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If you've been online in the past year, odds are you've seen a TV fan mention Netflix's Squid Game. (opens in new tab) The hit k-drama (opens in new tab) has swept the globe since its premiere September 17, 2021, reaching no. 1 on 90 countries (opens in new tab) in 10 days and becoming the streamer's biggest ever non-English show. The series became the Netflix's biggest-ever show, period, surpassing the old record holder Bridgerton (opens in new tab) less than a month after its release, and is considered worth (opens in new tab) $900 million in value to Netflix. It also made history in terms of acting accolades, with cast members Lee Jung-jae and HoYeon Jung becoming the first winners for a non-English series at the 2022 SAG Awards.
The engrossing series depicts a deadly, Battle Royale-style Game, where 456 people, all facing massive debts, gamble their lives on a $38 million dollar payout. While the wild premise has drawn millions of viewers in, the expertly written characters and what-would-you-do dilemmas have fans trading theories and checking out similar shows (opens in new tab).
Season 2 is a go! Creator Hwang Dong-hyuk confirmed that he is planning a second season of the smash hit while attending a screening and Q&A in Los Angeles last night, per Variety. (opens in new tab)
"There’s been so much pressure, so much demand and so much love for a second season. So I almost feel like you leave us no choice! But I will say there will indeed be a second season. It’s in my head right now. I’m in the planning process currently," he said.
The official announcement from Netflix finally came out last June, nine months after season 1's premiere. In a statement to fans, printed on one of the Game's cardboard recruitment cards, Hwang revealed that Gi-hun and the Front Man will be back, while also teasing a new character.
"It took 12 years to bring the first season of Squid Game to life last year. But it took 12 days for Squid Game to become the most popular Netflix series ever," reads the statement. "As the writer, director and producer of Squid Game, a huge shout out to fans around the world. Thank you for watching and loving our show."
"And now, Gi-hun returns. The Front Man returns. Season 2 is coming. The man in the suit with ddakji might be back. You'll also be introduced to Young-hee's boyfriend, Cheol-su. Join us once more for a whole new round."
For those wondering, Young-hee is the name of the iconic Red Light, Green Light (opens in new tab) doll from season 1, which is based on a Korean textbook character of the same name. There's also a character Cheol-su that goes along with Young-hee, so it looks like we're getting a new giant murder bot in the upcoming season.
pic.twitter.com/pS3v9LTUjTJune 12, 2022
Potential Release Date
As for when it might premiere, director Hwang told Vanity Fair (opens in new tab) that he thinks the new season could be out by late 2023 or early 2024. He said at the time that he had three pages’ worth of ideas and that there would definitely be more games. "Humanity is going to be put to a test through those games once again," he told the outlet. He also noted in a separate interview that he planned to finish writing the second season by the end of 2022.
In a post-Emmys congratulatory press conference, Hwang offered more details on the production, confirming that they'll start filming season 2 in the new year, per Variety (opens in new tab). "We will start shooting Season 2 next year and it’ll be released the following year," he said, adding that season 2's games have been already confirmed. He also said that the new episodes would see "improvements in production budgets," so there may be even wilder sets than we've already seen.
Squid Game season 1 spanned a full Game, with Seong Gi-hun (opens in new tab) (Lee Jung-jae) emerging with the 456 billion won prize. One year later, Gi-hun discovers that the Game is about to begin again when he runs into the Salesman (Gong Yoo) recruiting another player. Right before he's set to head off to America, Gi-hun decides to stay in Korea, with hopes of shutting down the Game once and for all.
The end scene has fans hoping that Gi-hun's story will continue, with the victor teaming up with others to shut down the secret, multinational death Game. Everything besides Gi-hun's return is still up in the air. He could try to get the police on his side, after they turned him away in Episode 2, or he could find more past players, who may or may not have worked through their trauma enough to take on the wealthy VIPs and Game masters.
There's also no guarantee that a continuation would follow the next Game in Korea. Season 1 revealed that there are deadly Games happening all over the globe, with rich men from multiple countries gambling on the outcomes. While the first Game was presumably founded in Korea, since Oh Il-nam (Oh Young-soo) was involved, another country's Game may become the subject of a future season.
Speaking to Deadline on the 2022 Emmys red carpet, Hwang teased that Gi-hun will be seeking revenge in the upcoming season and come back as a very different character.
Hwang has also dropped hints that Season 2 could focus more on the Front Man, who led season 1's Game. At the end of the season, his identity was revealed as Hwang In-ho (Lee Byung-hun), policeman Jun-ho's (Wi Ha-jun) older brother. The masked man was ruthless throughout the Game, and when he discovered that his younger brother had infiltrated the Game, he shot him (though perhaps not fatally; we never see Jun-ho's body).
In an October 2021 interview with The Times (opens in new tab), director Hwang suggested that the Front Man (Lee Byung-hyn), a former cop himself, could become one of the show's leads.
"While I was writing season one, I thought about the stories that could be in season two if I get to do one—one would be the story of the Frontman," he told the outlet.
