The Ending of Netflix's 'The 8 Show,' Explained

Netflix's successor to 'Squid Game' follows contestants on a reality show that turns torturous.

a group of people dressed in white (Park Jeong-min as Seventh Floor, Lee Zoo-young as Second Floor, Ryu Jun-yeol as Third Floor) stand on a balcony next to a number 1 sign, in 'The 8 Show'
(Image credit: Lee Jae-hyuk/Netflix)

It's impossible not to compare The 8 Show to Squid Game: Both are twisted K-dramas on Netflix centered on brutal survival shows that push a group of desperate people to their physical and mental limits. Luckily, the new Korean series that dropped on May 17 is a worthy successor to the mega-hit that redefined Korean dramas.

Based on the webtoons Money Game and Pie Game by Bae Jin-soo, The 8 Show follows eight people in serious financial trouble who agree to join a mysterious reality competition show where time is literally money. Once they move into a peculiar apartment building, the participants can earn fortunes—as long as their clandestine audience stays entertained. However, the group eventually devolves into chaos while facing the show's harsh rules, which mirror the inherent inequality of the outside world.

By the final installments of the eight-episode series, it becomes less and less clear whether the manipulative show will ever be allowed to end. Whether you tapped out once things got a bit Clockwork Orange in episode 7 or need a refresher of all that goes down once the Netflix series reaches its wild conclusion, we're breaking down the ending of The 8 Show.

the participants of the 8 show

From left to right: Bae Seong-woo, Lee Zoo-young, Ryu Jun-yeol, Lee Yul-eum, Moon Jeong-hee, Park Hae-joon, Park Jeong-min, and Chun Woo-hee, who play the participants, in The 8 Show.

(Image credit: Lee Jae-hyuk)

What are the rules of 'The 8 Show?'

At the start of the series, viewers meet an impoverished everyman and former convenience store worker who serves as the narrator. The man (played by Ryu Jun-yeol) has decided to end his life after racking up 900 million won (about $667,000) in debt to loan sharks, but right before he jumps off a bridge, he receives a money transfer and a limo pulls up. He's escorted to a strange theater where he's offered the chance to earn a fortune, or take a couple hundred bucks and go home. He recognizes how odd the situation is, but concedes.

The man enters an enclosed courtyard decorated like an abandoned playground and is dubbed 3rd Floor for the remainder of the series because of the apartment unit he chooses. He and the seven other participants—a.k.a. Floors 1-8—are only given one uniform each. They will have to purchase additional necessities or furniture (including a makeshift toilet) using the money they earn, and whatever they get costs them 1,000 times what it would in the outside world. Food and drinks cannot be ordered, but they receive 12 meal kits and water bottles daily. There is also a countdown clock in the courtyard, marking the time until the show ends. They can use the time to purchase anything they'll need to use outside of their rooms. Although, they're only starting with 24 hours. To earn more time, they'll need to hold the interest of the unidentified audience watching through CCTV cameras. Every minute they keep the show going, they earn money to take with them when they leave. The show ends when the time runs out, or when someone dies.

Ryu Jun-yeol as 3rd floor sleeping on a mat in in the 8 show

Ryu Jun-yeol as 3rd Floor sleeping on the cheapest materials possible in The 8 Show.

(Image credit: Lee Jae-hyuk)

If the rules ended there, the show could be relatively simple. However, they aren't all earning the same amount of money. The rate is determined by which floor they had chosen upon arrival, and it also corresponds with the size of their room. Floor 1 (Bae Sung-woo), a soft-spoken circus performer, lives in a semi-basement room and earns 10,000 won (about $7) a minute. Floor 8 (Chun Woo-hee), a young woman whose privileged, ditzy disposition hides a penchant for violence, lives in a penthouse and earns 340,000 won a minute (about $350).

