Analysis: Squid Game’s Sang-woo Did Nothing Wrong

Just kidding.

*Spoilers*

I like attempting to see the best in polarizing characters so here I am!

Cho Sang-woo serves as somewhat of a foil for Gi-hun. When we’re introduced to Gi-hun, he comes off as a loser. Jobless, he’s giving his daughter toy guns for her birthday, beating up her step-father, and gambling his nameless, ailing mother’s money away. However, Sang-woo is presented as Gi-hun’s opposite: successful, handsome, and intelligent. He graduated from the prestigious Seoul National University and is doing very important business stuff overseas, implying he’s well off financially (and generally).

Alas! Appearances are deceiving.

My boy Gi-hun meets Sang-woo in the Squid Game risking it all for the money bank.

After Death Light, Green Light, the group understandably wants to bounce – yet Sang-woo votes to keep playing. His reasoning becomes apparent when he attempts suicide shortly after returning home; that scene helps us understand why Sang-woo behaves so ruthlessly. It was always a win or die scenario, because Sang-woo has nothing to return to should he lose. Consequently, death isn’t something Sang-woo fears, only losing and as such, he’ll do anything to win.

Yet we see shades of the man he might be, under different circumstances.

  • Sang-woo is the one who mentions the 3rd clause, which is that players can vote to end the game if the majority agrees. This is despite him wanting to continue playing. 15 people didn’t return, so he inadvertently saved 15 lives.
  • When he returns to the “real world”, Sang-woo wakes up next to Ali and my man is still b r o k e. Yet, he lends Ali his phone and gives him what pittance of money he possesses for the bus far. This is particularly noble in contrast to Gi-hun, who accosts Sae-byeok after she frees him. Both of them are only looking out for themselves in that moment.
  • Back in the game, one could view Sang-woo taking Ali under his fold (i.e. offering to teach him about childhood games, telling him to stick with them at night) as opportunistic given Ali was strong, which it was lol. However, Gi-hun would’ve made an adept partner and didn’t have missing fingers.
  • Ali gives Sang-woo his corn as thanks for the bus fare. Food = energy, energy = more likely to survive. Rationally, it made more sense to take it and be #blessed. Yet, he splits it with Ali instead.

Notably, despite being childhood bros Sang-woo never really goes out of his way to help Gi-hun and even avoids his sole opportunity to do so (honeycomb game). But I assumed Sang-woo was simply too embarrassed – Gi-hun is the only person who knows what Sang-woo should be but isn’t. The reality of what Sang-woo is (failure, crook, and fraud) is already too much for him to bear, so it makes sense to avoid the one person who reminds him he’s already failed at everything else, he’ll probably fail at this too.

Speaking of Dalgona candy, why didn’t Sang-woo tell his homie what was up?

  1. Sang-woo wasn’t entirely sure and didn’t want to lead his flock astray. His flashbacks are murky, his expression is hesitant, the clock’s ticking – Sang-woo could unintentionally make things worst by telling them the wrong thing. Splitting up, theoretically, does make the most sense in this scenario.
    • Also they walk into a playground which was likely meant to confuse them, his sole clue is melted sugar, and he had like 5 seconds.
  2. Sang-woo is trash and wanted to cull the herd. Less people = more won for him.
    1. That said, we didn’t know each death directly correlated to more money dropping into the ball until Deok-su curb stomps egg dude.
  3. Sang-woo was trying to cull the herd except specifically Il-nam. Objectively, Trash Grandpa was useless. He’s got dementia, he’s 584724 years old, I wouldn’t want him on my team either.
    • Sang-woo glances at Chaotic Grandpa before talking to Gi-hun. Had he told Gi-hun in that moment what the game was, Gi-hun would’ve screamed this information across the room.
    • Telling Gi-hun and not Ali/Il-nam who were part of his team – how was he going to explain that to them later if they survived?
    • We know Gi-hun was keeping Trash Grandpa around even to his own detriment (as we see during marbles/Tug of War). Sang-woo grew up with Gi-hun and knew him well, so ensuring Trash Grandpa died early in theory would’ve worked in Gi-hun’s (and everyone’s) favor.

Regardless of his reasoning, he does seem genuinely concerned when his pal picks the umbrella. So deep within the Mariana Trench of Sang-woo’s soul is a man who isn’t only thinking of himself but is sincere in his concern about others.

Nevertheless, Sang-woo realizes the illusion everyone can win is false and adjusts himself accordingly as the games progress. Sang-woo is the more desperate and far less optimistic even from the start. He wants to win, not just survive and consequently makes the most rational decisions throughout the game to improve his chances of success. To be fair, the first two games are precisely designed to offer hope. They present the notion anyone can win if they simply work hard and fast enough, and each player is dependent on their own performance for survival. There isn’t a need to directly, or indirectly, harm another player to win.

