We don’t need to tell you how popular Netflix’s Squid Game is.
In its dominance of popular culture in 2021, the South Korean series has inspired everything from video game versions to Halloween costumes to real-life robot dolls, in addition to breaking streaming records and effectively changing the game for how Netflix assesses program success.
Squid Game was nothing short of a phenomenon – but how did it all come to an end? What happened to the show’s key characters? Will there be a second season of Squid Game, and what might happen if the plot continues?
We’ll try to answer all of these questions and more below, as we break down the show’s ninth and last episode, One Lucky Day.
1 Squid Game: Explanation of the Final Game
Let’s start with a summary of what happened in the final game. Episode 9 begins shortly after Sae-byeok is slain by Sang-woo, leaving him and Gi-hun as the only players left in the game. The last test is the titular Squid Game, which pits Gi-hun against Sang-woo in a gory (and rainy) knife duel. The former wins, but stops just as the game is about to end to invoke Clause Three of the agreement, which specifies that “if the majority of players agree to abandon the game, the game terminates.”
This is a critical juncture in Gi-life. Hun’s Unlike Sang-woo, who spends previous episodes sinking into a worse and darker state of mind, Gi-hun maintains some morality and humanity throughout the increasingly brutal games. However, in this battle, Gi-hun demonstrates a brief ruthless streak that allows him to overcome Sang-woo, but he ultimately refuses to be completely corrupted by the game, sparing Sang-life woo’s and electing to forego the prize money and return home.
Obviously, things do not go as planned. Gi-hun returns to notify Sang-woo of his decision, but the latter stabs himself in the neck — likely as a result of his guilt. Sang-final woo’s words ask Gi-hun to take the award money and assist his mother.
The game is over at this point. The VIPs leave, the prize money falls from the roof, and the Front Man declares Gi-hun the winner, congratulating him on his victory. While being returned home, Gi-hun questions the Front Man about why he hosts the game, to which he responds, “you people are horses,” implying that it was designed for the sake of sport and betting. This is partially correct, although further logic is provided later in the show.
2 The Difficulty in Adjusting
Gi-hun returns home to discover that he has 45.6 billion won in his bank account. On his way back to his apartment, he runs across Sang-mother, Woo’s who inquires about her son’s whereabouts. Gi-hun remains silent; it is unclear whether she perceives her silence as proof of Sang-death. woo’s
When Gi-hun returns home, he realizes that his mother has died. Again, this is a pivotal moment for the character, as his mother’s illness was the impetus for his involvement in the game in the first place.
Gi-hun is still traumatized by his incident a year later. Despite his fortune, he appears exhausted and destitute as he takes the subway to a banker, who assures him that he has barely spent any of his cash. When he walks out, Gi-hun asks the banker if he can borrow 10,000 won, a reference to a previous request he made in the show’s early episodes.
Gi-hun goes to a neighboring beach to buy some flowers, only to discover another game invitation placed within the arrangement. This time, it requests that he meet his ‘gganbu’ (the Korean slang term for ‘ally,’ first referenced in episode 6) at a building on Christmas Eve.
3 The Brains Behind Everything
There, he discovers Player 001, Oh Il-nam, whom Gi-hun had assumed was killed after the fourth game in Episode 6. Il-nam reveals himself to be the game’s developer while lying unwell in a hospital bed, explaining that he created it as a way to escape his boring life of riches and as a test of humanity’s inherent goodness – he reminds Gi-hun that contestants killed each other for the sake of earning money for themselves.
Il-nam also adds that the games were inspired by ones he played as a child, and that he took part in this particular rendition of the game out of nostalgia. This explains why Il-nam recognized the imitation town’s layout in the fourth game – it was modeled after his childhood home.
Il-nam then invites Gi-hun to one final game, a final test of humanity’s virtue. They glance out the window and see a homeless man; Il-nam wagers that no one will assist the man before the clock strikes twelve o’clock. Gi-hun is victorious after a passing by person assists the homeless man., but Il-nam perishes. It’s unknown whether Il-nam notices this gesture of goodwill before he dies, however there are two interpretations to be derived from this incident.
