Squid Game spoilers follow.
Anyone complaining that there’s nothing good to watch on Netflix clearly hasn’t been paying attention to all of the amazing Korean content that’s available to subscribers worldwide. From Love Alarm and Itaewon Class to Kingdom and Crash Landing On You, there’s a whole world of Korean content on there that demands to be explored. But if you haven’t done so already, you might want to start with Squid Game, a new thriller that may turn out to be Netflix’s most popular Korean export yet.
You can’t have missed the enormous cultural impact it’s made around the world since it first dropped in September 2021. Shoppers as far afield as Sydney, Maastricht in the Netherlands and Westfield in Shepherd’s Bush have had the life (but not the capitalism, presumably) scared out of them by giant-sized ‘Red Light, Green Light’ dolls in October.
The distinctive pink guard uniforms and green competitor tracksuits became so popular around Halloween that New York’s schools have officially banned them (yeah, that usually works, guys – the kids will definitely lose interest now). If you went to a Halloween party this year, we guarantee you saw at least one person there in Squid Game regalia, probably with an old sieve painted black with a white circle on it for a face mask. (That’s what we did anyway. People liked it, so shut up.)
It’s even reached the world of technofinance, which is ironic for such a scathing critique of the capitalist system: you can buy a Squid Game cryptocurrency called Squid (as in “I owe you six squid”) to participate in an online version of the game. Speculation on the in-game currency drove its value from 1 cent to $4.39 – that’s a 43900% rise – before the game even launched.
“We do not provide deadly consequences apparently!” say the game’s developers, that not-very-reassuring ‘apparently’ tacked on a the end, there.
Then there was Lizzo’s performance at Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival in San Francisco, where she dressed up as the creepy doll and did Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ dance, because… Halloween, we guess?
As you probably know by now, in a similar vein to The Hunger Games and Japanese stories like Battle Royale, As the Gods Will and Alice In Borderland, Squid Game forces strangers to fight to the death in a twisted and deadly competition. If they survive long enough to win, they’re awarded an obscene amount of money, but what sets this show apart from the rest is that each one of these participants actually volunteers to play of their own free will. Even after they find out what horrors await, they are all in a desperate enough situation (through debt, mostly) that they want to come back.
The games are also much simpler than those of other death-arena tales. Writer-director Hwang Dong-hyuk told Indian news service IANS: “There are many works that depict survival games or death matches but most of those survival game-themed artworks depict how complex the games are and how dangerous… Squid Game is different… It features childhood games that are quite childish and simple.”
Childhood games that end in a gruesome fashion, of course, but that were all filmed with the utmost care for the cast and crew. In the wake of the shooting tragedy on the set of Rust in the US, Hwang Dong-hyuk has spoken about the safety measures taken when filming Squid Game.
Speaking to Variety while in the US, he said: “We of course have a prop master, but also in Korea, we’re not really a gun-owning country, so only the police can have or own a gun. Because of that, bullets are not really easily as distributed as they are maybe here, so there’s a very low, low possibility of any safety issues happening on set. In my life, I have never seen a real bullet. I have only seen them in the movies.”
For those of you who have already binged all nine episodes of season one, join us as we place a call of our own, get the green tracksuit out of the cupboard (or would we have the red jumpsuit and black facemask…?) and dive into this pastel-coloured world for a second round of Squid Game season two.
Squid Game season 2 release date: When will it air?
In what’s surely the least surprising news ever announced, Squid Game has now been officially renewed by Netflix for a second season.
Creator Hwang Dong-hyuk has talked around this idea for a while now, but it wasn’t until 9 November 2021, that he finally confirmed that new episodes are coming during a chat with Associated Press. Watch the clip right below:
COMEBACK SQUID: Hwang Dong-hyuk, the director, creator, writer of #SquidGame says the show will be back with more Gi-hun adventures. pic.twitter.com/uqC1DIdZqy
— AP Entertainment (@APEntertainment) November 9, 2021
And here’s an English translation for all the non Korean speaking fans out there:
“So there’s been so much pressure, so much demand and so much love for a second season. So I almost feel like you leave us no choice! But I will say there will indeed be a second season. It’s in my head right now. I’m in the planning process currently. But I do think it’s too early to say when and how that’s going to happen. So I will promise you this…(in English) Gi-Hun will come back, and he will do something for the world.”
Not only that, but it looks like there could even be a season three being planned already as well.
In December 2021, creator Hwang Dong-hyuk told Korean broadcaster KBS (via Korea Times): “I’m in talks with Netflix over season two as well as season three. We will come to a conclusion any time soon.”
So it looks like the games have literally only just begun.
Squid Game was first announced in 2019, which means that production on season one took two years to complete. But now that many of the key pieces are in place, we hope a second season could arrive as soon as late 2022.
Director Hwang Dong-hyuk recently told YTN, a Korean news outlet, that he first thought of the show’s premise back in 2008, so he’s had plenty of time to flesh out a longer game plan beyond season one.