However, Tug Of War makes it clear, both in the halving of everyone, pitting everyone against each other, and it being a game where individual performance doesn’t matter as much as being in a strong group, the games were not designed to #bless many with the bag.

And Sang-woo wants to win, so during marbles he buddies up with the person who’s both useful and isn’t a reminder of what a failure he really is: Saint Ali.

  • SN: This is where I think Sang-woo could’ve been written slightly better. Like he went from relatively decent to actively trash over the span of a single episode without a bit of hesitation, but I wanted to see him struggle more with his own decaying morality. Furthermore, Gi-hun also manipulated Il-nam while losing, yet doesn’t get nearly as much hate over it despite it arguably being worst given Trash Grandpa had dementia. In fact, the writers deliberately make Gi-hun’s scene heartwarming with Il-nam having known all along what Gi-hun was doing, talking about his past and whatnot, whereas Sang-woo’s is just cold.

Anyway, the game of marbles is a game of thrones luck. One Saint Ali wins.

It’s easy to interpret Sang-woo’s tantrum as a fear of dying, or an attempt to garner pity. However, if we consider this moment in light of the fact he was planning to kill himself anyway (and how readily he offed himself once it was clear Gi-hun won), it seems more like a genuine reaction stemming from a fear of losing. The reality that everything up to that point was going to be rendered worthless because of mere bad luck was too much, so Sang-woo has a BSOD moment before rebooting his wits and realizing he could still win if he screws Ali over (and Ali being the SAINT he is already didn’t want to be playing against his hyung, so tricking that bonehead was easy).

It’s interesting to contrast Sang-woo to Deok-su here, who’s also losing his marbles. Deok-su, despite being active trash since his appearance, suggests playing another game – one he has an equal chance of winning or losing. Sang-woo doesn’t even bother with that – he straight up lies to ensure he gets all 20 marbles.

It’s a cold and ruthless scene in an already heart-breaking episode, but for Sang-woo this moment probably only solidified his resolve to no longer keep up appearances. While Sang-woo does show shades of being a good man, even prior to the games it’s clear he was involved in some shady dealings.

The scene also highlights how capitalism pushes people to only look out for themselves for the sake of their own survival. Sang-woo’s not really the villain here, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk the VIPs who orchestrated these games for their amusement are the real baddies. And while all the players do willingly choose to participate, they do so out of desperation and not really knowing what they’re getting into until it’s basically too late to back out. It’s no coincidence marbles comes right after Tug of War, a game in which teamwork was tantamount to winning. But now they’re pitted against those whom they’re most likely to trust and who they’ve likely just partnered up with, forcing those like Sang-woo, who were toeing the line between looking out for himself and others, to only act selfishly.

We see this selfishness highlighted during Glass Death Hopscotch; Sang-woo just pushes Glass Guesser Dude to his death once time is almost out (the same man who basically is the reason he’s alive). Later, he kills Sae-byeok (to be fair, she was going to die and it was unlikely the PlayStations/Darth Vader were going to intervene, but it was still a scummy move).

Then, the Squid Game pits the childhood bros against each other and Sang-woo loses. Yet, Gi-hun wants to quit the game and go home with his homie.

But going home was never an option for Sang-woo. The moment what little hope he had was stripped away (the first vote to stop the game), he went charcoal briquette on himself. Sang-woo has nothing to return to (however, it’s interesting to contrast him to Ji-yeong, who also literally has nothing to return to. For Ji-yeong that lack was motivation to sacrifice herself for Sae-byeok, who had a family. For Sang-woo, that lack is motivation to do anything he can to obtain something to live for). It was always a win, or die trying situation, which is why he was willing to do whatever it took to win.

When it became clear he’d lost, he did what’s he’d always been planning to do anyway: killed himself.

Notably, Sang-woo isn’t mad, petty, cold, or vindicative but apologetic. He knows his behavior was terrible and his last wish is that Gi-hun care for his mother. This is telling too, because it goes to show it wasn’t personal. It wouldn’t have mattered who Sang-woo was up against – Ali, Gi-hun, Deok-su – it was all the same to him.

It’s easy to view Sang-woo as terrible because he is lol. But realistically most of us would be a Sang-woo if we were this desperate for money, if we aren’t already.

A single thread of hope, no matter how small, is worth trying to reach. For Sang-woo, that hope was winning the Squid Game and becoming the successful man he was meant to be. Once that thread broke though, there was nothing left for him to live for.

Rating the Squid Game (Characters)

*Spoilers ahoy*

Imagine waking up at 6:00 am, excited to embark on a lengthy hike up a mountain. It’s drizzling outside and at a spicy, 88 degrees Fahrenheit, the sparse sprinkling will keep you cool on your trek. You get in the car and drive towards the trailhead, checking the forecast at a stop light – there’s a chance of thunder later, but eh you’re already on the way.

