Squid Game

It seems sense that Netflix began discussing ideas on how to capitalize on the success of the dystopian thriller Squid Game to create a spinoff that would replicate the feeling of competing as soon as it was originally given the go-ahead. People seeing the original series and thinking, “I want to do that,” as the Squid Game: The Challenge players appear to be doing, is more than a little disturbing. Despite its inconsistent production qualities, self-aware characters, and offensive themes, the program offers an intriguing look at how unscripted episodic material is produced.

In the first Squid Game by Hwang Dong-hyuk, 456 people whose lives are being destroyed by various forms of unpayable debt are forced to participate in a series of lethal schoolyard games as part of a covert tournament held to amuse affluent elites. When the participants discover that losing rounds of seemingly easy games like marbles, Red Light, and Green Light would result in their execution by masked gunmen wearing bright pink jumpsuits, they are all appalled. However, the majority of them continue to play and even return to the tournament after being released and given the option to leave without asking because of the ₩45.6 billion grand prize.

No one in Squid Game: The Challenge has to worry about getting shot in the head for making a mistake when breaking tiny honeycomb candies or losing a tug-of-war. However, The Challenge, which is a joint venture between the Garden and Studio Lambert, the production company behind The Circle, goes to tremendous measures to replicate some of Hwang’s more unsettling situations with an enormous number of enthusiastic contestants who are all positive they will win the largest cash prize in the history of competitive reality TV shows.

squid game 2

It’s no mystery why any of the participants in The Challenge joined up, with $4.65 million up for grabs. The opening segment of the show emphasizes how winning that much money would radically improve everyone’s life. Even while the participants’ goals for the money and their surface differences may be apparent, it is immediately clear that they are all ardent Squid Game fans who have devoted many hours to thoroughly examining reality programs as fragments of popular culture.

When contestants are forced to inauthentically portray themselves in ways they believe would make them more captivating on film, it’s always a little unsettling. Producers typically exclude such individuals early in the vetting process due to their difficulty in editing into the types of purportedly spontaneous tales that network executives are looking for. The Challenge frequently feels like an inadvertently honest portrayal of the raw id that compels some people to be on reality TV, though, because of how big the cast initially is and how everyone knows these kinds of programs are created by creative teams hoping to find folks with real star potential.

In the first few episodes of The Challenge, contestants are obviously attempting to stand out by posing as well-known reality show stereotypes, but what’s very intriguing about this is that they’re also trying to represent personalities who are similar to those in the Squid Game program.

There is always a certain amount of narrative roleplaying in television series featuring regular individuals who consent to have film crews record every minute of their lives while they are in a kind of suspended animation. However, The Challenge seems a little unique in that aspect due to how clumsily Netflix’s attempts to replicate the moments from Squid Game’s storyline collide with players’ natural desire to ham it up. Additionally, the program has a tendency of making its players seem less like folks who came to play their own way and more like ardent Squid Game LARPers because the streamer’s wants are obviously prioritized on screen.

Squid Game The Challenge

Fortunately, The Challenge’s nonlethal games let it quickly whittle down its field of aspirants. Even though the games are marketed as being safe, it’s difficult to avoid thinking of The Challenge as a macabre celebration of the violence of the original Squid Game, without much of its social critique, as seen by the way eliminated players dressed as bullet struck squibs hurl themselves to the ground to mimic being shot.

After a few episodes, you can see the program identifying and focusing on its voice. This occurs when there are enough characters gone for the producers to begin crafting heroes, villains, and clear storylines for each character. Because it becomes more difficult to self-produce as the games progress, none of their personal dramas become interesting until the majority of the initial players have left. That transition is one of the most intriguing aspects of The Challenge, even though the program doesn’t really try to emphasize it. If it weren’t for the Squid Game branding, most viewers probably wouldn’t have noticed it.

All of that is insufficient to prevent the program from feeling like an idiotic attempt by the studio to force the expansion of a brand by creating a spinoff that is incongruous with the core principles of the original. That said, it’s unlikely to deter Netflix from giving Squid Game: The Challenge a second season renewal.