Squid Game is one of the most enthralling shows I’ve ever watched. (Yes, this is a very controversial opinion). But in all sincerity, I don’t think the show’s near-universal acclaim is all that surprising. The show is well-written, I loved the way it was paced. It was well stylized. The shots were interesting, and at points, down right gorgeous. The show has an interesting concept, and it’s novel to most viewers. (Yes I know the death game genre isn’t particularly new, but it is new enough to many people). But most of all, I think the show’s appeal lies in its characters. They were well-developed and nuanced. They felt like real people with real problems. And it was through these characters that the effectively structured its critique of capitalism. The human element in Squid Game is what makes it a truly good show.
In light of this, I wanted to spend some time discussing and ranking some of my favourite characters. My ranking isn’t particularly rigorous (so take it with a grain of salt).
Number Four: Hwang Jun-ho
In fifth place we have Jun-ho! Interestingly, we haven’t actually learned much about him. He barely speaks throughout the show, in many ways, he functions as a surrogate for the audience. But, the show slips in hints of his personality throughout. I liked how quick-witted he was. He managed to think his way through several extremely dicey situations. His motivations made sense. I could find myself appreciating his small stubborn streak. Usually, I don’t like shows with multiple plot lines, as I get bored by some of them, but his plotline was genuinely interesting to me. Particularly because it gave me a look at the game from another perspective. I honestly hope he somehow survived the encounter with his brother. He is an interesting character that garnered emotional investment, I hope the writers make use of that, rather than discard his character completely.
Number Three: Han Mi-nyeo
Okay! I know this is a hot take, but hear me out. This woman was an absolute blast to watch on screen. The actress, Kim Joo-ryung is so incredibly talented. She was a genuinely good addition to the show. She was a source of comic relief, in a way that made sense within the context of the show. Her presence added balance to the tone of the show, without her, I think the show would just be extremely depressing. Moreover, I liked how she wasn’t simply just terrible. In many ways I could empathize with her. She was desperate to survive. Her attempts to seduce Deok-su, while as cringe-inducing as they were, made sense. It was really the only way she could have done so. Her over the top dramatics were actually quite effective in helping her survive, and it’s quite possible that her over the top, “small dogs bark the loudest,” type of personality is what helped her survive prior to entering the games. Plus, I felt like she had the most satisfying death of all of the characters. I loved how she chose to take Deok-su down with her.
Number Two: Cho Sang-woo
No! He is not the worst character! Okay, maybe he is revealed to be an unlikeable twat as the show progresses, but maybe that’s the point. But what I liked about Sang Woo, is that he made sense as a character. Sang Woo is a literal genius who went to SNU (notoriously difficult to get into), who then screwed his life up because of his own greed. We’re told these things about Sang-woo! Very early on too. Of course he’s going to be a self-serving twat. That’s who he was out of the games, and that’s who he will be in the games. And despite his obvious moral failings, he is perhaps the only one that understands what the game entails. He was there to win and I don’t think I can fault him for that. But I think what makes Sang Woo a particularly unlikeable character (and an effective twist villain) is that we all know a person like Sang Woo. Sang Woo does not exist only in fiction, he exists in real life. Moreover, I think one of the points the show was trying to get across was the idea that capitalism encourages and rewards the actions people like Sang-woo take. Sang-woo is only a symptom of what the real villain is in the Squid Game: Capitalism.
Number One: The Salesman
No. Words. Needed.