Four miles into the hike, the light rain turns torrential. You realize (woefully) that you’re going to be uncomfortably soaked. But there’s only two miles until the top. Onward! It’s starts thundering and anxiety creeps over you but look! A sign signaling there’s a mere 0.5 miles left. So you push yourself, reaching the mountain’s peak only to find the fog is so thick it entirely obscures the view.

Did you have fun?

Yeah, sure. You enjoy nature in general, good views or not.

However, you can’t help but feel – as you make the long journey down the mountain cold, dripping wet, and sore – that maybe you’d have been better off staying home today.

That’s what watching Squid Game felt like.

Squid Game is about humans playing children’s games, except losing is death; winning means billions of won. It’s no surprise the show resonated with people around the world, given it’s themes and characters are relatable to everyone alive on planet Earth because most of us are broke and would also die for money.

Anyway, all opinions are mine and they are trash. My criteria for a good character is basically:

  1. Their removal would affect the plot
  2. They undergo some change/character development, good or bad
  3. We see different sides of their personality/can understand their motivations/background 
  4. If female, they cannot have a plot that revolves solely around a male character, or they must be really well-developed within the confines of the role they are written to play (love interest, etc.)

Darth Vader Front Man/In-ho

  • overlooked a lot of obvious things like the PlayStation Symbols messing with cameras, selling organs, etc.
  • actually a previous winner of the Squid Game
  • E-Q-U-A-L-I-T-Y!
  • took an arrow in the knee bullet in the shoulder for his bro

Front Man being hot cop’s brother was obvious as there were no other unknown, significant characters he could be.

Post-winning, Front Man embraced the ideology of Jeff Bezos the VIPs. Yet he wasn’t totally lost as he attempted to get his brother to join him so together they could rule the galaxy . It’s also possible he shot hot cop in the shoulder and not the chest/head, because frankly hot cop’s chances of survival by falling off a cliff into the ocean were far higher than his chances anywhere else.

Front Man/In-ho Rating: 7.5/10

Sang-woo

  • literally how did he survive without his glasses
  • graduated from SNU, in case you had no idea based on how many times it’s mentioned by multiple characters
  • Gi-hun’s childhood buddy
  • gave Saint Ali likely what little money he possessed for bus fare
  • manipulated Saint Ali into giving up his marbles. Tellingly, he didn’t even suggest another game like even dumpster Deok-su did
  • killed Sae-byeok

It’s easy to villainize Sang-woo because he’s trash. But Sang-woo wisely realized they weren’t all going to leave and chose violence life.

Sang-woo had the dignity to not accept Gi-hun’s dumb proposal to end the game and killed himself instead. Still, I wanted to see him struggle more with his own decaying morality. We see shades of this internal battle when he nearly tells Gi-hun about the dalgona candy, but then he just doesn’t? At that point, no one knew death directly correlated to more money, so are we to just assume he was a sociopath from the beginning? IMO, he could’ve used a bit more character development.

Nevertheless, he looks great in a suit.

Sang-woo rating: 8/10

(Dumpster) Deok-su

  • every story needs an additional villain to make everything worst for everyone involved
  • cool tattoos
  • i legit believe this man is a gangster in real life
  • thug before joining the games, coward after joining them
  • recognized he couldn’t trust the mfs with him and didn’t start another brawl at night, thus prolonging probably one person’s life for another day

After promising to stay with Min-yeo forever and then abandoning her before Tug o’ War, during Death-Hopscotch Min-yeo traps Deok-su in a bear hug and tosses them both into the glass riddled abyss below.

Deok-su Rating: 6.9/10

Tiger Mask

Incredibly within a group of men who travelled across the globe to watch in real time people die in horrible, violent ways while sitting on human furniture and making bets on who would win one stood out as being exceptionally repulsive: Tiger Mask.

Tiger Mask grew bored of watching people die from his human footstool, so he threatens a waiter (secretly hot cop Jun-ho) with death so he can sexually assault him instead.

I loved the imagery of Jun-ho taking off the tiger mask, a symbol of power, to reveal a wimpy, old coward.

Tiger Mask Rating: Jun-ho On A Cliff With One Bullet/10

Min-yeo

  • smartly aligned herself with those most likely to win (throwing dumpster Deok-su the lighter)
  • after not being picked for marbles, she slept while everyone else killed their bffs
  • fabulous hair
  • smuggled in cigarettes/a lighter via her vagina
  • had a child she never named

Min-yeo was brilliantly annoying but also yes, queen throw that mf off that bridge!!!!!!

Little is known about her back-story, but the amount of chaotic energy she brought overall was amazing, like putting on a show in the bathroom to cover for Sae-byeok. She literally went out with a bang, taking Deok-su and one of the glass panels down with her.

Min-Yeo Rating: 7.2/10

(Saint) Ali

  • pure as they come
  • strong, but smart. Sang-woo teams up with him for this reason
  • “stole” the money from his trash boss who was swindling him
    • Boss’ hand got crushed and Ali took off with the cash, giving it to his woman so she could fly home
  • a bilingual king
  • overly trusting. Sang-woo showed his true colors and Ali should’ve said, “you lost hyung, annyeong”.

Not only did my man grab Gi-hun with one hand and keep him from falling during Sniper Light, Green Light – Ali did it while keeping his own balance and perfect, unmoving posture. My man was ROBBED.

Ali exemplifies the “ideal immigrant”. He’s hard-working, kind, a family man, and even learned Korean. Yet that didn’t guarantee financial security, nor prevent him from being ROBBED. First by his Boss, second by Sang-woo. Of all the characters, his was the cleanest critique of capitalism, because Ali did everything right by capitalist standards and still ended up destitute enough to join the Squid Game.

Saint Ali deserved to win.

Ali Rating: 10/10

69 & 70

Husband and wife team. Have to play against each other in the marble game. Husband wins. Wife dies. Husband hangs himself.

69 & 70 Rating: Pigtailed Doll Saying 무궁화 꽃 이 피었 습니다/10

(Princess) Ji-yeong

  • fabulous hair
  • kinda upbeat, all things considered – more than once, she mentions wanting to hang out with Sae-byeok when they leave, only to remember that one of them isn’t leaving
  • understandably not a fan of religion given her trash pastor dad beat her mom and abused her
  • was in jail – like what a gangster

Ji-yeong’s 18 seconds of screen time showed that, contrary to what Trash Grandpa believed, there will always be good people in the world. Refusing to play the game of thrones marbles for her own gain was perhaps the greatest stick it to the VIPs.

Ji-yeong’s demise, while expected, was heartbreaking because we saw the best of humanity in her (brief) interactions with Sae-byeok. Her criminal past would paint her negatively in society, though ironically she was one of the few characters with heart. Despite being unreligious, she exemplifies the verse, “[g]reater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Ji-yeong Rating: 10/10

Oh Il-nam

  • actually the HBIC of VIPs having helped designed the games
  • literally chaotic evil – he made the games for LOLz, then joined because watching people die wasn’t fun enough given he was close to death himself
  • very pessimistic – Il-nam didn’t believe anyone would help the drunkard. While someone did (spoiler: not Gi-hun), he didn’t live to see it

The most shocking twist in the show was how evil Trash Grandpa was after seeming like a sweet, old guy with dementia (I was always mad suspicious though because really this old dude won a game of ddakji? Against Gong Yoo??). Trash Grandpa shows his true colors right before death though, in calling the drunken dude garbage.

Oh Ilnam Rating: 9/10

Gi-hun/Sang-woo’s mother:

  • never given names
  • one dies off-screen
  • one is given a child

Gi-hun/Sang-woo’s Mother Rating: -0.7/10

(Hot Cop) Jun-Ho

  • genuinely a good cop investigating his brother’s disappearance
  • wisely took receipts, then immediately sent those receipts as soon as he had service
  • plot armor prevented him from not getting caught for a very long time despite multiple individuals noticing how sus he was
  • nice eyes
  • nice face
  • nice hair
  • nice

Jun-ho’s entire existence was anxiety inducing. From sneaking around and posing as various PlayStation buttons, to catching the eye of Tiger Mask, to running around that island with poor cell service, I was stressed.

The most unbelievable part of Squid Game was his iPhone lasting that long, like at least be realistic and make it an Android. Anyway, Jun-ho was shot by his brother (Front Man) (in the shoulder, not the head/chest/anywhere else that would instantly kill him). Consequently, he fell off a cliff and is “dead”.

Jun-ho rating: 8.5/10

Doctor

He was losing sleep by helping the PlayStation Controllers frisk corpses for body parts and after he was done they were like, “yeah bro, we’ll tell you the next game tomorrow morning maybe idk if we can find out tho” like BYE. I would’ve stabbed them in the eyeballs with my fingernail.

Because of Doctor, Jun-ho learns about the escape route/diving gear and also Front Man was able to give his equality speech.

Doctor Rating: 5.5/10

(Queen) Sae-byeok

  • threw hot coffee in the face of that dude and threatened him with a knife
  • tragic backstory – dad is dead, she’s a defector from North Korea, she’s broke (like everyone else)
  • master pick pocket
  • snuck into a vent and spied on the sugar stirring PlayStation masks
  • pulled a chunk of glass out her body and still managed to live for a while longer
  • like one of 2.5 characters in the game for a noble reason – to bring her mother into South Korea and provide a better life for her brother
    • she made Gi-hun promise to take care of Cheol, and likely would’ve done the same for his mother.

Sae-byeok initially comes off as cold, being a pick-pocket, threatening/fighting Deok-su, generally being stand-off-ish, etc. but ultimately turns out to be one of few who keeps her humanity. Until the moment she was ROBBED of her life, she was thinking of others (Cheol/her mother), which is a testament to her warm heart. Her story is incredibly sad though as it shows how via no fault of one’s own (such as merely being born in the wrong country), one can end up fighting a losing battle just to live a normal life. And in a capitalist society, there are few (if any) resources for those who are just born unlucky.

My queen deserved to get her mojito on Jeju Island with the ghost of Ji-yeong!!

Sae-byeok Rating: 10/10

Gi-hun

  • gambled his ailing, nameless mom’s money away instead of buying his daughter a gift/meal
  • missed the birth of his daughter
  • divorced
  • can’t support his ill (unnamed) mother, who was working to support him
  • sighs approximately 43275382 times

Gi-hun was almost delusional in his optimism, but that’s a testament to his good character. Initially, he’s not really set up as sympathetic. But eventually we see his true nature has been slowly whittled away by life’s woes (death of a homie, work strike, losing his job, divorce, gambling addiction, series of bad financial choices). At his core, Gi-Hun is good. He isn’t willing to hurt others for gain, making him the perfect foil to Sang-woo. We see this goodness clearly when he picks Chaotic Grandpa for the marble game, despite knowing he’d be all but useless in anything requiring strength.

It was foreshadowing Gi-hun seemed to be the only person smiling during his picture – a reflection of an optimistic spirit that was crushed and replaced with anger (red hair) and a desire for vengeance.

Anyway, he did not deserve to win and he should’ve helped the drunkard himself after flipping off Il-nam.

Kudos to him for not slitting Sang-woo’s throat though as it couldn’t be me.

Gi-hun’s Rating: 10/10

Squid Game alludes to the pitfalls of capitalism: the idea that with enough hard work and dedication, anyone can rise to the top, (or win the game). However, when we metaphorically look at how each death drops $$$ in the golden pig, we see capitalism only works at the expense of someone else. This is literal in the sense that the more players who die during the game, the more money someone else gets.

Capitalism too thrives on the idea that everyone has an equal chance at success. But despite Front Man’s equality spiel, the games are not equal and are deliberately manipulated to make things worst/remove any advantage the players might have (such as the dude able to differentiate between the types of glass, or choosing games women would have a harder time winning due to physical differences). From the limiting of food to creating circumstances to induce a night brawl (and thus an environment no one could sleep well), Squid Game critiques how in real life individuals are pitted against one another in a capitalist society as they compete for resources. Resources that are in abundance because ya know, the VIPs could just give people that money but I digress. The games bring out the worst of humanity for the enjoyment of Elon Musk the VIPs (who while wearing animal masks call the participants animals lol). VIPs who are ironically bored and unhappy because they have too much money and thus seek fulfilment in watching others suffer for their own amusement.

Anyway, while I enjoyed this despite it’s plot holes, it should’ve ended with Gi-hun mournfully looking at the snow and reminding himself people are still good as the drunkard gets helped. The ending with Gi-hun on a quest for vengeance was a little too cliché.

Squid Game Rating: 8.7/10

Impenetrable Armor: Analysis of Berserk’s Griffith

Griffth did nothing wrong.

Berserk (Kentaro Miura) is one of my favorite stories. I initially wrote this analysis of Griffith in April of 2020 (while bored during quarantine) and was gonna post this after I finished my analysis of Casca (and Guts lol). However, Kentaro Miura sadly passed away so I thought it would be fitting to post this now.

RIP Kentaro Miura.

Anyway, Griffith is very polarizing – was he always sociopathic trash? Did he care about anything other than the dream? Was it all the unfortunate hand of fate?  Yes, yes, and yes. I’ve taken it upon myself to do a lengthy analysis of his character, because Miura wrote some awesome characters who deserve dissertations.

*Spoilers, I own nothing, not even my own soul*

The Key to Understanding Griffith: A Dream

Griffith has a dream: to obtain a kingdom. 

Regardless of whatever initial, selfish motivations existed for pursuing this dream, at some point it’s no longer solely Griffith’s dream. 

The Band of the Hawk paves the way for Griffith to obtain a kingdom, while providing comradery, financial stability, and purpose to many others. Thus, the accomplishment of his dream is directly tied to the livelihoods of the Hawk, something that no doubt grew burdensome. After all, Griffith just wanted a kingdom for himself. But one day thousands of others were following him, dying for him, and relying on him to get that kingdom. Any sane person would start to question if what they’re doing is worth it once people start kicking the bucket.

So what’s the solution to avoid feeling guilty over the fact people are literally dying so you can achieve your selfish dream?