The first is that Il-nam dies believing he has won the game and that there is no more humanity in the world. The second: Il-nam dies after understanding he has lost the game and seeing an act of kindness that allows him to die in peace. The show doesn’t elaborate on either situation, but this scene exemplifies the moral quandary at the center of Squid Game.
The gold rabbit mask in the Front Man’s house is shown to have belonged to Il-nam in the next (extremely brief) scene – The old guy places it on his dressing table before assuring the Front Man that he will participate in the activities personally.
4 Promises Fulfilled
After an indeterminate amount of time, Gi-hun cleans himself up and keeps his vows to Sang-woo and Sae-byeok. He removes Sae-brother byeok’s from the children’s home and places him in the care of Sang-mother, woo’s leaving each of them a portion of the prize money.
Then we see a red-haired Gi-hun at the airport, on his way to see – or live with – his daughter in the United States. Gi-hun spots someone playing ddakji with the same recruiter who invited him to the games in episode one as he walks to the terminal. He tries to track down the recruiter but is unable to reach him in time, so he accepts the man’s invitation.
Gi-hun dials the number on the invitation just before boarding his flight to the United States. The receiver identifies his voice as that of Player 456, and warns him not to have “any crazy thoughts.” Gi-hun turns around, likely to begin his investigation into the game’s organizers.
5 What Happens Next for Squid Game?
Although Netflix has yet to confirm a Squid Game season 2 – creator Hwang Dong-hyuk is currently working on “other things” – season 1’s final episode leaves plenty of room for speculation about where the show might go next.
Furthermore, while Hwang did warn The Sunday Times that there would be no second season of Squid Game, the show’s spectacular success – which has garnered 4.4 million new subscribers to Netflix alone – looks likely to persuade its creator to reconsider his initial hesitation.
In subsequent interviews, such as one with The Hollywood Reporter, Hwang has stated that he does, in fact, have a few ideas about where the show could go next, which we will look at in greater depth below.
The most obvious plot thread to investigate is Gi-desire hun’s for vengeance. Given the show’s final shot, the character is clearly furious by the game organizers’ ongoing pursuit of disadvantaged competitors, and Gi-hun appears to want to expose them. “[We could] look into how he’s going to manage his reckoning with the guys who make the games,” Hwang told THR.
If the show decides to pursue this route, it might do so in two ways. The first could see Gi-hun try to persuade others of the game’s existence, exposing its corruption and inhumanity from the outside — after all, he is a much wealthier man now. The second possibility is that Gi-hun will return to the game with a better understanding of its inner workings and ultimate goals.
As implausible as the second scenario sounds – it doesn’t make sense for Gi-hun to return to a game that nearly lost him his life — the former, more realistic scenario would certainly lose much of what makes Squid Game so enjoyable: the games themselves.
Clearly, the show’s creators and screenwriters have a difficult task ahead of them if they intend to preserve the show’s appeal while simultaneously keeping narrative consistency. Netflix is currently “working to figure out the proper framework,” along with Hwang, so it’s no surprise that a follow-up season is unlikely for at least a few years.
Examining the destiny of Jun-hon, the undercover cop who uncovers the Front Man to be his brother, In-ho, is another interesting plot element. Although he was shot and fell off a cliff, there’s a chance Jun-hon survived the confrontation, and considering that we still don’t know In-purpose ho’s for being the game’s Front Man, this appears to be a potential narrative thread for the program to examine.
Hwang has also expressed an interest in this thread. “I’d like to examine that plot – what’s going on between those two brothers?” he explained to THR.
Surprisingly, the show’s creator has also hinted at a more in-depth investigation of the mysterious recruiter. “I could also delve into the story of that recruiter in the suit in the first episode who plays ddakji with Gi-hun and hands him the card.,” Hwang said in the same interview with THR.
Squid Game’s first season, on the other hand, doesn’t leave many issues unanswered – mostly because, well, most of its characters die. Realistically, we may expect Gi-hun, Jun-hon, In-ho, and the recruiter to return, but Sang-woo, Sae-byeok, and Il-nam will not (or so the laws of life and death would suggest, anyway).
As a result, we’re left guessing as to where Squid Game will go next. While we’d like to see more of the show’s lethal puzzles, we also don’t want Netflix to commission a substandard second season just to cash in on its success.