Every once in a while, a television show will come out of nowhere to shock the world and become seemingly the only thing that people are talking about. It happened in the early 2000s with the reality show “Survivor,” then again in the late 2000s with “Breaking Bad” and most recently in 2020 with “Tiger King.” The newest addition to this list of lightning-in-a-bottle shows: Netflix’s “Squid Game.”

While there is no denying the popularity of “Squid Game,” from its hold on the top spot on Netflix’s most-watched list to the many TikTok trends it has inspired, does “Squid Game” actually live up to its popularity? The short answer is yes, and while the show is by no means perfect, it absolutely deserves the hype.

First, the reason “Squid Game” works so well is because of its premise: a mysterious host brings together hundreds of people in debt for a chance to win an enormous amount of money by simply winning six children’s games. The catch, however, is if they lose a game, they die. The premise is deceivingly simple but opens up many possibilities for what can happen and forces the viewer to constantly ask questions about the nature of this game and its host. The show takes place in South Korea, and the language spoken throughout is primarily Korean, but English subtitles and English dub are available among other languages.

At its heart, “Squid Game” is a mystery. While the show taps into other genres at points, such as action and horror, the core of “Squid Game” is the mystery behind the games and the people running them. Like all great mystery shows, there are several clues strewn throughout the series that lead the viewer along and guide them to the final answer. Due to all the questions the show poses — and lack of answers until the end — “Squid Game” almost requires binge-watching. It is impossible to watch one episode without immediately needing to see the next.

Another great aspect of “Squid Game” is the costume design. The outfits the players of the game wore are perfect, as the green jacket and pants symbolize the players’ quest for money, while their number also represents how they have been dehumanized by society. The costumes worn by the workers are equally interesting, from the red jackets to the strange black masks with different shapes on them. Overall, the costumes of both the players and workers match the tone of the show, as they are simplistic yet hide a deep secret.

The characters and performances in “Squid Game” are also excellent. The main character, Seong Gi-hun, played by Lee Jung-jae, is a kind and gentle man but struggles with the responsibilities of being a father, which has led him into a position of needing to play in the games. Lee’s performance is sensational, as he is able to show both sides of Gi-hun while making him a likable character that the audience can root for. Similarly, the supporting performances of the other “Squid Game” actors are also memorable, as the actors are able to give depth and emotion to their characters even if they have just a few scenes to do so.

Unfortunately, there are a few characters in the show that lag behind the rest. In particular, toward the end of the show, several wealthy businessmen come from all over the world to South Korea to watch the games. These characters are fairly one-note and feel out of place in a show which otherwise explores deep and complex characters. The scenes with the wealthy businessmen are also edited poorly, as they rely heavily on quick cuts which go from one person’s face directly to another whenever someone speaks. This gives an oddly fast-paced and disjointed feeling to these scenes.

In addition, the ending of “Squid Game” is one of the weakest points of the show. The final episode of the show has a gripping opening, as the first 20 minutes are action-packed, shocking and emotionally heartbreaking. However, there is a 40-minute epilogue that follows, which provides unsatisfying answers to the questions and mysteries built up throughout the whole show. If anything, it would have been better if “Squid Game” ended without the epilogue, leaving viewers hungry for more and excited for the next season.

While neither a strength nor flaw per se, “Squid Game” is certainly a violent and disturbing show. The show earns its TV-MA rating with explicit gore, gun violence and intense medical scenes, which all feature heavily throughout the show. “Squid Game” does not go out of its way to be excessively gory, but the show pulls no punches and should be avoided by those who do not enjoy disturbing content.

Overall, “Squid Game” is an excellent television show that deserves all of the attention and hype it has gotten. The strengths of the show are its mysterious premise, memorable costumes and complex characters. However, the show is not perfect as it has some inconsistent editing, and the ending could have been better. In conclusion, “Squid Game” is definitely worth watching if you enjoy mystery television shows and can handle some gore.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars