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