Like most, I was absolutely hooked when Squid Game interrupted the humdrum of life during lockdown with a hit of heart-stopping chaos and drama a couple of years ago. For the unacquainted, the premise is simple; hundreds of contestants attempt to win a life-changing amount of money by participating in a deadly game. To lose means death - and there can only be one winner. So how did the reality show version compare?
First of all, production has clearly spared no expense in recreating the original show’s sets, including the spacious dormitories where the contestants spend most of their time and the intricately designed games. The show kicks things off at a brisk pace with a recreation of Red Light, Green Light, where contestants have to make it from one side of the room to another without being clocked by a giant robot doll.
In the original, this is where the contestants realise that they are actually being murdered if they move an inch during the competition. In the reality show, they've given everyone a splatter pack to give the impression of being hit by a sniper, and the tension is palpable as losers fall on the ground and play dead while those still in play - some shaking, some crying - nervously continue around them. There's no denying that the show is instantly totally addictive.
However, as the episodes went on, the pace slowed all the way down. Footage of the contestants - who appear to have spent most of the experience squirrelled away in the dormitories making small talk with one another - is all edited together with the display of creating drama that clearly isn’t really there. After all, we're not watching this show to view a bunch of contestants chatting to one another while taking part in mundane chores. We're here for the action!
The games are a very welcome burst of anticipation and nerves, making the whole thing worth the investment of your time. That being said, after I finished the five preview episodes, I had to wonder just how the show could fill another five instalments.
But the main issues with the show - and one that is unfortunately quite unsolveable - is that you are quite simply not following a main protagonist. The show tries its best to make you emotionally connected to the players and to root for your faves, but the sheer volume of contestants at the beginning, and the obvious issue that literally any single one of them could win, makes it hard to follow any one person’s journey from the off.
That being said, I was definitely engaged with some players, and was disappointed when the odds didn’t fall in their favour.
In short, the show certainly has its flaws, but the promise of one of the biggest prizes in TV history, the genuinely jaw-dropping game segments and my need to see who wins will definitely have me devouring the final five episodes for sure - and I think quite a few people will be addicted to the scope of the thing to join me for the ride.
Squid Game: The Challenge will land on Netflix on 22 November.