With this setup, the upper and lower floors naturally come at odds, as the group works to keep the clock going and earn as much money as possible. In this case, 7th Floor (Park Jeong-min) shows his intelligence by thinking ahead to the eventual endpoint of the entertainment the show could provide; thus, his and 3rd Floor's strategy is to hold off on escalating to "real entertainment" or "violent and provocative things," as much as possible. On the other hand, once 8th Floor and 6th Floor (Park Hae-joon), the two violent loose cannons of the group, pair up, it's only a matter of time until things get vicious.

Over the episodes, the group naturally splits into two sides: the lower floors (1, 2, and 3) versus the upper floors (6, 8, and lackey 4), with 5 (Moon Jeong-Hee) and 7 as relative wild cards. The upper floors rule with cruelty, and eventually 8th Floor becomes a ruthless dictator who keeps the show going by torturing the lower floors through sleep deprivation tactics. We'll save spoilers of the full details, as the constant twists and turns keep the show's well-paced tension.

How does 'The 8 Show' end?

In the episode 8 finale, the lower floors finally escape 8th Floor's torture with 4th and 5th Floor's help. With only floors 8 and 6 subdued, the rest of the show participants decide to carry out 1st Floor's plan to change rooms and send the two antagonists to a lower place in society, after which the peace-inclined lower floors could control the show. As it turns out, 1st Floor's steadfast goal of earning 1 billion won was the price to change rooms.

Once he makes the purchase, there's another twist of fate: 1 billion won pays only for the instructions on switching rooms. To make the change, he'd need to pay as much as 34 billion won to claim the 8th floor. (For reference, Squid Game's grand prize is 45.6 billion won.)

Ryu Jun-yeol as 3rd Floor, leaning over to touch a false pool, in Netflix's 'The 8 Show'

Ryu Jun-yeol as 3rd Floor testing the fake pool in The 8 Show.

(Image credit: Lee Jae-hyuk)

Without achieving their last chance at elevating their status within the system, the rest of the floors agree to cut their losses and run out the clock. 2nd Floor (Lee Joo-young) suggests that they all chip in to give 1st Floor his billion won once they're on the outside. But by that point, 1st Floor has lost his last bit of sanity after being cheated again and proceeds to tie everyone up and set up a high-wire circus performance for himself, utilizing his skills from his job in the real world. He makes it one pass across the cavernous courtyard and returns to the middle of the rope, where he begins bouncing over the room and hallucinates being free, jumping on a tightrope across all of Seoul. Then he reaches the tallest point in the room, grabbing onto the projector that serves as the complex's artificial sun. The projector becomes detached from the ceiling and starts a fire as it hits the ground, with 1st Floor following soon after and becoming engulfed in flame.

The other participants break out of their bonds to help him, but whoever's in charge won't open the doors even for this. 1st Floor's ruse earns the group over 200 hours, and as 2nd Floor bangs on the doors and 3rd Floor yells into the intercom to end the show, the clock increases again by 1,000 hours. With the clock continuing to tick, it's revealed that the rule that the show would end if someone dies was never true.

Chun Woo-hee as 8th Floor, picking up a roomkey card, in Netflix's 'The 8 Show'

Chun Woo-hee as 8th Floor choosing her rank in The 8 Show.

(Image credit: Lee Jae-hyuk/Netflix)

Out of rage, 3rd Floor begins breaking every camera in the courtyard, with 2nd Floor soon following his lead. (All the while, 8th Floor cries that she doesn't want to leave, cementing her place on the list of Most Terrifying K-Drama Villains of All Time.) After they smash every camera in sight, the courtyard chute opens to reveal the only functioning camera left.

Floor 3 shoots, the clock runs out, and the doors finally open. But it's not soon enough for 1st Floor, who says his final words, "I wanted to rise higher. I've spent my whole life at the bottom. A nobody like me shouldn't have been greedy. I'm so sorry."

What happens to each person after 'The 8 Show?'

