‘Squid Game – The Challenge’ Review — Netflix Reality Show Needs to Be Eliminated

The Big Picture

  • Squid Game: The Challenge is a shameless and opportunistic attempt by Netflix to capitalize on the success of the original series, with no respect for the creator’s vision or themes.
  • The reality show is cruel, exploitative, and handles everything with a distasteful approach, reveling in the contestants’ breakdowns for entertainment.
  • This series is morally bankrupt, lacking any redeeming value. It is a disgraceful work that takes advantage of both the original creators and the competitors.

Squid Game: The Challenge, Netflix’s reality show based on their own hit series Squid Game, was never going to be a good idea. Of course, such a shameless and opportunistic attempt to capitalize on the incisive creativity of creator Hwang Dong-hyuk was not all that surprising considering the streamer never even paid him fairly despite the value he created for them. So why wouldn’t they cannibalize the satire about capitalism by taking its imagery, musical cues, sets, and costumes while spitting in the face of all the themes he had been exploring? Respect for his vision and what he was getting at goes about as far as the money they could make. When this reality series was first announced, it already felt doomed to be a stain in comparison to an otherwise great show. What couldn’t have been predicted is that Squid Game: The Challenge is more callous and cruel than even its many skeptics imagined.

Squid Game The Challenge Poster

Squid Game: The Challenge

Follows contestants as they compete in challenges based on the Korean children’s games featured on the Squid Game to win a $4.56 million cash prize.

Release Date
November 22, 2023

Main Genre

Reality-TV, Game Show


From the moment the series begins, there is already a sense that you are watching a bizarre nightmare that would be funny if it weren’t so sad. While reality television is no stranger to preying upon people’s vulnerability by dangling a life-changing amount of money in front of them, it is hard to think of one that so fully creates the feeling that the form itself was a mistake and should be burned to the ground. Contestants will openly talk about how they need money to support themselves or their family, which The Challenge then exploits in order to add stakes to an imitation of a satire whose original point was how wrong something like this is. If someone created a series about a world where people have to beg for their lives on GoFundMe and are then pitted against each other, that is pretty close to what the experience of watching Squid Game: The Challenge is like. Remember that viral video of teachers having to scramble for money for their students at a sporting event? Squid Game: The Challenge is a show that saw this and decided it could go lower.

Why Does ‘Squid Game: The Challenge’ Exist?

Over the course of eight episodes out of a ten-episode season shared with critics, everything in Squid Game: The Challenge is handled with a continually distasteful approach. Frequently, the competitors will become stressed to the point of breaking down in tears. We’re shown such moments in closeups that feel like the equivalent of a vulture circling over a dying animal. The only difference is that the vulture is hunting for its own survival, whereas this series is uniquely human in its cruelty. At one point, a competitor becomes so rattled about how a game is going that he begins shaking uncontrollably and teeters right on the edge of throwing up. The series revels in this moment, twisting the knife further and further so that you can’t look away from his breakdown. It plays upon your feelings of compassion and then just keeps exploiting them. When compounded by the economic struggles that people are coming into the competition with, it makes Squid Game: The Challenge downright disgusting to watch.

Although some compassionate people try to look out for each other, they are fighting a losing battle, as the entire thing is rotten from top to bottom. The contestants do not deserve judgment, since the entire purpose of the reality that informed the premise of the original series is that people will do desperate things when pushed to the edge. As this is a reality show, antagonists are elevated so that there is some sort of conflict to keep things moving, but the real villain of it all is the series itself. If the corrupt forces of capitalism could be made into a shambling corpse of television, it would look like Squid Game: The Challenge. Everything drags on and on through various challenges that are derivative of the original series in all regards while also doing a complete disservice to what Squid Game achieved.

There are supposedly “new” games that are thrown in, but even these are taken from other places, and when these conclude, the show just keeps going back to the inescapable reality that it’s taking advantage of the original creators of the show, just as it is all the competitors. It honestly feels like Squid Game: The Chllange would be considered too on-the-nose if it popped up in a dystopian film about how people are exploited for entertainment.

‘Squid Game: The Challenge’ Is Anti-Intellectual Drivel

The guards in the control room in Squid Game: The Challenge
Image via Netflix

The broader issue with it all is how the original series was not just a good show in terms of its storytelling, but it was an effective satire as well. The Challenge is not like Squid Game made for dummies, but for those who are actively hostile to any sort of deeper reflection. Although it gestures at some of the more complicated questions lurking beneath its existence, this is merely lip service without any real care or substance. All the gimmicks it throws in at the margins can’t hide how morally bankrupt it is at its core. When we look back on the rise of streaming, Squid Game: The Challenge will be the show that saw the fires of hell and decided to find an even more craven low.

Rating: F

Squid Game: The Challenge is available to stream on Netflix in the U.S. starting November 22.


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