Tell them it’s their choice!

Be it fate, his looks, or battle skills, it’s true people simp for Griffith of their own free will. Consequently, Griffith absolves himself of any personal responsibility, and therefore guilt, over anyone’s demise since it was always their decision to follow him or nah (and Griffith does seem genuine in saying he DGAFlip. He doesn’t even make Guts join the Hawk even though he wanted him ASAP).

Casca telling Guts about Griffith ft. dead child soldier/Gennon helps us understand Griffith’s character. She sees Griffith bathing, Griffith’s like, “wanna join?”, Casca’s like, “literally why were you with pedo Gennon last night.” 

Initially, Griffith says it’s the fastest way to the bag. This is nonsense, both to the reader and Casca. His decision was in part, if not wholly, motivated by the death of wannabe child soldier and a resulting desire to minimize more death if possible. 

This flashback highlights that:

  • Griffith’s dream may have initially been motivated by selfish desires and may still be; however, at some point accomplishing or not accomplishing the dream doesn’t just affect him, but all who fight for him.
    • Failing or suddenly deciding the dream’s not worth it renders every death before that nil. 
  • Griffith feels bad. Hence the self harm. We can disagree on why (sleeping with Gennon? soldiers generally dying? dead child?) Nevertheless, he’s not a total sociopath (yet).
  • Griffith can’t let others see he feels bad (hence telling Casca it’s all good). Allowing others to see he’s weak ruins his carefully curated image that he’s the Hawk who can achieve anything.  

In order for Griffith to achieve the dream, not only must others believe he can get a kingdom, but he also must believe this. Caring too much jeopardizes the dream. Because if he starts caring about every homeboy dying in his name, he’s not gonna keep going. But if he doesn’t eventually obtain his goal, all those deaths, every sacrifice, every cruel deed, t’was all worthless. 

So, there are stakes not only for Griffith but for others. At some point this crosses Griffith’s mind. Consequently, the accomplishment of the dream is the only thing that renders everything done in its name worth it. Thus, he puts on emotional armor and pursues his dream with tunnel vision in order to achieve it.


The Derailment of A Dream

Guts. 

Platonic or romantic is irrelevant; all that matters is Griffith would’ve died for Guts.

Evidence:

Griffith asks Guts to join the Hawk. Guts: “fight me.” Griffith wins and caresses Guts’ face whilst declaring ownership of him. The rest of the Hawk are pissy, especially Casca. Griffith having to fight for anything is ridiculous because everyone worships the ground he walks on. 

  • This is probably the root of Griffith’s Guts obsession outside of a general admiration for Guts’ strength and desire for true companionship. Guts is one of the few things Griffith has to grind for. Guts not insta-worshipping only made Griffith want him more, to prove to himself he could eventually obtain anything: a soldier, a kingdom, you name it.

3 seconds after Guts joins, Griffith saves Guts. Even Guts is like ??? (during 1 of like 7 wholesome scenes in the entire manga: the water fight). Griffith basically says, “I don’t want to lose a good soldier, homie.”

Griffith “saves” Guts from Zodd. Now, Griffith had to realize there was an extremely high (107%) chance of death here that would tank any chance of accomplishing the dream. We know Zodd sees the Behelit, goes “lol nvm,” and flutters off. But Griffith didn’t. It’s no wonder Casca was initially so salty as Guts (simply by existing) was endangering Griffith, everything Griffith had worked for, and consequently the Hawk itself.

When Guts asks Griffith again why he would risk his life, Griffith doesn’t even bother coming up with an answer because even he’s aware his actions made zero sense no matter the context.

Griffith goes looking for 100 man slayer despite everyone being like homie, they’re dead and we have other things to do. Like obtain your kingdom. (Mind you even the people of Midian begin side-eyeing Griffith).

Later, during the battle of Doldrey, Griffith is uber distracted making sure Guts doesn’t die – who tells Guts to take up his sword?

Griffith.

To conclude, Guts alone could potentially derail Griffith’s dream. Because Guts was someone Griffith was willing to die for and his own death meant the death of the dream (obviously).


A Dream or A Friend

Griffith opened up to Guts in a way he didn’t with anyone else; only Guts saw his duality in full. Note how earlier we witness a water fight in which Griffith reminds Guts he’s the HBIC and will decide when Guts dies.

Moving to the assassination of Julius: Griffith asks Guts to off Julius. Key word: asks because that’s what you do with amigos.

But Guts reminds him he’s the boss and should just tell him. This highlights how much their relationship has changed. Once upon a time, Griffith reminded Guts he’s the HBIC. Now, Guts has to remind him.

Griffith mucks up soon after this scene. Guts is reasonably mopey about killing Adonis and goes to Griffith for some reassurance he’s not trash. Except Griffith is trying to woo Charlotte, leaving Guts with the impression he’ll never be equal to Griffith, and therefore his friend, if he’s only following Griffith’s dream.  

