A good K-drama will take you on an emotional rollercoaster that includes tears, laughter, and heart-pounding moments. Then there’s Squid Game — which ups the ante in more ways than one. Watching the nerve-racking, gory show can sometimes be its own challenge. Nonetheless, millions of people have risen to the occasion, relishing the award-winning first season’s tale of betrayal, greed and the pitfalls of capitalism.
Exactly 456 cash-strapped contestants sign up for the chance to win enough money to turn their lives around. They’ve been whisked away to a mysterious facility where they compete in a series of childhood games that aren’t quite like the ones you remember from your childhood. The games become a high-stakes arena of survival of the fittest, with roughly $38 million literally dangling over the contestants’ heads, their lives on the line, and only one possible winner.
The South Korean thriller is a wild ride, keeping you on the edge of your seat until the very end. So, who survives? What’s the name of the evil maniac in charge? Who will be the lucky recipient of the life-changing sum of money? You’ll find major spoilers ahead, whether you’re here for a refresher or simply curious about how this dark tale ends.
Gi-hun (Lee Jung-jae), Sae-byeok (Jung Ho-yeon), and Sang-woo (Park Hae-soo) are the last three competitors to complete the five terrifying and life-threatening trials. Gi-hun has developed a greater sense of empathy and care for Sae-byeok at this point. Sang-woo, on the other hand, isn’t on the same page. After the three’s celebratory dinner, in which they don tuxes and eat steak, a steak knife is left for each of them. Sang-woo, we have learned, will do whatever it takes to win, including betraying those closest to him. When the lights go off in the dormitories, he stabs Sae-byeok, who’s already suffering from injuries from the glass bridge game, and she dies.
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One Year Later
As promised, Gi-hun is allowed to leave with his life and with the prize money, but when he returns home, he’s almost in a daze. He gets to his house and discovers that in his absence, his mother has died. The story then flashes forward a full year later, with Gi-hun looking destitute. He hasn’t touched the prize money at all.
Then Gi-hun gets a mysterious note that leads him to an office building in the middle of the night, where he discovers that not only is Oh Il-nam (O Yeong-us) alive, but he’s the one responsible for creating the deadly games in the first place. Il-team says he was being truthful about the tumor in his brain, and he decided to play the games himself one time before he died, having spent the rest of his life as an audience member.
Il-team reveals that he’s a moneylender, and he invented the games as a way to have fun. “Do you know what someone with no money has in common with someone with too much money?” Il-team asks Gi-hun. “Living is no fun for them. If you have too much money, no matter what you buy, eat or drink, everything gets boring in the end. At some point, all my clients began to tell me the same thing: that they had no joy in life anymore. So we all got together and did some pondering. What can we do to have some fun?”
The Game Continues
After getting some closure, Gi-hun gets a haircut and prepares to go visit his daughter in the United States. But on his way, he witnesses the same man in the suit playing ddakji with another debt-ridden stranger. Gi-hun is horrified – this means that despite the fact that Il-nam is dead, the game is getting ready to begin again. Gi-hun steals the business card from the bystander and tells him not to call the number.
Just as Gi-hun is about to board the plane to the U.S., he calls the number. “Listen carefully,” he says. “I’m not a horse. I’m a person. That’s why I want to know who you people are and how you can commit such atrocities against people.” The voice on the other end of the phone tells him his ideas are “absurd” and that he should get on the plane for his own good. Gi-hun hangs up, turns around, and walks toward the camera. He’s not getting on the plane. But where is he going?
Why Gi-Hun Doesn’t Get on The Plane
Many are flummoxed by Gi-hun’s decision here (including LeBron James). Why doesn’t he keep the prize money and live his life? And is he going to seek revenge now? What’s his endgame?
Creator Hwang Dong-hyuk told THR that he views the ending as thematically appropriate and, actually, not a cliffhanger at all. “It’s true that Season 1 ended in an open-ended way,” Hwang said. “But I actually thought that this could be good closure for the whole story, too. Season 1 ends with Gi-hun turning back and not getting on the plane to the States. And that was, in fact, my way of communicating the message that you should not be dragged along by the competitive flow of society, but that you should start thinking about who has created the system – and whether there is some potential for you to turn back and face it.”
Hwang continued, noting that in his view, the ending doesn’t set up a revenge story. “So it’s not necessarily Gi-hun turning back to get revenge. It could actually be interpreted as him making a very on-the-spot eye contact with what is truly going on in the bigger picture. So I thought that might be a good, simple-but-ambiguous way to end the story for Gi-hun.”
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Will There Be a Squid Game Season 2?
But just because Hwang views the ending of Season 1 as a conclusion for Gi-hun’s story doesn’t mean there’s no potential to continue. While Netflix hasn’t officially ordered a second season of “Squid Game” yet, Hwang admitted in the same interview that there are many possibilities for storylines for a Season 2 – including ones involving Gi-hun. “We could go with Gi-hun’s story as he turns back, and explore more about how he’s going to navigate through his reckoning with the people who are designing the games,” Hwang said. The creator also noted a second season could explore the storyline of the Front Man and his brother, the police officer, or even explore the story of the recruiter who signed Gi-hun up in the first place.
So while there’s no guarantee that a “Squid Game” Season 2 will happen, and while the creator of the show contends Season 1 ends in a conclusive fashion, there’s a lot of potentials. Never say never.