Gganbu (and more Questions, Queries and Theories).

Squid Game has largely eschewed tugging on the heartstrings—until now…

Apart from a short scene in which Jun-ho overhears the Front Man taking a telephone call about the arrival of the games’ VIPs, the action is focused on the players and their next game.

The horror of seeing the hanging bodies of the guards and the doctor who’d been cheating – this further emphasizes the egalitarian nature of the competition (and makes use of a baby’s mobile for some more yin and yang).

After the tug-of-war game, everyone assumes that they will be working with the person they pair up with, not against them.

Sang-woo and Ali select each other, the brains-and-brawn who also happen to like one another.

Sae-byeok is convinced to join up with player 240, the young woman who joined the main characters’ tug-of-war team.

Deok-su chooses one of his crew, Player 278 (Kwak Jah-hyoung).

Mi-nyeo, Player #212, winds up alone, carted off by guards, her fate unknown.

Gi-hun partners up with the old man, whose dignity he’s helped preserve by tying his own jacket around the man’s waist to cover up the wet spot from when the poor guy wet his pants.

The poor husband and wife combo have it really bad here.

The circles, triangles and squares in Squid Game

Player 101 vs Player 278

Not much is known about Player 278 – he seemed to be loyal and respectful to Jang Deok-su until the Marble game. He was willing to follow all of his orders if it meant it would help him get further into the games. However, during the Marble game, he quickly becomes cocky as he is about to win and even tells 101 that he was not truly his minion, showing he was never really loyal to him.

Player 101 winds up winning after petitioning his guard to change the game they’d been playing (and at which he’d been losing badly).

His old crew member’s last marble bumps his marble into the hole, awarding him the game and saving his life.

The gangsters were the ones playing fair…

Player 067 vs Player 240

Neither Sae-byeok nor her partner 240 know how to play marbles—240 dismisses the game as the province of “boomers”

The KILL time sharing their sad life stories

We learn that Sae-byeok’s father was shot and killed during an attempt to escape North Korea, while her mother was returned home by Chinese security forces.

Player 240 was sexually abused by her pastor father (hence her rejection of religion in the previous episode), whom she eventually came home from school to find having just murdered her mother. She stabbed him to death, and was released from prison only to come straight to the Squid Game. She had nowhere else to go, she explains.

In the end, she throws the game and allows herself to be killed, sparing Sae-byeok’s life. As they part ways, she reveals that her name is Ji-yeong; I can’t decide if this makes her self-sacrifice harder or easier for Sae-byeok to bear.

Player 218 vs Player 199

Sang-woo and Ali begin by guessing whether their opponent is holding either an even or odd number of marbles in his hand. Sang-woo gets mad when Ali takes a big lead, accusing him of cheating, then begging for his life, and finally devising an alternate plan.

He sends Ali out to find another team that looks like it might wind up without a clear winner, under the assumption that if their game also doesn’t reach a definitive conclusion, they’ll go up against that other team together instead of being forced to fight amongst themselves.

What Ali doesn’t realize until far too late is that Sang-woo swapped his bag of marbles out with a bag full of pebbles, taken from the fake street set in which the marble game is played. So much for their beautiful friendship, and so much for Ali, who dies feeling the sting of betrayal from a man he thought was his friend.

Why write Ali so gullible – children are the only nice people on the planet according to the writer?

Player 456 vs Player 001

Gi-hun and Player 001 also play the guessing game, though it takes some doing to get there, as the dementia-addled old man believes the fake street to be the street where he grew up.

Eventually Gi-hun convinces him to play…but he also takes advantage of the man’s poor mental faculties, twice rigging the game by changing an “odd” bet to “even” and vice versa in order to win rounds when the old man forgets what had originally been said.

But Gi-hun miscalculates before he thinks he has won, and discovers the old man has one last marble left. Il-nam ends up wandering off through the streets again, until he finds what he believes is his home. An increasingly angry and frantic Gi-hun begs him to finish the game, and the old man suggests playing one last round for all the marbles. When Gi-hun, who has a huge numerical advantage at this point, balks at the suggestion as unfair, the old man pointedly asks if deceiving him, as Gi-hun has done, was fair. But rather than press the issue, he simply hands Gi-hun the last marble.

Did anyone notice that the symbol for the invitation cards was also hanging outside the home the old man recognized as his own? Check the top left.

They’d promised to be “gganbu,” after all, and thus the marble belongs to Gi-hun as much as to him.

And like Ji-yeong, the old man finally offers up his name: Il-nam (synchronicity bell). Then he gets shot to death…

The rules state:

Using your set of ten marbles, play the game of your choice with your partner. The player who manages to take all ten marbles from their partner wins.

Trading marbles with your partner satisfies the conditions of: using ten of your marbles, playing a game, and taking all ten of your partners marbles. This means, unless an addendum is made, multiple winners in a team can exist.

A triangle in Squid Game podcast

Ggnabu summary

It feels inevitable given the ratcheting-up of the moral stakes in each game? We knew some of the characters we liked were gonna die by the end of the episode and there was no way out of it. We just had to sit and wait 40 mins for their inevitable deaths.

During the tug-of-war game, the teams were forced to murder one another, but at least they weren’t forced to kill the people they’d teamed up with.

There’s no such exception made here – it’s likely the game masters intended for the players to choose the people they were most fond of as partners, in order to make the result even more painful.

There’s a cheerful sadism in the way the games are built.

Can you stand one more ironically colorful set, one more chipper announcement that the game is about to begin over the strains of “The Blue Danube”, while the Front Man’s insistence that their goal is to construct a fair world in opposition to the unfair one outside the complex’s walls?