Hwang told Variety, however: “I don’t have well-developed plans for Squid Game 2. It is quite tiring just thinking about it. But if I were to do it, I would certainly not do it alone. I’d consider using a writers room and would want multiple experienced directors.”
And he’s not a speedy guy when flying solo: “It took me six months to write and rewrite the first two episodes. Then I consulted verbally with friends, and picked up clues for improvements through my own pitching and from their responses.”
The writer-director is currently working on a movie, working title KO Club (Killing Old Men Club), about intergenerational war, so there may be a bit of a wait till the second season, even though it’s now been confirmed. Unless, of course, Squid Game season one’s phenomenal international success motivates Hwang to go back to the arena quicker than previously thought. Which would, if you think about it, be a very Squid Game thing to happen.
Squid Game season 2 cast: Who’s in it?
Out of the first season’s 456 competitors, most are now dead, aside from Lee Jung-jae, who will likely return again in the lead role as Seong Gi-hun. Other characters who died, like Park Hae-soo, Oh Yeong-su and Jung Ho-yeon, could also return in flashbacks, but the majority of season two’s cast will likely be made up of newbies.
Given Jung’s global breakout stardom, one would imagine they’ll try to find a way to bring her back, but when the actress recently spoke to Variety at the LACMA Art + Film Gala she confirmed she wanted to break into Hollywood, which would leave little time for a Squid Game return.
Jung’s dream movie costar is Frances McDormand. “Her acting, I couldn’t find the words to describe it, but she is perfect,” she said. “She is always there as her character. I hate to say it’s a skill because she’s just there. I admire her. She is great.” Jung also wouldn’t mind working with actors such as Robert De Niro, Anthony Hopkins and Al Pacino if roles in Hollywood come her way. “I just love them.”
However, one other important name that fans would be keen to see return is Gong Yoo, the Korean icon who’s most recognisable to international audiences as the star of Train To Busan.
Not only was Gong’s high-profile cameo a highlight for fans, but it also sets up the possibility of a return for his character. After all, he must surely be out there somewhere, still recruiting new participants to die in the game, so it wouldn’t be hard to bring Gong’s character back in season two (hopefully with more scenes this time round).
Let’s just hope any returning VIPs do a better job this time round. Back when season one dropped, many fans criticised the Western cast’s acting while playing the evil, decadent men who watch these games unfold from behind the scenes.
John D Michaels, the actor who plays VIP One, defended his work in an interview with The Guardian where he discussed why English-language scenes might come across as unnatural in Korean shows.
“I think the first thing to dispel is this myth that they just pick us up off the street,” he said. “It’s different for every show, but non-Korean performers often act with dialogue that is translated by a non-native – sometimes even by Google Translate – so it can sound unnatural.
“And often we don’t have the scripts for the rest of the show. We are only given our scenes, so we have no idea of the tone. If I was editing a Russian actor speaking Russian, I wouldn’t have any idea if he was saying his lines correctly or if his intonation was natural.”
“There might be two takes,” he continues. “One of them could be perfect, the other wooden. If I’m editing it, the wooden one might move faster or cut more smoothly or the continuity might be better, so I’d just go with that.”
Squid Game season 2 plot: What will happen?
At the end of Squid Game’s first season, Gi-hun has managed to beat the game against all odds. But the game’s not over yet. Following the death of the Squid Game’s creator, Gi-hun discovers that the competition is still going with new recruits. Given all this, it would be easy to continue the story with Gi-hun centre stage again, doing all he can to stop the game, just as he vows to do in those last moments.
And it looks like that’s the route season two is going down.
“I have no idea what will happen or the scale of it, but the only thing [director Hwang] did tell me was that Seong Gi-hun is going to be in the show again, and he’s going to be playing in the arena again,” actor Lee Jung-jae told People.
However, it’s hard to imagine how Gi-hun could possibly defeat the game’s creators, even with his newfound wealth.
One complication is the impossibility of his ever sneaking into anywhere undetected with that mop of flame-red hair. Gi-hun dyed his naturally black hair bright red in the final episode for unspecified reasons. While you might think it’s not that important, Hwang Dong-hyuk disagrees: “[It] represents that he will never be able to go back to his old self. It is also a sign of his rage,” he told Radio Times.
However, in his aforementioned chat with the Associated Press, creator Hwang Dong-hyuk has now confirmed that “Gi-Hun will come back, and he will do something for the world.”
He later compared it to a conflict worthy of Star Wars, and said: ” I would think that in the second season, what he has learned from the games and his experience in the first season, they will all be put to use in a more active manner.
“And at the same time, as for the Front Man [Lee Byung-hun] who was also a past winner but became a Front Man, it’s like Darth Vader. Some end up Jedi and some become Darth Vader, right?”
Talking to Entertainment Weekly, he also revealed that there was an alternate version of the first season cliffhanger ending that wasn’t used – one that could have definitively ended Gi-Hun’s story right there.
“We actually wrestled with two different scenarios for the ending,” he said. “There was one, the other alternate ending, where Gi-Hun would get on the plane and leave. And then there was of course the one where he would turn back and walk towards the camera. We constantly asked ourselves, is it really right for Gi-hun to make the decision to leave and go see his family, to pursue his own happiness? Is that the right way for us to really propose the question or the message that we wanted to convey through the series?”
The ending that was used does leave the door wide open for Gi-Hun to return for a second season, but if Hwang ends up changing his mind on that front, there’s still plenty of other ways for Squid Game to continue in season two without him.
Den of Geek notes that these Squid Games aren’t just based in Korea, so given the international scope of this project, it’s entirely possible that a second season could take place somewhere else entirely. However, the problem with that is this show is a Korean production, which would make it hard to suddenly up sticks and move everything to a new country.
“I wanted to write a story that was an allegory or fable about modern capitalist society, something that depicts an extreme competition, somewhat like the extreme competition of life. But I wanted it to use the kind of characters we’ve all met in real life,” Hwang told Variety. He expanded on it in an interview with The Times, saying: “We’re just all focused on winning. I wanted to take a break and think about who makes the system, and what we’re moving towards.”
Given that capitalism is kind of a big topic, you’d think there would be more for Hwang to explore.
Actor Wi Ha-Jun, who plays officer Hwang Jun-ho, told Deadline: “I’m dying to know what happened to him [ie Jun-ho]. I want him to return alive, find his brother and ask him tons of questions. As a brother, I would ask him sincerely as a detective, I want to explore the overall secrets behind the game as well.
“I really hope to see Jun-ho come back alive and explore all these questions, I hope to see a more brotherly-love side of their relationship as well.”
The police character was a great means of opening up the “back end” of the games to the audience, so hopefully Hwang Dong-hyuk will find a way to keep the other Hwang alive and investigate the origin of the games, or at least his brother’s part in it.
Not least the big plot hole that the Front Man’s involvement seemed to generate: if his brother was a former winner of the Squid Game tournament, how did no one in his family notice that he’d suddenly become very rich? And why did Jun-ho find his disappearance mysterious this time around when he didn’t a few years back, when his brother was busy winning the games?
Squid game season 2 theories
A fan theory has thrown new light on the first series and could well dictate the direction of a possible second season. The theory goes that Oh Il-nam, the old man who was both the chief source of Gi-hun’s redemption and the evil genius behind the games, was more than just a games-mad old bastard. He was, in fact, his father.
Definitely plays into the Star Wars thing, right?
The reasons behind this theory is Gi-hun never mentions his own father, and sponges off his hardworking mother. The first hint is when Il-nam says to Gi-hun: “I’m willing to bet you got spanked a lot… My son did too. He was just like you, friend.”
So far, so coincidental. But Il-nam was emotionally invested in Gi-hun from an early stage. While it could be chalked up as gratitude for Gi-hun’s kindness, it could also be something more, especially when you consider the occasion when he gave him his dry jacket in exchange for Gi-hun’s, which was covering his pee-stain. Might he have been protecting him from the soldiers, who – we now know – would never shoot Number 001?
Then there was the marble-game street scene. “You know, when I was a kid?” Il-nam says. “I lived in a neighbourhood just like this.”
“So did I,” Gi-hun replies. “And you know something? Our alleyway looked very similar.”
Still sounding like a coincidence? Well, yes.
But remember the bit of chat about what day it was? “Is it the 24th?” burbles the old man, apparently in the process of losing his marbles both literally and figuratively. He wants to know because he thinks his son’s birthday is coming up and he wants to get him a present.
Cast your mind back to when Gi-hun stole his mother’s cash card and tried to use it at the ATM. The first PIN he tried was his own birthday – 0426. If the old man was pretending to think it was the 24th of April – then his son’s birthday could have been the 26th, like Gi-hun’s.
There are plenty of ifs in the theory, of course, but you never know…
Hwang revealed to Radio Times that he would like to explore more of Oh Il-nam’s history in future episodes. “Oh Il-nam is a man of huge success from nothing. As we see from the phrase ‘the money man’, he is a veiled big shot in the financial industry.
“It seems, however, the way how he yearns for the happy moments of his past shows that he has lost many things, including his family and his humanity, as the cost of success. If there will be a season two, we might reveal a little more about his past story.”
“I do realise there are huge expectations for season two,” he said. “It’s not that I haven’t thought about season two at all, and I also do have a rough framework for it. But I keep asking myself whether I can make it better than season one. I do not want people to get disappointed over the new season.”
Squid Game season 2 trailer: When can I watch it?
Unfortunately, as far as we’re aware, filming hasn’t even commenced yet on the new season, so a release date is a long way off.
As a result, there’s no trailer either.
However, while Squid Game has put us off gambling for life, if we had to bet money on when new footage will arrive, late 2022 seems like a potentially safe bet.
Keep checking in and we’ll let you know as soon as we know more.
Squid Game is now available to watch on Netflix.