3rd Floor is the first participant to leave the courtyard, and he walks onto the same stage through which he entered the literal horror show. Speakers are blasting canned applause, but no one's in the audience. There's only an envelope with a simple message: "Congratulations. The prize money will be wired to your bank account." After he reads it, the stage's red curtains draw back and the words "The End" are projected onto the screen.

A traumatized 3rd Floor re-enters the world after two and a half months to see that nothing changed, despite the disappearance of eight people. He knows that no one would ever believe what happened, and his body and mind are a wreck, so he spends the immediate aftermath sleeping all day, attempting to die by suicide at least once, and wondering whether all the torment of the show ever really happened. But he knows it did because that's the only explanation for over 1.5 billion won (about $1.1 million) sitting in his account. (Half his prize was deducted for destroying the cameras.)

Eventually, 3rd Floor recollects himself and spends his money planning 1st Floor's funeral. With the help of several billboards throughout Seoul, several participants make it there: 2nd Floor (revealed to be a construction worker who got into debt by co-signing on an injured colleague's medical procedures), 4th Floor (who worked as a parking attendant while being disparaged by her wealthier schoolmates), and 5th Floor (a former doctor's wife who was scammed while having an affair). 6th Floor (who used to be a baseball player until he was kicked off his team for gambling) doesn't show but sends an elaborate wreath. The no-shows are 7th and 8th Floor, though 8th Floor has a good reason: She was arrested and fined after destroying an art gallery with an excavator, in an attempt to relaunch her career as a performance artist. (Or because she was bored, who knows.) After the funeral, the group of four walk out of the hall and never see each other again, in a bit of an anticlimactic end for such a wild show.

Lee Zoo-young as 2nd Floor and Chun Woo-hee as 8th Floor, in Netflix's 'The 8 Show'

Lee Zoo-young as 2nd Floor and Chun Woo-hee as 8th Floor in The 8 Show.

(Image credit: Lee Jae-hyuk/Netflix)

Does 'The 8 Show' have a post-credits scene?

Midway through the credits, viewers finally catch up with 7th Floor. It turns out he had been a washed-up screenwriter before the show, and since it ended had turned the horrific ordeal into a script that he pitches to an executive. Of course, the exec loves it, and the scene leans into how meta it is when the entertainment boss predicts that the project "could even lead to a sequel." (No word on a possible The 8 Show season 2 so far.)

There's also a fun twist: After 7th Floor comments that the viewers wouldn't want the upper floors' lives to turn out well, the exec leans over and says, "But we're living great lives, aren't we?"

He adds, "How else do you think I have so much money?" but just as 7th Floor begins to look startled, the executive laughs and says he's just kidding in English.

Still, the short scene plays with the same speculation that came with Squid Game, of whether something this horrific could happen among the most wealthy and destitute people. It's a nice nod to the overall question that series like these reckon with: What do humans become at their most desperate, most insulted, most impoverished? What are people capable of becoming when you push them to the brink? As The 8 Show proves, that's a question we probably don't want answered—at least outside of fiction.

Contributing Culture Editor

Quinci is a Contributing Culture Editor who writes pieces and helps to strategize editorial content across TV, movies, music, theater, and pop culture. She contributes interviews with talent, as well as SEO content, features, and trend stories. She fell in love with storytelling at a young age, and eventually discovered her love for cultural criticism and amplifying awareness for underrepresented storytellers across the arts. She previously served as a weekend editor for Harper’s Bazaar, where she covered breaking news and live events for the brand’s website, and helped run the brand’s social media platforms, including Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Her freelance writing has also appeared in outlets including HuffPost, The A.V. Club, Elle, Vulture, Salon, Teen Vogue, and others. Quinci earned her degree in English and Psychology from The University of New Mexico. She was a 2021 Eugene O’Neill Critics Institute fellow, and she is a member of the Television Critics Association. She is currently based in her hometown of Los Angeles. When she isn't writing or checking Twitter way too often, you can find her studying Korean while watching the latest K-drama, recommending her favorite shows and films to family and friends, or giving a concert performance while sitting in L.A. traffic.