One of the best things about Squid Game is that, for all its brutality, it does not seem to share the games’ sadism itself. The scenarios are awful to contemplate, but the awfulness is the point.

Creator/writer/director Hwang Dong-hyuk values the interpersonal connections he’s creating, even as he destroys them. It’s an exploration of violence, not an exploitation of violence. 

Dong-hyuk makes sure that when he kills people you care about, you know their names.

Dom on email

More to add to my previous email, things I’ve noticed since re-watching the show…

  • There is a popular theory knocking around that 001 was not padlocked to the rope during the tug-of-war, hence he could avoid being pulled off the platform. I’ve studied the battle closely and I reckon he IS padlocked as you can quite clearly see at least one closed padlock on his wrist.
  • When the lights go off in Jun-ho’s new room, he gets under the covers and gets his phone out. The battery life is at 50%… surely he would have ensured he had a fully-charged battery beforehand? Obviously some battery life would have decreased, but not by that much, and anyway it was only reduced by around 15% the following night when he got the phone out in bed.
  • For all his obvious bravado, arrogance, thuggery and his bloody-thirsty ways, it was interesting to see how much Deok-su was stressed out and panicking during Green Light, Red Light and the Honeycomb games. Other much weaker-willed individuals didn’t seem half as stressed as he was during the games. And why didn’t Sae-byeok get him eliminated during Green Light, Red Light when she had the chance, given their history?
  • Finally, for an old, (seemingly) frail man, with signs of dementia, Il-nam was surprisingly very sprightly during Green Light, Red Light, as well as Tug-of-War, plus he managed to get himself right onto the top bunks during the murder night. These moments of athleticism weren’t noticed or questioned by the others.

That’s it – Cheers

Ronaldo on Twitter

Two things: do you think this has a similar impact to GoT’s Red Wedding episode? And, did you notice at this point that we didn’t actually see 001 being shot? The camera panned behind a wall as you heard the gunshot. I spotted it at the time but didn’t quite join up the dots.

Cat (email)

Hey Jack and Colin! Glad to see that Jack tried the dry ramen – cheaper than a bag of crisps, equally sodium-filled goodness.

Anyway, I was wondering what your thoughts were on the popularity of the show, despite the cultural differences. I’m Korean, although I didn’t grow up there and I’m not fluent in the language, but after having watched the show, and talking to friends who have watched it and asked me their questions about the cultural bits, I’m curious what others think. I DID notice a few small things that may escape non-Korean viewers, the main one being Ali and Sang-woo’s friendship. In the beginning Ali refers to Sang-woo as “sajangnim”, which is a respectful way to address an older person you don’t know well. In the episode “Hell”, Sang-woo tells Ali to call him “hwung”, which is more akin to “older brother”, and I don’t remember that being conveyed the same way as it means culturally in the subtitles. Honorifics like that are pretty important culturally.

I know there are more examples, and there has been a lot of talk about the translation issues with the show – I wish I was fluent so I could know for sure, but my mom refuses to watch it because she doesn’t like violence so I can’t even ask her. Personally, I don’t think the story is lost because of small things like this, because like you’ve said, the main theme of the show (capitalism = bad) is pretty universal. I guess my question or thought is more like, why do you think foreign media like Squid Game and Parasite have transcended the language barrier, and are the smaller cultural details even important?

Sorry for the lengthy email, I’m way too verbose for my own good. Thanks!

Megan (Twitter)

Love the podcast! My opinion is that #player001 did not wet himself, that he used the water bottle to stage it. I think he was ready to get out of the game and this manipulation was part of his signal to cover up his exit.

Shannon (email)

Hello again, thank you for the mention 🙂

Episode 5 was unexpectedly harder on the second watch during the night scene between Sweet Ali and Sang Woo knowing Ali’s fate in the following episode. 

This selfless saint of a man chose to go hungry  because he felt like he owed Sang Woo something and food was all he could give. The conversation between the two, especially on the topic of family, made me feel even more hate towards Sang Woo before I rewatch Episode 6. The amount of trust Ali has breaks my heart. 

Shannon from Essex (again)

WereBear (Twitter)

  • I don’t think round 6 winner means anything more than they won. There are 6 rounds in the game. That list shows the first winner as 1988. The year of the Seoul Olympics so maybe that’s what inspired the games in a future storyline.
  • The episode I thought back to most at the end. Noble sacrifice, dark betrayal even luck and it was all for nothing. Fuckin Sang-Woo though my hate for him took on new levels I didn’t really know I had.
  • I felt it was tougher second time round  because we know it’s all in vain. When 240 brings up the movie and says about a girls night in it nearly broke me 2nd time round.

Alistair (email)

Troops,

Would normally just reply to your tweets but didn’t think I’d get it all in the one go so thought I’d email you.

Gganbu was easily the most hard hitting ep but definitely the most predictable for me, if that’s possible.

As soon as the weird lady on the PA told them to get into pairs I knew it meant one half of the pair was going to be killed in whatever the game was.

Similarly, after finding our Sang-woo is a bit of a dick I knew he would somehow fuck Ali over in whatever dirty backhanded way he could just to get through.

Also I noticed Il-nam was the only main character killed off in this game that you didn’t actually see being killed – Gi-hun was walking away out the fake house and you heard the gunshot but couldn’t actually see what had happened.  I remember thinking on first watch that we maybe haven’t seen the last of 001 at that point.  Every other main player who was killed you saw them being graphically shot, why did you not see Il-nam’s death?

Can I also just say the shot when Ali realised that Sang-woo has betrayed him with the close up of his face with his eyes beginning to water and the guard behind him cocking his revolver then lifting it to his head is incredible screen play.

Hope my shit observations make sense 👍🏻 Cheers guys

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