  • Can’t ignore him being happy Adonis died. Let’s admit he’s trash, something he realizes not long after burning the queen. That said, this shows how much Griffith changed. Once upon a time, the death of a child moved him enough to sleep with pedo Gennon and prevent more bloodshed, even at the cost of his image/ego. Now, death doesn’t matter as long as it brings him closer to the dream.

After we burn the queen, Griffith’s mopey. Why? Likely the weight of his sins were finally crushing him. Nevertheless, he returns minister Foss’ daughter and proceeds to ask Guts if he’s trash (notably, the only other time he asks anyone if he’s trash is with Casca, post-Gennon, but her reaction was not it).

However, unlike Casca, Guts is like, “it’s all for the dream, bro.”

To be fair, Guts doesn’t know what’s going on in Griffith’s mind, because neither of them possess communication skills. Guts admires Griffith’s drive to pursue his dream at all costs. This admiration doesn’t change. In fact, Guts leaves so he can become Griffith’s equal/friend.

But Guts response could easily be interpreted as “yeah bro, you trash but it’s all for the dream” driving home the fact Griffith is right to put on emotional armor, because he’s already too far gone; no one is gonna understand why he did what he did. Not even Guts.

All that matters is the ends justify the means. And the end is him seated on the throne of Midland.

Next, Griffith is promoted to White Dragon whatever. During the highest moment of Griffith’s human life, he looks for Guts. Cause the dream don’t matter if Guts ain’t there.

In conclusion, Guts and Griffith go to each other for reassurance but convey something they don’t actually mean. Guts inadvertently telling Griffith he’s terrible (even pre-Femto, not totally untrue) probably hurt as Guts was the only person who knew what exactly Griffith was. Griffith, consciously or not, has come to view Guts as his equal and revealed a side of himself he hasn’t to anyone else. Consequently, Guts is an integral part of the dream. It’s not the dream, if Guts isn’t there.

However, the emotional armor Griffith wears prevents him from simply saying he needs Guts. Emotions are weak. Weakness = failure. Failure means Griffith was merely a terrible person all along, not someone fated to rule a kingdom (furthermore, fate had already determined Griffith couldn’t have his cake and eat it too…).


The End of A Dream

Guts peaces out.

Framed in the context of Guts leaving because he thinks Griffith is garbage gives Griffith’s meltdown a different meaning. Recall, Guts is the only person Griffith has truly revealed his seedier parts to. So Guts walking out when they’re nearly at the top is Guts leaving because he’s seen the real Griffith and doesn’t like him. That coming from your sole True Companion sucks.

His reaction could also be arrogance: being unable to accept the fact not everyone worships him. Everything is going exactly as planned, then Guts not only bounces but humiliates him. And Guts is beneath him (in theory…). But whether pride or betrayal, Guts is the only person he’s developed a genuine friendship with.

Anyway, Guts dips. Consequently, Griffith goes BSOD. Except he can’t take off the armor and admit he needs Guts, not just as a soldier but as a homie. Doesn’t help neither of them can communicate, so rather than Guts being like, “I wanna chase my own dream to prove I‘m ur amigo,” Guts kicks his butt and exits stage left. And rather than Griffith saying, “I don’t care about da dream if you’re not with me,” he tries to murder Guts instead.

Mopey Griffith sleeps with Princess Charlotte to prove he’s still The Man and doesn’t need Guts. He’s a strong, independent homie who just needs a kingdom. Charlotte is the physical embodiment of the dream. Marrying her guarantees the throne of Midland will be his. However, even after sleeping with the dream (Charlotte) and tasting what he could have (while thinking of Guts the entire time…), he’s not that happy.

Anyway, this ends with Griffith getting caught and imprisoned (also Griffith’s sword is broken because of his duel with Guts lmao. With a sword, he likely would’ve taken out enough guards to flee with just his reputation trashed. See how fate works?).

Let’s briefly reflect on this scene where Griffith trash talks King Midian.

Midian’s dependence on Charlotte mirrors his own dependence on Guts. And this isn’t the first time Griffith trashed talked while really saying something else entirely. Below is what he says to Gennon before killing him.

After leaving, Guts says something similar.

Unlike Gennon, Guts was no stone he could kick to the side of the road to a kingdom. Without Guts, it’s worthless anyway. Every death, every cruel deed, even the kingdom; everything rendered worthless because of Guts.

Dream derailed.


Letting Go of A Dream…

Time skip: year of torture passes.

By Griffith’s own admission the only thing keeping him sane is Guts. Not the idea he might get out, kill Midian, and obtain his own kingdom. Also lol @ how Guts is bigger than the castle. 

