Netflix's Squid Games: The Challenge may have just landed on the streaming platform, but it has already proved to be quite divisive. On the one hand, any spin-off of Hwang Dong-hyuk's blockbuster drama Squid Games - which focuses on the pitfalls of capitalism - has the potential to be highly entertaining. On the other hand, there's something perhaps a little dystopian about seeing the chilling gameshow format played out in real life. And yet, our interest is definitely piqued - in its first week, it has reached over 1 million households in the US alone.
It would seem there's a real thirst for these grittier reality shows—just look at how captivated we were with The Traitors. Its finale pulled in 3.2 million viewers and it's getting a second season, so it feels as though Squid Games: The Challenge is a return to a genre that exposes human nature at its best - and worst.
Squid Games was hailed as Netflix's most popular show of all time, attracting more than 142 million households and 1.65 billion viewing hours in its first four weeks. Its spin-off gameshow is already proving to be just as gripping, quickly claiming the top spot of Netflix's most-watched shows after its launch on 22nd November 2023.
Squid Games: The Challenge clearly has a dark edge, which is intensified further by allegations of ill-treatment from contestants - and there's even talk of a Squid Games lawsuit on the horizon, with two former players threatening to sue. One contestant made some chilling claims earlier this year, alleging that during the Red Light Green Light game, players spent hours in the cold.
They explained to The Sun: "Even if hypothermia kicked in... people were willing to stay for as long as possible because a lot of money was on the line. Too many were determined not to move so they stood there for far too long. There were people arriving thinking they were going to be millionaires but they left in tears."
What is Squid Games: The Challenge?
Designed much in the same mould as the fictional Korean drama before it, Squid Games: The Challenge sees 456 ordinary people take on childhood games in order to win a huge cash prize of $4.56 million.
The premise of Squid Games: The Challenge is the same as its fictional predecessor—an exploration of the lengths that people will go to for a life-changing amount of money. But this time, the game is real.
What's going on with the Squid Games: The Challenge lawsuit?
Two former Squid Games: The Challenge contestants are reportedly threatening legal action against the show over injuries they allege they obtained while filming. They claim that the famous Red Light Green Light game - which is centred around avoiding the gaze of a huge robotic doll - caused them to suffer from hypothermia and nerve damage. The game was filmed at Cardington Studios, a former Royal Air Force base in Bedford in the UK.
Daniel Slade, CEO of Express Solicitors and the lawyer representing the players, explained (via Deadline): "We recognise people may see this as a classic David and Goliath battle with the company and its production partners. Contestants thought they were taking part in something fun and those injured did not expect to suffer as they did. Now they have been left with injuries after spending time being stuck in painful stress positions in cold temperatures."
Slade also said that his client had claimed they saw 'someone faint, then people shouting for medics. We have a case where someone complains of hypothermia. One had his hands turn purple from the cold'.
While these are serious allegations, it would appear that they haven't been formally made as of yet, with a spokesperson for Squid Game: The Challenge confirming: "No lawsuit has been filed by any of the Squid Game contestants. We take the welfare of our contestants extremely seriously."
What have viewers said about Squid Games: The Challenge?
The reviews so far have been fairly mixed. While Squid Games: The Challenge is clearly bringing in the viewers and undoubtedly makes gripping television, not everyone is impressed with the show.
One viewer said: "From the start it has been somewhat chaotic, and not in a good way. I totally understand they can't put the spotlight on 456 people for a one hour episode, but about three quarters of them just felt like background extras that had been pre-chosen for early elimination."
Others however were glued to their screens, with one writing: "Absolutely great! l am so hypnotised by this show! l just don't understand all the people that are giving negative reviews only because they think it's season two of the original series and are saying that the director screwed up and are wondering where the original cast is."
And another said: "This is a thrilling game show and an incredible watch. It puts you at the edge of your seat and makes you question what you would have done. No matter how good or bad you think the decisions are these people make, at the end of the day, it’s money and you. Highly recommend this."
The premise of the original show was to highlight the failings of capitalism by demonstrating how people interact in a high-pressure environment when the prize pot is a life-changing amount of money - with fierce competition, trust and paranoia added to the mix. So far, the competition show has been successful in illustrating the complexities of human behaviour, with some contestants abundant empathy outweighing others ruthlessness - but is it simply an entertaining psychological experiment, or something darker?
The jury's out on this one...
Squid Game: The Challenge launched on Netflix on 22nd November, with new episodes released on 28th November and 6th December.
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Lauren is the former Deputy Digital Editor at woman&home and became a journalist mainly because she enjoys being nosy. With a background in features journalism, Lauren has bylines in publications such as Marie Claire UK, Red Magazine, House of Coco, women&home, GoodTo, Woman's Own and Woman magazine.
She started writing for national papers and magazines at Medavia news agency, before landing a job in London working as a lifestyle assistant and covers everything from fashion and celebrity style to beauty and careers.
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