Netflix’s latest reality competition series Squid Game: The Challenge puts contestants through a grueling competition inspired by the hit South Korean drama Squid Game. Early reviews indicate it captures the tense spirit of the fictional games, while ratcheting up the brutality.
Contestants Vie for $4.56 Million Prize
The show features 456 real-life contestants competing through a series of childhood games adapted with deadly twists, with the chance to win a $4.56 million prize . Their goal is to be the last player standing. Much like the drama that inspired it, losing players are eliminated.
While there is no actual killing involved like in Squid Game, eliminations are designed to feel emotionally and physically brutal. Players who are eliminated leave the show’s massive arena near London immediately.
According to creator Stephen Lambert:
"The players are fully aware losing means going home with nothing. To ramp up the jeopardy, most games contain a brutal twist. Players know from the outset that the competition will be fierce, but they have no idea how unpredictable and grueling it will become" .
Games Take Dark Turns
The games depicted in early episodes include familiar playground games like Red Light Green Light along with new creations. For example, contestants must traverse a bridge covered in flowing synthetic blood in one challenge. Games frequently place contestants’ lives figuratively and literally in each others’ hands.
Emery, a player on the show, describes the psychology behind the games:
"It brings out the absolute best and worst in you because you have to think about yourself but also work together. The mental aspect is one of the most challenging parts" .
The show adds extra layers of complexity by having some players designated as team leaders responsible for difficult group decisions. One contestant said this mirrored aspects of the K-drama:
“There were definitely mind games being played at certain points that really reminded me of specific Squid Game scenes from the actual drama series” .
|Red Light Green Light
|Players must move towards a finish line when the doll says “green light”, but freeze when it says “red light”
|Players must carefully cross a bridge coated with slippery blood in the dark
|Players use needles to cut cookie shapes. Simple shapes allow players to advance, while complex ones result in elimination
Table showing examples of games played on Squid Game: The Challenge
Homages to Original Series
Fans of the South Korean hit will notice plenty of references. The giant killer doll and pink-jumpsuited guards from Squid Game make appearances. In one challenge, players must craft a shape from brittle sugar candy called dalgona, directly referencing a memorable game in the original series .
The show was filmed at Cardington Studios, a massive old airship hangar an hour outside of London. Production designer Naomi Sargent describes the massive,immersive set:
“We want the players to feel like they’re entering another world. The studio is almost the playing field and the games and trials are sprinkled through that. As you walk through the space the scale of it is awe-inspiring” .
Future of the Series
While only 4 episodes have been released so far, Netflix has already renewed Squid Game: The Challenge for a second season due to strong initial viewership globally.
Fans speculate what twists and games might be in store for the next installment. Creator Stephen Lambert hints they have plenty of ideas in development:
"Season 2 will consist of games that we’ve thought of which just wouldn’t fit into Season 1. We’ve got some great ideas already, but it’s too early to talk about them" .
There is no release date yet for the next season of the reality competition. As for the scripted drama Squid Game, series creator Hwang Dong-hyuk promises fans won’t have to wait as long for season 2. It is slated to start filming in 2023 and release sometime in 2024 .
Controversy Over Filming Conditions
Some contestants have complained about difficult filming conditions, including cold outdoor temperatures and long challenging shoot days. However, creator Stephen Lambert contends conditions were safe and contestants were well cared for:
"We created a safe space for the players where they could feel comfortable sharing their stories. On set we had over 100 producers, psychologists, medics and security on hand to ensure players’ safety" .
Other players have echoed Lambert’s statements that conditions were challenging but fair. Ultimately over 400 strangers came together, bonded through shared adversity, and walked away safely but forever changed.
Brutal Yet Gripping Television
Squid Game: The Challenge delivers an extreme viewing experience that stands out even among today’s barrage of intense reality competitions. The show’s manage to produce emotional, thought-provoking TV within its battle royale trappings.
The Guardian calls it "the most gripping reality commission since The Traitors" . While brutal, the show crafts real tear-jerking moments between contestants. It keeps you watching to find out who makes it one more round.
Ultimately the series works because the outlandish settings and life-or-death stakes help uncover the humanity in normal people confronted by abnormal situations. Stylist writes:
"Squid Game: The Challenge is far better than it has any right to be. Parts are unexpectedly moving – reminding you that under the battle armour, contestants have friends, families, insecurities and dreams" .
Contestant’s lives will never be the same after what they endured together. Audiences lives may not either after witnessing it.
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