What if playing children’s games could make you rich or dead? That’s the main plot of Squid Game, a South Korean series that has become a smash hit on Netflix sitting atop the global top 10 charts in the days following its release. Even the CEO of Netflix, Reed Hastings, revealed his love for Squid Game by sharing his photo wearing the tracksuit from the drama.
The storyline is quite simple. In nostalgic playground sets, cash-strapped participants desperately compete in six games for a cash prize of 45.6 billion won(around 38.5 million dollars) which mount up every time when others lose. In this case, ‘lose’ means ‘get killed’ though. As soon as the first game starts, the dystopian playground turns into a hellscape no one can escape from.
Now, for those who might have been busy digesting all different theories and dissecting every single detail to find the hidden clues scattered throughout the episodes, let me walk you through the ultimate guide to all the hidden easter eggs and meaning of Squid Game.
| The number ‘456’
456 is the most frequently appearing number across the Squid Game. Why does it necessarily have to be ‘456’ of all numbers? At the beginning of the fifth game, Glass Stepping Stones, the players are requested to choose the number between 1 and 16. At that moment, VIPs say, “it’s an animal instinct that people always take the middle numbers first.” This implies the people’s general desire to belong to the common herd. In that sense, the number ‘456’, which is also positioned in the middle between 1 and 9, represents the ordinary people themselves. What’s more interesting here is the contrast between Gi-hun and Il-Nam. With the number 001, Il-Nam represents the uppertendom while Gi-hun is symbolized as lower classes with the last number of all participants’.
During the interview with Variety Magazine, the writer-director of Squid Game, Hwang Dong-hyuk said, “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.” From his interview, we can possibly give meaning to the number ‘456’ that this is a story about ordinary people like us.
| Walls = spoiler alert
Knowing the next game can actually save a life. However, what if all upcoming missions were drawn already on the wall of the room they were sleeping in? At the start of the series, illustrations were hidden by hundreds of beds stacked against the wall. As more players got killed for losing the games and their beds were taken away, more illustrations were revealed. If you haven’t discovered it yet, go back to episode 1.
| The number of angles on the mask
Director Hwang explained that the shape of the mask indicates the class of each Mask Man. Circles are workers, triangles are soldiers, and squares are managers. They all wear the same clothes, the same mask with different shapes on it acting for just one purpose. Interestingly, you can see that the higher class they positioned, the more angles featured on the shape. When you take a look at the Front Man, his mask is composed of plenty of angles, unlike other Mask Mans. This theory can be applied to VIPs as well since their masks are formed of a bunch of angles that are more than Front Man’s.
| Lesson of Dalgona game
In episode 3, the players are tasked with cutting shapes out of Dalgona, a Korean sugary delicacy, without cracking it. To avoid being executed by Mask Mans, it is more than important to choose an easy shape such as a circle. Unfortunately, Gi-hun chose an umbrella shape which is hideously difficult to succeed. Nevertheless, he didn’t give up and make his best efforts, and his efforts paid off. His beads of sweat dropped on the Dalgona by accident and it lead him to a clue to go through the difficulty. Dalgona game is one of the most impressive episodes with a life lesson.
You may not be born with luck. However, Luck can be made by effort.
| Gganbu can’t defeat each other
Gganbu is the name of episode 6. Back in the days in South Korea, kids used to find their Gganbu mate for playing games. Once you pair up with someone as a Gganbu, you and Gganbu share all game items. Even if you lose all your items during the game, you can borrow one from your Gganbu mate and keep playing. Going back to the Squid Game, at the end of the episode, Il-Nam gave his remaining marble to Gi-hun saying “We are Gganbu.” It might be seen as he sacrificed himself for Gi-hun. However, if Gganbu is for sharing everything, technically Il-Nam couldn’t lose from the beginning. Even if he or Gi-hun loses, the total amount of marble they have would be always the same since they share it. In that sense, the fact that In-Nam didn’t die isn’t against the rule.
| The value of ‘10,000won’
In episode 1, Gi-hun buys a birthday gift for his daughter with 10,000won(around 8 dollars). Even after winning that huge amount of prize money, he only withdraws 10,000 won and uses it for a flower seller. 10,000won might be a tiny amount of money compared with 45.6 billion won. Across the whole episode, however, that 10,000won is the only money that he has spent meaningfully. It could imply that we keep missing happiness right in front of us craving a better future.
| Red hair
Haven’t you questioned why Gi-hun dye his hair red at the end of the episode? This was one of the most curiosity-provoking scenes from Squid Game. There were many theories and explanations, but director Hwang generously throw out the real intention behind it. He explained, “I thought about this intuitively, thinking about how Ki Hoon should change his hair in a hair salon. I imagined being him and thought to myself, ‘what is the color that you would never choose to dye your hair?’ Then I came to the conclusion that Ki Hoon would never dye his hair red. It would be the craziest thing for him to do. So I chose the color and I thought it really showed his inner anger.” Now, end of discussion.
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