Photo of contestants in Netflix's Squid Game: The Challenge. They are wearing the same green uniforms as the contestants from the drama show of the same name.

‘Squid Game: The Challenge’ Misses the Point but Is Unfortunately Hilarious To Watch

The idea of a reality show inspired by Netflix’s smash hit South Korean series Squid Game seems wildly out of touch. The reality is pretty much what you would expect: a corporate cash grab that completely ignores the themes of the series that inspired it.

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But given the massive global success of the series, it’s unsurprising that Netflix would try and squeeze every last dollar out of one of its biggest franchises. This brings us to Squid Game: The Challenge, where 456 (mostly) Americans play the iconic games for a chance at winning $4.5 million dollars. Only instead of getting murdered when they lose, the production team equips players with ink packets, known as squibs. More like Squib Games, am I right? And while players aren’t being murdered, they are getting injured and being treated poorly. But poor treatment is apparently a feature and not a bug of Netflix reality shows.

As much as I wanted to hate this show for being the opposite of what Squid Game stands for, I ended up laughing my way through much of Squid Game: The Challenge. This show is just a bunch of people playing childish games for money, sans the gravitas and messaging that made Squid Game so haunting. I mean, it’s still haunting as an indictment of late-stage capitalism, but I don’t think that was Netflix’s intention.

There are still moments in the show that make you realize how far people will go to win a life-changing amount of money. But the stakes remain intentionally low. Still, people act terrified that they’ll die in the game when in reality it’s just a sack of ink taped to their chest.

You’ll be okay Carol, it’s just paint on your shirt.

No stakes, no problem

When people are “shot” on the show, they must fall to their “death” and lie done until the game is finished. It is treated with lots of drama, but I could not stop laughing. In the second episode, players recreate the iconic dalgona (honeycomb) challenge. When one player had to pick the umbrella shape for an entire line of people, I thought he was going to throw up on the honeycomb out of guilt. I could not stop asking why the stakes were THIS HIGH. Yes, it’ the highest cash prize in reality TV history. But at the same time, you’re licking candy furiously, my dude.

The weight of the actual Squid Games and the fear that fueled their every game is gone because everyone is going to be fine in the end. There are wild alliances that make no sense, like two guys just being friends because they have mullets. The entire enterprise is pointless. Honestly, if it wasn’t based on a show like Squid Game, it might be a bit more fun to watch. But this is based on Squid Game, and laughs aside, the entire series comes across as poor taste.

(featured image: Netflix)

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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.