Jeb Happy’s review published on Letterboxd:
Tl;dr: If you ask me, this show is cringe, incredibly contrived, boring as shit, and devoid of anything new or engaging to say or articulate, and it doesn't make me angry (except the final act reveal which is nothing but an offensively feigned attempt at sounding smarter than it is) but I do strongly dislike it.
Squid Game's philosophy is, as the kids say, "out of whack." The faceless leader of this deathly organization believes that their motivations are dictated by creating a sense of complete fairness and unity. But these games aren't fair; the players' attempts at strategizing based on age, sex, strength, and knowledge is proof enough of that. If that's supposed to be the ironic "point," that this leader's social ideas are merely a portrait of the capitalistic system governing their lives outside the walls of the game setting, then shouldn't he be perceptive of this parallel? And what to say of the final act reveal which disregards all logic pertaining to the game's structure?
Instead they assure us that the game is meant to offer retribution for those wishing to escape the limited opportunities awarded to them outside -- in other words, it's all so contradictory, if not downright nonsensical. Chalk the series up then as another hollow parable about society, less clever and insightful than it thinks it is. And if the show's baffling popularity is any evidence, then it surely must be designed to slightly spout familiar notions involving fiscal responsibility back at the viewer for the sake of empty proselytizing, particularly for the anti-capitalist audiences to fawn over.
I can't believe I'm saying this but, where's the sex? Things would be a lot more interesting if these disturbing games of death turned into a giant fuckfest every once in a while. I'm (sort of) joking of course, but the tension here probably could benefit from a little orgie-porgie, to turn things on their thematic head (this probably comes from my subconscious desire for everything to just be Brave New World).
I'm not sure I've ever seen a visual work equally entertaining and boring. Squid Game's enjoyment value is built off of the idea of exciting, intense Cube/Saw-style games where death is largely the only incentive for striving to win; but its attempts to stretch mindless character drama and divulge in some existential worrying fall flat from mere indication of archetypal series construction.
Simply put, this shit's boring. I've never seen a nine hour series that could seriously be cut down into a 2.5-3 hour feature without sacrificing any significant plot elements. But Squid Game could, and probably ought to have been. Every game is drawn out excessively to feign drama and excitement. Every other sequence is pointless, overlong drivel tacked on for the sake of phony theatrics starring uninteresting people saying a whole lot of nothing all the way through. By the time the show finally starts being brave enough to kill off some of the designated 'important' characters, we're hours in and have learned nothing except that we're supposed to care extra that they specifically died.
If this review sounds angry, it isn't meant to. Its popularity just baffles me. Frankly, it's wild to think how such a slow-moving nothing of a series could ever get so famous; could ever keep so many people's attention for so long to push through it all. It's also further proof of Cube's everlasting influence over modern horror, and its enduring significance as an underrated social commentary horror venture.
What separates Squid Game from something like The Platform, another contemporary social commentary wrapped up in psychological torture experiment gimmickry? A whole lot of wasted time, for one thing. The first episode of Squid Game promises something intriguing and engaging, as its patient plot unfolds. But as soon as the massive cast are introduced in the meandering, unbelievably boring second episode, the series quickly starts to lose its potential luster.
These characters have no sense of identity outside of broad archetype. The ashamed college dropout acts maliciously whenever the plot necessitates it, only ever lamenting his actions briefly for the sake of those phony theatrics I mentioned earlier. The mysterious and aloof girl inevitably explains her background so we can empathize with her for being a tragic outsider. The old man's senility is exploited for plot purposes; his dementia varies wildly, climaxing with a pointless little twist during a laborious, utterly tiresome game of marbles.
The main protagonist is the only likable person involved, largely because of his zany unlikability, which is predisposed by a sense of constantly fucking up, creating a believable cycle of self-loathing. It makes sense he returns to the game, to prove something, even if he isn't entirely sure what he needs to prove. He's the only real human here, amongst a bevy of expendable extras and similar bodies the show desperately tries to convince you are otherwise worth listening to and caring about.
The show kills off extras carelessly, to keep the audience entertained. But the main cast have to all go out with a pitiful whimper, to try and force some tears, duh! Even when they predictably kill off a character introduced only an episode before, as if they just showed up but were being treated as though they were there from the very start. And people say The Room is bad!
The VIPs shit is so cringe. Same goes for the player who's a religious nut, and then there's the one that's just "bad guy." The only character with any semblance of complexity is the protagonist. The games are engaging in theory but hampered by laborious bouts of dialogue and forced consternation. Ultimately the show can't decide whether it wants to entertain or appall. It certainly fails to deliver both, especially whenever it forces flaky empathy for the slain, most of whom we don't even know their names.
Squid Game's philosophy is compromised by shallow humanism; it is both contradictory and discompassionate. Add one of the dumbest final act plot twists in recent history (matched with a completely bogus philosophy comparing the rich to the poor) and you've got yourself a stew of overhyped mediocrity.