Squid Game Episode 1 Recap: Red Light, Green Light - VRGyani News and Media


Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Squid Game Episode 1 Recap: Red Light, Green Light

With a TV-MA warning for language, violence, sex, nudity, suicide, and smoking and its outstanding effect on audiences worldwide, I knew that Squid Game would serve sick, tightly constructed, provocative drama. (Side note: Shouldn’t the series be categorized as Drama/Horror?) The South Korean, Korean-language production, written and directed by Hwang Song-Hyuk, already claimed the #1 most-watched spot on Netflix and may become the most-watched series ever on the streaming platform. For feeler’s sake, check out its promo image on the Netflix homepage: a huge, Bride of Chucky-like doll with blood on her freckled cheek and definitely something wrong with her eyes. In the background, people are freshly murdered, laying about like scattered, piled trash. This is going to be fun.

The series opens with a flashback to eight kids, focusing on one boy who is perhaps a young Seong Gi-hun, the series' soon-to-be-revealed protagonist, playing the eponymous "squid game." It resembles a mash-up of rugby and capture the flag; essentially, you have to get from one side to the other, staying in specific perimeters, and along the way, you fight your opponents. The boy in focus wins.

RELATED: 'Squid Game' Cast & Character Guide: Who's Who In This Wild, Deadly Competition?

Flash forward to an adult Seong (Lee Jung-jae) at home with his mother, Oh Mal Soon (Kim Young-ok). She gives him money to take his ten-year-old daughter, Ga-Yeong (Reagan To) out to dinner for her birthday. He wants more, saying he needs to get her a gift. They have debts—his mother mentions his loan—and, with a stooped back, she heads out to sell vegetables. Once she leaves, he finds the credit card she hid.

After figuring out the pin number, Seong is giddy. He heads to the betting track with his friend, winning big; these scenes are artfully directed, amplifying the stressful atmosphere and confirming Seong is a gambling addict. He calls Ga-Yeong, tells her she can have anything she wants for dinner. There is something beautiful and disconcerting about the purity of his fatherly love and the messes he creates for himself. Then come the loan sharks.

The violence is alarming, Mr. Blonde and Mr. Orange style. Seong is forced to sign a “Disclaimer of Physical Rights.” This means Mr. “Softee" (Pub-lae Kim) will take one of his kidneys and eyes if Seong doesn’t pay him back next month. After getting money from the bank, he tries to win his daughter an arcade toy and, failing, a sweet boy helps him win a gift-wrapped box.

At dinner, Ga-Yeong is sensitive to her father, knowing he gets into fights, is still smoking, and feels guilty he can’t give her more. When she opens the arcade gift, it is a lighter shaped like a pistol, forewarning the story's medley of humor and violence. He brings her home, lovingly, asleep on his back, and is chastised by his ex-wife (Kang Mal Geum) for being late. When Ga-Yeong turns to wave bye, hastened away by her mother, Seong encourages them to get inside. He is falling apart, but his love for his daughter is the clearest part of his life. This will be important.

The first creepy thing happens. The Salesman (Gong Yoo) finds Seong on the subway platform after he drops off Ga-Yeong. Theirs is a blue-pill-or-red pill interaction. It’s a straightforward game, ddakji —make a piece of paper hit another so it flips over and you get cash—but until Seong wins, he gets slapped mercilessly. “Give me a call,” the man says at the end, to Seong’s drunk-in-money eyes and bruising cheek, if Seong wants to make more money playing more “games.”

Seong is feeling great and stops by the fish market. He asks the vendor about her son, Sang-woo (Park Hae-soo), a successful friend who is currently on a "business trip abroad." (Keep that in mind in for later!) Later, at home, his mother doesn’t believe Seong got his new batch of money without stealing or gambling. “I worked my hands, face, and body off to earn this money,” the truth, and a red herring for the real game up ahead.

The turning point in the episode comes when his mother next tells him that Ga-Yeong, her mother, and her stepdad are moving to the U.S. Maybe if he shows he can financially support Ga-Yeong, she can stay with him in South Korea. He lays in bed, tenderly looking over photos of his daughter. He gets out the Salesman’s card and soon after is picked up in an inconspicuous van.

The horror begins immediately. Everyone in the car seems to be sleeping, but they’ve been gassed, which happens to Seong after he gets in. Fast forward to their wallets being taken and all of them, somehow, re-dressed in forest green tracksuits with white numbers that mark their player number (the order they arrive).

RELATED: 'Squid Game' Games, Ranked

When they wake to classical music, we see that all 456 of them are stacked on beds, like war bunkers. There is a Fantasia element to the synchronization of their movements and overhead shots as they shuffle out of bed towards the stage. But, this place is more Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; a hell in the making, a prison camp.

They are addressed by spooky-looking people in red jumpsuits with black gas masks (this makes me think the gassing will return). They are called “players”—Seong is the last, at 456—and asked to sign consent forms. This is hexed consent, which says you cannot not play the games, but if you don’t play the games, you will be eliminated. But, the spooky red jumpsuit people blast videos for everyone to see, showing how "pathetic" each person is in their debt dealings and lives outside of the game. Do you want to go back and face your creditors, they ask?

Everyone signs the consent form.

We are introduced to the Darth Vader-like, king spooky person, the Front Man (Lee Byung-Hun), the only character who speaks in English, giving a command over the phone to let the (Hunger) games begin. He sits back with a scotch, an eerie jazz band diorama playing “Fly Me To The Moon," as he watches the arena in real-time on a huge flatscreen. In a particularly chilling sequence, the now-players are asked to smile as their photo is taken before they enter the arena. We see them primp, oblige, but we know this promise of friendliness and belonging is fake.

The first game for the players is "Red Light, Green Light," and the directions are just like they are in the childhood game. Move when the host says move and stop when they turn around. The host is the aforementioned doll; she is a motion sensor for murder. The players who move but a muscle when they shouldn't are shot down like they are nothing, their smiling faces disappearing one by one from the virtual checkerboard the Front Man oversees.

For those who make it over the finish line by the required five minutes, their victory is completed in the adrenaline of terror and disbelief. Seong does, along with other characters introduced, including Seong's friend, Sang-Woo—who is very much not "on a business trip abroad"—the sharp-minded Kang Sae-byeok (Jung Hoyeon), the kind, old man Oh II-Nam (Hideo Kimura), who is 001, the nasty Jang Deok-Su (Heo Sung-tae), and Ali (Anupam Tripathi), who holds Seong back by his sweatshirt, almost choking him, to keep him from being eliminated. In the episode's last sequence, a roof smoothly closes the arena up, painted like the surrounding forest, camouflaging perfectly. As the camera pans over the forest and out to the island it sits on, we understand. This arena is a place where atrocities happen and no one finds out.

KEEP READING: ‘Squid Game’ Deaths, Ranked

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