The Squid Game ending felt like the wrong kind of gut punch. As I made it to the conclusion of the 8.5-hour series, which I binge-watched over the course of three evenings, I was staring quizzically at my TV. This? Really? Yes, Squid Game is one of the best Netflix shows, but this ending just did not work.
As you might expect, Squid Game spoilers are here and they're the meat of this story. If that's a problem, go join the rest of Netflix's subscribers and watch Squid Game and come back. But if you want to know what let me down so much, scroll on. Because, yes, I couldn't stop watching Squid Game. And now that I've finished it, I've got a lot to say.
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Squid Game is the weakest game
The school-yard dash and obstruct Squid Game we saw at the start of the first episode made sense for the finale, in a symmetrical storytelling kind of way. But the deadly twist that "they've got knives!" wasn't as shocking as anything that came before it.
Maybe this didn't work for me because I wasn't rooting for the kill — don't get me wrong, Cho Sang-Woo is evil for what he did to Sae-byeok — but turning that Squid Game into a death match where the only weapons were knives and the jackets they wore to the fancy dinner beforehand just didn't click with me. I felt like I was watching it from a distance.
This could have been because the games that came before the "Squid Game" were downright perfect in their drama. The marbles game, where it seemed only Gi-hun or Oh Il-nam could survive, the towering tug of war that made me grit my teeth and (especially) the glass stone stepping bridge were all perfect pieces of suspense and drama.
A knife fight? Sorry, it just can't stack up. Every other game was intricate, and filled with moments of shock and surprise. Squid Game itself? It was just sad and depressing, especially with the masked VIPs watching in the distance.
Hating Oh Il-nam just feels amazingly wrong
The big reveal of Squid Game episode 9, that the elderly Oh Il-nam, who is suffering from a brain tumor, is the ultimate villain? That reveal of how the character I thought I liked the most was actually evil left an acrid taste on my tongue. That he was just a rich guy getting his last remaining thrills by pitting the downtrodden against each other? I was OK with that being the motivation of the greedy VIPs, but for Oh Il-nam, it just didn't match, like two puzzle pieces that just won't fit.
Yes, the message is clear. Just because an old man can appear to be kind and noble doesn't mean he's not brutally evil on the inside. Too much money can corrupt. Capitalism is evil, I get it. I agree. Trust me. And, yes, one of my colleagues saw this twist coming. I did not.
Of course, it made me rethink how angry I was with Gi-hun for (seemingly) tricking Oh Il-nam in the marbles game. The fact that the wool had been pulled over our eyes that smoothly, that our hearts broke for the man who was only pretending to be tricked?
I get that we're supposed to taste a bitter element here, as if the show had defeated us. But it then zigged again, as nobody could seek revenge on Oh Il-nam. Death just took him. It was deflating, and Gi-hun giving all that cash to Cho Sang-woo's mother wasn't enough to inflate my heart back.
Now ... give me Squid Game season 2
All that said, I think that Squid Game's ending is a perfect way to leave us wanting more — and I need a Squid Game season 2. Like Gi-hun gambling at the Off Track Betting, and repeatedly getting slapped in the face at the train station, I humbly ask Squid Game director Hwang Dong and Netflix for more.
Now that Gi-hun has evolved into a red-haired badass, who is angry and seeking justice, I need to see how he manages to learn more about the institution of the Squid Game. But more importantly, I have a hunch that Sae-byeok's little brother is going to avenge his sister's death.
Maybe more answers will only erode the mystery in a Star Wars-prequel sort-of-way. Maybe there are no new crazy games for the next hundreds of contestants to play — and knowing the games ahead of time may take some of the suspense out. But right now I'm jonesing for more Squid Game.
It's possible too. Netflix’s global TV head, Bela Bajaria, told Vulture (opens in new tab) that a second installment isn't the only thing in Hwang's plate, saying "He has a film and other things he’s working on," before noting "We’re trying to figure out the right structure for him."
How very Squid Game, to leave me hanging on hoping for more.