Squid Game came into our lives as a strange and complicated mystery, one we’re enjoying obsessively poring over for every last detail. Even as Netflix’s South Korean contemporary social horror series revealed secrets in the final episodes, they only brought about bigger questions surrounding the game’s origin, Il-nam’s relationship to the game, how the game continues to operate with impunity, and what might happen next. While there’s no indication there will be a second season of the show, here are some of the biggest questions Squid Game left hanging after nine episodes.
How does Squid Game work globally?
The fact that the in-show audience for Squid Game is international, much like the real world one has ended up being, is an interesting quirk that begs a few questions. Why use such country-specific games that would be foreign to the very VIPs that Squid Game was created to cater to? During the last few rounds they came to South Korea and had the Front Man and his staff on hand to explain the rules and answer any questions, but the show indicates that didn’t happen for previous games. Did the VIPs have questions about what everyone was doing during the dalgona round, and why it was set at a playground?
The VIP audience is surprisingly small, with only a handful of men. At one point while drinking and joking, one asks who brought somebody in, meaning each VIP is vouched for personally by someone who was already in the inner circle. While they’re all high rollers, it seems like an incredible expense to have so few people attending, and seemingly no one betting remotely. Heck, they don’t even seem to pay for concessions! Although maybe if everyone is as painfully rich as Oh Il-nam told Seong Gi-hun, they truly don’t care about the expense. Are these the kind of unknown millionaires and billionaires who exist away from the eye of the general public, who literally couldn’t give their money away fast enough if they tried (not that they have, in this case)?
How many other countries have Squid Games? Setting the game on a private island seems ideal, in that no one can escape and the game can be kept out of sight from local law enforcement. Sourcing disposable personnel and players (a deeply dystopian phrase if ever there was one) is a bigger hurdle. When hundreds of people disappear and never return, someone, somewhere, should kick up a fuss. It helps that the people behind the Squid Game seem to know who to target – during the first round, Gi-hun’s family assumed he was off on a gambling bender, and Sang-woo was assumed to be running from the law. Considering that, it’s surprising there weren’t more people from the typical profiles that criminals (because make no mistake, the people behind Squid Game are just that) like to target, because they know they won’t be missed or their friends and family can’t afford to make a fuss, such as sex workers and runaways.
How are the Squid Game staff recruited?
If you’ve heard a theory about Squid Game, it’s probably this one: the color paper that people choose when playing ddakji with Gong Yoo determines whether they become workers (red) or players (blue). It’s a cool theory, but when video footage of players is shown, a few pick red. So then where are the workers coming from?
The man who tried to take on the Squid Game soldiers asked a question that was never answered by the series: what did they do to you to make you do this? From the staff members that we saw, it seems that they’re young men from South Korea. The fact that the Front Man killed them without hesitation means that he knows they won’t be missed – or that the powerful people backing him can make any problems related to their deaths disappear. There are easily fifty or more staff people. When the game is over, what happens to them? It’s hard to imagine that they will be allowed to simply go home. While they might sound as foolish as Gi-hun did when he went to the police, it seems like an unnecessary risk. Does the Front Man kill everyone below him when he’s done?
How did In-ho become the Front Man?
The Front Man was a mysterious figure throughout the season, in part because he wore a mask, but revealing his face and his identity as Hwang In-ho, brother to Hwang Jun-ho, only left us with even more questions. It’s clear that the front man is just that – not the creator or owner of Squid Game, but the front-facing person who deals with the VIPs, the staff, and other issues, allowing the Host and whoever else might be behind the game to keep their hands clean. But how did he come to have this job at all? Jun-ho learned from the meticulous records that his brother actually won Squid Game years ago, yet somehow he became the Front Man. When we first met Jun-Ho, he said his brother was only missing for a few weeks, which means he had been keeping up a double life quite successfully up until recently. How did he explain his annual Squid Game absences? Why was he living in such a spartan apartment? Did In-ho burn through the cash, or was he, like Gi-hun, unable to spend it? It almost seems like he isolated himself from his family because of who Squid Game had made him, and perhaps he became the Front Man because once he had done what he needed to do to win Squid Game, he saw no path to redemption.
Did Jun-ho survive?
Throughout the series, people are shot frequently, their deaths shown unflinchingly. When the Front Man kills people himself, he goes with a kill shot, often in the head. Deaths on Squid Game in general are shown in detail, with clarity and blood spurts. In contrast, when pursuing his brother, Jun-ho, the Front Man, In-ho, shot him in the shoulder and he went over the cliff into the water. Far from definitive. The only other death that wasn’t clear and explicit was Player 001’s – and he turned out to not only be alive, but running the whole game. All that is to say, if Squid Game returns, we’re banking on Wi Ja-hoon, the incredibly popular actor who plays Jun-ho the cop, to paddle his way to safety and season 2.
The mystery of Player 001/The Host, Il-nam
At the end of the season, Il-nam revealed himself as one of the founders and the Host. However, there are still questions surrounding him. He references the idea that others in his circle might have also helped to found the game – who are they? Are they still alive? Il-nam doesn’t attend the finals with the other VIPs, with the Front Man passing on his apologies and the message that he has something personal to attend to. After Il-nam dies in episode 9, there’s a flashback to when he told the Front Man he wouldn’t attend, saying, “There’s no way watching it could be more fun than playing it yourself.” Narratively, this was likely to preserve the Il-nam reveal for the very end of the episode, but it still leaves something of an open question. Where did Il-nam go and what did he do with his remaining time, while he was still well enough?
Perhaps he went in search of his son, whom he referenced throughout the show. Some hypothesized Gi-hun could be Il-nam’s son, since Gi-hun’s father is never shown and the thread of Il-nam’s family is never resolved. Gi-hun reminds Il-nam of his son when he asks for chocolate milk, and the neighborhood from the game of marbles was based on Il-nam’s home, and also reminds Gi-hun of his childhood.
Whatever the case, the two clearly look out for each other. Is it possible that Il-nam gave Gi-hun something of an in-game shield, like an extra life or a golden ticket? After Gi-hun gives his jacket to the older man to hide his incontinence and preserve his dignity, Il-nam offers his jacket, with 001 on it. He says it’s for protection, so that others in the arena won’t think less of him, perhaps he means it at face value, the way Sang-woo told Ali to hide the fact that he has missing fingers. But throughout the game of marbles, there were a couple of times when Il-nam could have been shot for losing. Other players were shot more quickly by the soldiers nearby. Instead that soldier waited for Gi-hun to be out of sight and presumably shot wide. It would make sense for all of the staff in red jumpsuits to know not to kill Player 001 (it really feels like they could have picked a less obvious number), so that they wouldn’t accidentally act rashly when breaking up a fight. If that’s the case, then perhaps in handing over his jacket, Il-nam was hoping he could give Gi-hun a small amount of extra insurance, even if it only helped him outside of the officially announced games.
Squid Game is a wild ride, and if it remains a one-season wonder with an open ending, so be it. But there are still quite a few mysteries lingering and big, unanswered questions that could be explored, whether in spin-offs or follow-up seasons.