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Netflix's ‘Squid Game’ finale is pretty much perfect, but still a great set-up for Season 2

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Oct 5, 2021, 5:17 PM EDT

Threading the needle of a good TV finale is no easy task, made all the more challenging when the series becomes a surprise hit, with fans dissecting and meme-ing pretty much every second from start to finish. Thankfully, Netflix’s brutal Squid Game pulled it off.

**Spoilers ahead for The Squid Game series finale on Netflix**

The Korean series, which started with hundreds of players all vying through a series of deadly children’s games and finally ending with Seong Gi-hun/Player 456 (Lee Jung-jae) as the last man standing, does a fantastic job of wrapping up its big mysteries and dangling threads with a final episode that serves effectively as a more contemplative coda to the wild action of the run of murderous games that make up much of the series’ narrative spine.

After winning the games following the sacrifice of Cho Sang-woo (Park Hae Soo) in the final Squid Game to the death, Seong Gi-hun takes some time to wander and mourn his mother’s death, leaving much of his fortune to sit idle in the bank while he lives on the streets. He also manages to unravel a bit more of the mystery, leading to a final confrontation with the old man he befriended during the games, Oh Il-nam (Oh Yeong-su). It turns out Oh Il-nam is actually super-rich and helped create the games decades ago as a way to amp up their gambling addiction. Instead of betting on horse races, they’re betting on… well, people races. He only joined to get the rush of the action when he knew was about to die of a brain tumor.

So that’s one big question answered: Not a surprise, really, but the games are confirmed to simply be entertainment for the super-rich, taking advantage of the struggling and disenfranchised with the promise of a massive pot of cash if they can survive. The fact that the contest is framed around children’s games makes all the more sense at that point. They see these contestants as little more than children, so they make them play children’s game.

Seong Gi-hun and Oh Il-nam make a final “bet” about a freezing man on the street, with the old man sure that no one will care enough to check on him. One final wager about the selfishness of humanity. He’s proven wrong at the moment of his death when the police make a welfare check, which finally shakes Seong Gi-hun into action, seemingly helping restore his faith in humanity. At least a bit.

 

From there, we see Seong Gi-hun start to get his life in order. He sports a bright new hair-do, a suit, and is planning to go visit with his estranged daughter. It’s a bit of hope after so much brutality and anguish to make it through the games and the immediate aftermath. That could’ve been a good enough place to end the story — but series creator Hwang Dong-hyuk throws a perfect twist into that final moment to leave the next chapter unwritten with about a million options for where it could go next.

While walking through the subway platform, Seong Gi-hun spots the man who recruited him for the games (Gong Yoo) playing with a new mark. Seong Gi-hun makes chase, but isn’t quite fast enough to stop the recruiter. So he stops the man he was playing with, and warns him not to participate. From there, he calls the game number himself in an effort to figure out who is still running the contest.

They identify him immediately as Player 456, and warn Seong Gi-hun to continue on his trip and forget about the games. But judging by the determined look on his face, we’d wager he’s planning on doubling down and trying to solve — and stop — this mystery once and for all.

It’s that open ending, leaving enough set-up after providing some levels of closure, that makes  the finale “One Lucky Day” such a fitting end to this story. If we never do get a second season (which is mind-boggling to consider, though series creator Hwang Dong-hyuk says he has other projects in the works now, so there are no immediate plans for a second season at this point), we can write our own ending — with Seong Gi-hun either going on with his life, or going full Liam Neeson and hunting down the games-makers.

If they do bring the show back for another batch of episodes, the premise is wide enough to have Seong Gi-hun investigating another round of games, while connecting with the potential new players in that contest. There are plenty of clear, interesting directions to take this story next — and with the games still running — there are still plenty of mysteries left to solve, too. That’s a game we’d definitely play.

But if not? We can rest easy knowing Seong Gi-hun survived and has found some purpose. Even if we don’t get to see that purpose play out.

The first season of Squid Game is streaming now on Netflix.

Credit: YOUNGKYU PARK/Netflix