Anyway, Griffith gets rescued. He mad. But not for long because it’s Guts. Maybe he has a fleeting moment of self-awareness and realizes it’s his own fault he’s there.

They escape…

Like the flowers blowing in the wind and child Griffith running the other way, Griffith acknowledges he’s not getting a kingdom. And he still has Guts, who was more important than the dream anyway.

Then, a wild Wyald appears and rubs all of Griffith’s failures and insecurities in his face.

Casca and Guts in danger?

Also, Guts stole his girl and his girl stole his place as leader of the Hawk.

Next – heartwarming scene 2 of 7 in the wagon. 

Guts is like, “bro, it’s just the two of us, we can make it if we try u can take that off.” Guts has seen his hideous appearance already (both his physical disfigurement and the disfigurement of his soul) so there’s no reason for Griffith to hide. But Griffith wants more armor (and Guts says that’s exactly like Griffith – always putting on armor...). Low key this was a good move considering Wyald appears 5 seconds later and strips away Griffith’s amour, taking away his last illusion/delusion: that he can one day lead the Hawk again. 

But at least he still has Guts? 

Nope!

It’s a shame Griffith is asleep and misses Guts saying he wants to stay. In fact, Guts seems to be the only one who wants to stay. Everyone tells Guts to take Casca and peace out, which fate ensured Griffith hears…

Like if he’d just stuck to his code of kingdoms before bros, he’d be sitting on a throne right now. But he just had to be weak and let Guts in. 

Consequently, the derailment of the dream can be blamed on momentarily taking off that emotional armor and letting Guts in.

  • This is probably a coping method too since Griffith did muck up but like not crippled for life because he slept with Charlotte mucked up. Probably he deserved it for everything else he’d done (sort of – Julius/the queen did try to kill him; Midian DGAFlip about a single one of them, nor did he even want to be king. Midian was only salty about Charlotte not boning him).

SN: We gotta talk about the Casca scene in the wagon. There are a number of ways to look at it.

  • Griffith’s attempt to assert dominance and prove he’s still The Man. Guts took everything, had he taken his girl too? Not on Griffith’s broken watch.
  • It’s how Griffith handles stress albeit terribly. The other times Griffith sleeps around is with Gennon/Charlotte. Both times he was reacting to some hurt. 
  • It’s the only way he can thank Casca for sticking around. My boy can’t even say, “thanks” cause his tongue is g o n e. But he can give her a child. A year ago, she would’ve jumped his bones. For Griffith, sex might be all transaction (Gennon’s bag, his relationship with Charlotte), and he might think Casca’s still interested since Charlotte 103% was.
  • All of the above.

Nevertheless, not long after hearing Guts is leaving and Casca is only pity-staying, Future Neo-Griffith pulls up and reminds him of the dream.

But the dream is over and now he’s in a suspiciously dreary swamp unable to kill himself, highlighting how he’s become exactly what he always hated.


The Power of A Dream

In the real world, Guts would’ve saved Griffith, then he would’ve lived unhappily ever after with Casca. Griffith even dreams (get it?) of this alternative life.

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But in the world of Berserk, the Behelit (fate) finds Griffith. Wyald plays an important role too as upon his demise Wyald, with all that chaotic strength, reverts into a wimpy old man. 

Therein lies the clearest representation of what Griffith could have: the power of the apostles. The power to obtain the dream.

For Griffith, the last thing he wants at his lowest moment is to be saved by the person he believes caused his misery. Like he maybe could’ve accepted living as a parasite, but he absolutely could not accept Guts rescuing him. So the Eclipse happens. Yet, even after telling himself he’ll never forgive Guts if he touches him again, after seeing the power he could easily obtain and realizing he could still achieve the dream, Griffith chooses Guts one last time.

Like with Zodd, Griffith had to know he couldn’t pull Guts up in his state, yet his instinct was to try because Guts was always more important than the dream, almost until the bitter end.

I could wax poetic about the Eclipse, but essentially Griffith is told everything he’s told himself for years: the dead have already paved the way for you, it’s fate! And for all intents and Miura’s purposes, that really was the case.

Griffith takes the plunge and is reborn as Femto. All that remains are some residual, conflicted feelings for Guts (which soon prove to no longer exist except possibly via the Moonlight Child) and a desire to obtain a kingdom.

To conclude this long-winded mess, Femto physically mirrors human Griffith’s armor, representing how he’s a shell of his former, human self. Femto is the armor Griffith wore: the physical armor to be the Hawk and the emotional armor to separate himself from everyone else and pursue the dream. Stripped of his humanity, all that remains now is that impenetrable armor: a cold, hollow shell of a man who once dreamed of obtaining a kingdom.

Source: Kentaro, Miura, Jason DeAngelis. Berserk. Dark Horse Manga. Print. 2003-2017. (I tried)