When Squid Game burst onto the scene in 2021, it became Netflix’s biggest show — ever.
It beat the likes of Stranger Things and Bridgerton — shows heavily ingrained in pop culture.
The streamer would inevitably find a way to capitalize on that success.
Enter Squid Game: The Challenge, a competition series that takes the format (minus the killing!) to feature 456 people from all walks of life competing for 4.56 million dollars.
It’s been a pleasant surprise through eight episodes, and it really is like watching a real-life version of the scripted series.
While it’s been a blast watching the cutthroat nature of the gameplay, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that the format doesn’t allow for much context.
Cramming 456 players into a nine-hour season means that many people disappear for episodes at a time, and many don’t even appear until the later episodes.
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Now that the season is airing, cast members are speaking out about their experience filming, and one of the most significant issues for viewers has been the editing.
The show moves so fast that you can’t look away, or you’ll have missed countless eliminations.
You’ll recall Player 198 (Husnain Asif), who couldn’t get someone to pick up the phone for a supposed chocolate muffin.
Husnain was determined to get player 432 (Bryton) out of the game and figured picking up the phone would grant him the power to oust a player.
As we watched, it didn’t quite pan out like that, and we saw Husnain winning a feast before leering over the phone a second time because he was determined to get some power.
When the phone did ring, we learned that he had to get someone to pick up the phone, sealing their fate within two minutes, or he would have been eliminated.
Asif spoke out about the moment recently, revealing two more calls between the two we watched.
They included more food offerings like pizza, making his plea that someone had to pick up his call to get a chocolate muffin more credible.
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Knowing that those two calls were cut out makes it seem like producers are deceiving the audience or they just ran out of time to tell the story more organically.
This isn’t an isolated incident, with countless cast members lighting up on social media to share their experiences on the show.
The series is divisive for many reasons, but knowing that only a select few candidates get the screen time makes it evident that one of the people with all the camera time will win when the finale comes around.
Having 456 players and that big of a cash pot gets the show all the attention it needs for people to watch, but it’s a shame that the same format leaves so much good content on the cutting room floor.
Netflix is destined to milk this franchise for the years to come, so the hope is that it takes feedback on board and fine-tunes the series to get it to where it needs to be the best possible version of itself.
Nine episodes isn’t a long enough run for that many players. Shows like Survivor and RuPaul’s Drag Race don’t have much more than that; they have around 440 fewer players.
Those two reality TV juggernauts feature more rounded stories of their contestants because they don’t need to fight for the screen time.
Getting to the end of a competition and focusing on a select portion of the competitors is a choice, but this could be easier remedied by introducing longer episodes.
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When the series dropped in my inbox, I devoured the first five and eagerly anticipated the next drop.
The format calls for a much longer runtime and more episodes.
It may change the show’s pace somewhat depending on if there are mass eliminations, but getting a more accurate account of the events would be far more worthwhile.
At best, we’re getting highlights with the series, and that’s not particularly satisfying.
Netflix could — and should — release extended episodes of the first season with deleted scenes and heed our advice to make future seasons bigger to secure the show’s future.
There’s a good chance the paltry episode order was to see if viewers connected with an unscripted take on the format.
Now that we’re hooked, we want more than ever, so like any sophomore season, the streamer should take on board the complaints to nurture the show into something bigger and better than what we’re getting.
None of the above is a knock on the quality of the show.
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Squid Game: The Challenge is up there with The Traitors, House of Villains, and Love Island Games as my favorite competition series of the season.
After struggling with the latest season of Big Brother, I stopped watching because it was so freaking boring. Squid Game: The Challenge couldn’t have come at a better time.
The series has the potential to be one of the best, but its future success hinges on whether Netflix makes the appropriate calls to help it become the best version of itself.
What are your thoughts, Squid Game Fanatics?
Do you think the show’s unique concept is its biggest flaw?
What would you change for the second season?
Hit the comments.
Stream the first eight episodes on Netflix now.
The season finale is set to launch around the world on December 6, 2023.
Paul Dailly is the Associate Editor for TV Fanatic. Follow him on X.