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A ‘Squid Game’ Universe Is Coming, But I’m All Universed Out, Thanks

Not every film or TV series needs a universe.

Squid Game guard in focus with the about to die contestants in the background

Netflix has announced the second season of its smash-hit series Squid Game is on the way. The South Korean thriller, which swept the world in 2021, was the streamer’s most popular show of the year, and quickly developed an ardent international fan base. Its acclaim was well-deserved, and we here at The Mary Sue watched as ardently.

Squid Game creator Hwang Dong-hyuk had previously discussed plans for season 2, saying “There’s been so much pressure, so much demand and so much love for a second season. So I almost feel like you leave us no choice!” Netflix co-CEO and chief content officer Ted Sarandos announced, “The Squid Game universe has just begun.”

Now it’s no surprise that Netflix would want to expand its most popular series. In today’s entertainment landscape, it’s not enough for a film or series to be successful on its own. The real money is in the franchise, in creating a sprawling universe of content that can seemingly go on forever. Properties like Star Wars, DC Comics, and Harry Potter have leveraged themselves to saturate every aspect of pop culture, with merchandise to match. And of course, every studio is searching for their own Marvel cinematic universe, a seemingly endless vault of intellectual property that can be adapted in a myriad of different forms.

This is nothing new: for decades, Hollywood has demanded the same thing, but different. So when one studio releases a Hunger Games, their competitors scramble to find their own dystopian murder teen saga (see: Divergent), and so on. The Matrix reinvented the action film, so what followed was a decade of slo-mo gunfights between black leather-clad characters.

But few of these massive franchises are able to maintain the same level of quality. The Fantastic Beasts films are a pale, sickly shadow of Harry Potter, and we’ve lost count of how many iterations of The Walking Dead are out there. Of course, I’m excited for a second season of Squid Game, as there is clearly more story left to tell. But the idea of an ever-expanding Squid Game universe feels exhausting.

Honestly, I’m all universed out. I miss the days of standalone movies telling complete whole stories, that don’t depend on knowledge from several films ago. An entire swath of film genres, from the family drama to the legal thriller to the romantic comedy, have all but ceased to exist. There are no more adult films to be had. Stories now have to be piecemeal, leading to a larger picture that won’t be complete unless you collect all the puzzle pieces.

It’s great for the collector mindset, but no doubt frustrating for the creators. It often leads to a flattening of the material, a dulling of what made the original concept so fresh and irresistible. And it’s deeply unsatisfying to follow a storyline that seemingly has no end, or that retroactively undoes a previous satisfying ending.

Not everything needs to be its own universe. Space may be infinite, but our attention spans aren’t. So please just let some things be, and while we’re at it, keep your movies under 2 hours. We’re tired.

(via Variety, image: Netflix)

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Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.