He added, "I think the issue with police officers is not just an issue in Korea. I see it on the global news that the police force can be very late on acting on things—there are more victims or a situation gets worse because of them not acting fast enough. This was an issue that I wanted to raise. Maybe in season two I can talk about this more."
The now-confirmed second season was part of Netflix's global fan event Tudum, which arrived a year and a week after season 1's premiere. Though it was too early to present any new footage, Hwang did reveal a previously-unseen clip from season 1, which solidified the Front Man's identity.
The one-minute clip connects the mystery man back to Jun-ho's introduction in episode 2. A brief recollection: Jun-ho's mom sent him to his brother's dorm to check on him cause he was dodging her calls. The brother hadn't been by the dorm in a week or paid his rent, and his room had a concerning detail: a pair of dead goldfish in a bowl. In the new clip, the Front Man arrives at the dorm and puts a pair of live fish into the bowl, with the camera focusing on the bag and bowl until it reveals his face and he looks at the fish.
The deleted scene is extremely vague and short, but if it was included in season 1, it would have fed into the identity reveal, solidifying that the Front Man and the investigating cop were brothers. Also, Jun-ho's investigation started because he thought his brother had become a player in the Game. The clip could have reinforced that assumption for the audience, assuming that he had bought the fish before meeting the recruiter (Gong Yoo (opens in new tab)) and then left the fish for dead.
As for why Hwang has revealed the clip now, when it explains such a small detail, that type of attention and scrutiny is why nerds like me became obsessed with the show in the first place. It also brings up a bunch of questions about the Front Man's setup and involvement in the Game (like, why buy the goldfish if he knew that he would be off leading the Game soon, leaving them to die?). The one thing we can be sure of: we'll definitely be seeing the Front Man in season 2.
What the Cast Says
Writer-director Hwang Dong-hyuk opened up about in a Variety (opens in new tab) interview, where he revealed that writing the first season all by himself took a lot out of him. Hwang has mostly made films in his decades-long career, with Squid Game being his first drama.
"In my earlier days, I’d drink half a bottle of soju (Korean liquor) to get the creative juices flowing. I can’t do that any more," he said. "Writing (‘Squid Game’) was harder than normal for me as it was a series, not a film. It took me six months to write and rewrite the first two episodes. Then I consulted verbally with friends, and picked up clues for improvements through my own pitching and from their responses."
Hwang continued that he isn't planning to jump straight in to a second season. Instead, he told the outlet that he may return to movies before working on Season 2. Variety reports that he's currently writing a film called "KO Club," which has an inter-generational war premise.
"I don’t have well developed plans for 'Squid Game 2.' It is quite tiring just thinking about it. But if I were to do it, I would certainly not do it alone. I’d consider using a writers’ room and would want multiple experienced directors," he said.
Hwang also told The Hollywood Reporter (opens in new tab) that, though there's a lot of fan demand for Season 2, that also means he has a lot of inspiration to draw on.
"The pressure on me is huge now, with such a big audience waiting for a season two. Because of all that pressure, I haven’t decided yet whether or not I should do another season," he said. "I think that’s what I’m wrestling with right now — that I shouldn’t just view it as a huge amount of pressure, but think of all of this love and support I’m receiving as a big box of inspiration that I can leverage for season two," he continued.
In late October 2021, speaking to The Guardian, Hwang confirmed (opens in new tab) that he and Netflix were in talks about a second season. “Of course there is talk. That’s inevitable because it’s been such a success. I am considering it. I have a very high-level picture in my mind, but I’m not going to work on it straight away. There’s a film I really want to make. I’m thinking about which to do first. I’m going to talk to Netflix," he said.
Lee Jung-jae, who plays Seong Gi-hun, seems to be up for a second season. He told the New York Times (opens in new tab) that there are many possibilities for where his character could do next. "That’s a very difficult question because the story could go in any direction, and some of Gi-hun’s emotions are very complicated. He’s a very intriguing character. I guess he could go and try and punish the creators of the game. Or he could try to stop new contestants from playing it. Or he could try to join the game again. I have no idea at this point."
When asked about a popular fan theory, that Gi-hun could be offered the chance to replace the Front Man and run the game, Lee said, "Well, for one, I’m never going to let anyone die! If the story does go in that direction, Gi-hun would end up in a position like Oh Il-nam, the old guy [played by Oh Yeong-su]. But you know, in “The Deer Hunter,” the character that Christopher Walken (opens in new tab) plays never makes it out of the game, right? That could be what happens."
The cast also has their own ideas of how fallen players can return for season 2. During a Variety (opens in new tab) interview at the SAG Awards, Lee shared that the season 1 cast all got together to brainstorm near the end of filming.
"After we filmed Squid Game Season 1, we all got together brainstorming ideas for how to bring everybody back alive,” Lee said. “My idea is the masked men carry all of them out as quickly as possible and do a surgery on them to keep them alive."
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