No one was that surprised when the Netflix original series Bridgerton smashed viewing records. A steamy period piece produced by Shonda Rhimes boasting elaborate costumes, high-society drama, and one of the most aesthetically pleasing casts on television? It’s like the Netflix version of Oscar bait. Recently, an unexpected new show has ousted Bridgerton from its gilded throne, one that is equal parts exciting, brutal, and, dare we say, funny? That show, of course, is Squid Game.
Several non-English language TV shows have found success on Netflix, such as Lupin, Dark, and Money Heist. However, none of them have come close to reaching the soaring viewership heights of Bridgerton, as the first season of Netflix’s previous most-watched original show was streamed by over 82 million accounts, most of which actually finished the entire first season. But nothing lasts forever, with Bridgerton having to make way for the prize-hungry madness of Squid Game.
The South Korean expatriate, which defies any attempt to define its genre, absolutely annihilated the viewing record once held by Bridgerton. Deadline reported that the first season of Squid Game garnered 111 million viewers in a mere month. This impressive number marks the biggest Netflix launch in the history of the streaming platform, which began airing original series in 2012. The metrics, per usual, are a bit skewed in Netflix's favor, as any account that viewed at least two minutes of an episode was included. But that's still a hell of a lot of people.
The popularity of Squid Game can be attributed to several factors. While the show was filmed in Korean, Netflix added subtitles and dubs in 30+ languages. Most Netflix shows are only available in a few additional languages, if that. With this investment from Netflix, the story of Squid Game became accessible to a global audience. According to Deadline, Squid Game hit number one in over 90 countries - a feat certainly facilitated by its subtitle catalogue. Now, to be fair, quite a few Korean-speaking viewers have lodged complaints claiming the subtitling and dubbing were mishandled and dumbed down the subtleties of the original dialogue. But in this case, any kind of controversy likely just drew more attention to the project in general.
So what is Squid Game about? To make a long story short, a roster of debt-laden civilians are recruited to play a series of games, with the grand prize being a small fortune in Korean won, a sum that could repay many people's debts several times over. Unbeknownst to the contestants, however, the so-called ‘squid games’ are deadly more often than not. At once a condemnation of late-stage capitalism and a cautiously optimistic exploration of human nature, Squid Game is keeping viewers glued to the screen until the last credits roll.
It also doesn’t hurt that the cast of Squid Game is fantastic. Lee Jung-jae shines as lead protagonist Seong Gi-hun, combining a touch of gray morality with just enough empathy to make his character compelling. Other standouts include Kim Joo-ryoung as Han Mi-nyeo, a frankly hilarious woman that will do just about anything to win; Jung Ho-yeon as Kang Sae-byeok, who gives a performance so affecting its hard to believe she’s never acted before; and Park Hae-soo as Cho Sang-woo, a seemingly mild-mannered businessman who descends into money-fueled madness.
Season 1 of Squid Game is available to stream now on Netflix. But if you're one of the 111 million people who have already given it a shot, you probably already knew that.
Actor, singer, and occasional dancer. Likes: fashion, books, old buildings. Dislikes: cilantro, the NJ Turnpike, sneaker wedges.
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