Spoiler Warning: Significant plot points from the entire Squid Game series ahead.
Squid Game quickly became a massive phenomenon on Netflix, with the streamer's CEO publicly predicting that it would become its biggest series ever, and being proven correct.
The reasons for the K-drama's success are many but include great acting, social commentary and, of course, a surreal premise in which 456 desperate people opt to play children's games to the death in order to win a big pot of money that will get them out of suffocating debt.
But with big set pieces and plenty of characters who must make impossible choices to survive, this series certainly hit a nerve with audiences in South Korea and around the world. Not surprisingly, a second season was ordered. What is surprising, however, is that Netflix is now turning Squid Game into an actual reality competition - without, naturally, the life-or-death stakes, but with a purse of $4.56 million on the line.
As for the fictional version, make sure to vote up the series' most harsh deaths and shocking moments.
- Photo: Netflix1240 VOTES
Knives Out (And Lights Out) For Sae-byeok
In Episode 8, only three players remain: Our protagonist Seong Gi-hun, his worthy competitor Cho Sang-woo and petty crook Kang Sae-byeok.
In a weird departure from the purposely inadequate grub players have endured throughout the games, the final three receive an opulent steak dinner. But when the "waiters" clear their table after the meal, they leave each of them a knife.
We know this isn't going to be good.
While all three make it back to the barracks, it's unclear whether any of them will try to off the other two and claim all the prize money before the final game.
But when Gi-hun realizes that Sae-byeok has been hiding a serious injury and slowly bleeding out, his human instincts kick in as he tries to alert the guards so she can receive medical attention.
While he's distracted, Sang-woo finishes her off with the knife, leaving only two players for the final round. For the damaged but brave Sae-byeok to make it so far only to perish at the hand of another player was a gut punch that still stings.
- Photo: Netflix2189 VOTES
Oh il-nam's Defeat In The Murderous Marble Game
In Episode 6, Oh il-nam teams up Seong Gi-hun for the marble game in which each pair of players can make their own rules - but the player left without any marbles gets shot in the head.
But in one of the most twisted developments, Seong takes advantage of the Oh il-nam's apparent feebleness and inability to think straight, tricking him several times into giving up his marbles until he has none left.
It's a crushing series of scenes, with Seong's tormented anguish apparent every time he takes another one of the old man's marbles.
While not as physically severe as other deaths on Squid Game, this one was among the most psychologically taxing as we realize that even our hero is willing to compromise in order to save his own life.
- Photo: Netflix3152 VOTES
The Big Reveal
In the ninth and final episode, we find out that perhaps the most beloved character - the kindly Oh Il-nam, who was the conscience of the series and died during the marble game... well, we find out that he didn't actually die!
But before we can rejoice, we simultaneously learn that this sweet old man is actually behind the entire murderous enterprise, which he started 30 years ago to entertain rich people. Terminally ill in real life and with nothing left to lose, he was merely playing along for kicks.
And as Oh il-nam reveals the truth on his deathbed, we get the sinking feeling that all the previous warnings about not trusting anyone in the games suddenly ring horrifyingly true. We can't even trust our favorite character!
It's not a harsh death scene, but the realization that a "good" character is actually a psychopath can be a deep, deep cut.
- Photo: Netflix4145 VOTES
Jun-ho Cornered On A Cliff
A key subplot throughout the series is the infiltration of the island facility by Korean police officer Jun-ho, who believes his missing brother might have gotten mixed up in the games as a contestant.
For several episodes, Jun-ho sneaks around masquerading as a guard and uncovering clues about the mysterious games and who might be behind them.
But after finding several smoking guns - and finally escaping to the mainland where he can at least get a spotty cellphone signal to send the data back to headquarters - he finds himself cornered at the edge of a cliff by guards who have given chase.
In the final blow, the technocratic manager of the games turns out to be his brother, who then coldly shoots his own kin to preserve the games' secrecy. Jun-ho falls to his (presumed) death on the rocky shores below.
- Photo: Netflix5125 VOTES
The Glass Bridge
In Episode 7, the remaining 16 players must traverse a bizarre bridge whose planks are made of glass. Scary, right? Here's the worse part: With each step, players need to pick between two sheets of glass - one tempered and able to support their weight, the other... not so much.
The result is that several players fall to their demise hundreds of feet below the elevated platform.
With a 16-minute time limit, the gory deaths are eclipsed only by the psychological tension as players in the front must go forward blindly while those in the back at least have a road map (Did we mention that each player got to pick a number 1-16 beforehand, not knowing the game?).
The creativity with which the final players make it to the other side is well worth the watch.
- Photo: Netflix6183 VOTES
Red Light, Green Light
In Episode 1, we meet Seong Gi-hun - a gambling addict whose wife and daughter are about to move to the United States and leave him in the dust. But when he volunteers to play games for money to redeem himself, he ends up on a private island as the last of more than 400 contestants about to fight for their lives.
The first game based on "Red Light, Green Light" starts off tame enough until we realize that those caught moving by a motion sensor after "Red Light" is announced don't just lose the game - they're eliminated by machine gun fire.
It's not the most creative or even most gruesome demise on this dark series. But the shock of it - and the sheer body count of more than 200 - is enough to make you wonder how the show will top this brutality.
Don't you worry, boys and girls. It will.