuk's original work.
- Clear exploitation of contestants can get extremely hard to watch.
- Deceptive editing makes you question what you're watching.