*Disclaimer: spoilers to follow*

I initially wanted to write an article on relationships and how nuanced our events with different individuals and ourselves feel. However, after watching Netflix’s biggest show, Squid Game, I decided that it might be a better tool to dissect this topic as we often equate time with the strength of relationships, but Squid Game highlights that fundamental experiences where the individual self is challenged are stronger in shaping these relationships.

So here are lessons about humans that the show engraved in me:

1. Man is dynamic

I know this is a strange statement but it’s a tribute to my father.

Growing up he often would repeat those words accompanied by the idea that as humans we even surprise ourselves with our actions.

In the series, this is best depicted by no. 001, also known as the old man. We are introduced to his frail faded mind and feel a sense of warmth; we root for him, we worry about him, and we cry for him when he dies.

All to find out that he is the mastermind of the cruel game.

The humanity we felt for him, is not what he holds true, even within his dying breath he vindicates himself by believing that what Seong Gi‑Hun/no. 456 did is uncommon.

However, as the freezing homeless man is saved from the cold street, he is left to rationalise the games and himself, he is unable to and dies.

2. There is nothing cute about being weak at heart

The sweet Pakistani man with a wife and young son who saves no. 456 during the first episode easily became a fan favourite.

Ali wore his heart on his sleeves and was always waiting to be instructed on what best to do for the gang.

This behaviour is glorified within today’s time, but malevolence exists and is watching, being aware of it is important, naivety is never acceptable… it lands you dead.

“Naive, harmless people usually guide their perceptions and actions with a few simple axioms: people are basically good; no one really wants to hurt anyone else; the threat (and, certainly, the use) of force, physical or otherwise, is wrong. These axioms collapse, or worse, in the presence of individuals who are genuinely malevolent. Worse means that naive beliefs can become a positive invitation to abuse, because those who aim to harm have become specialized to prey on people who think precisely such things.” /Jordan Peterson/

3. Malevolence is walking beside you

We have all heard sayings like a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” or “snakes in your garden” but we never take those seriously.

We choose to focus on the bus fare they have given you or the warm nostalgic memories you hold dear from your childhood.

Keep your eyes peeled for when success and riches stand in a humans’ way or you will be an easy pillar to push over. Trust your gut always.

Sang-woo was in it for the money to the end and was willing to kill his teammates for it. His promises were never made to his team but rather to winning the game. Be sure to know who is in your team.

4. You will end up in the same place if you do not internalise your growth

This was my main qualm with the show, no. 456’s inability to keep his eyes on the prize- his daughter. We are introduced to him as a deadbeat dad who is willing to go back into the deadly games in order to prove his love for his child.

In each episode, his character development is grown through the love he shows for the old man, his warmth to the Korean defector and Sang-woo.

He is continuously challenged to break his moral compass and does not, leaving us to believe he will initially hold true to the promises he made to others in the game.

However, when the games end, he reverts to his scum self and further denigrates after his mother’s passing.

Finally, after a year and the meeting with the old man, he pays his dues to those he promised but leaves one person still disappointed.

The act of choosing to take down a long-standing operation (the games) rather than visiting his daughter, for whom he got into the games, further highlights how far down he had gone.

The poor character arc development is so evident in comparison to his peers, even the betrayer Sang-woo in his dying breath realised his mother was most important. Seong Gi‑Hun/ no. 456 was unable to master his growth.

Growth requires constant action and showing up even when you do not want to.


Written by Tshimangadzo Nemurangoni