By: Kimberley Bond.
Squid Game has become Netflix’s latest smash hit, with the Korean-language survival drama set to become the streaming service’s most-watched show of all time.
The nine-part series ends with a shocking twist, in which Seong Gi-hun discovers his ‘ganbu’ Oh Il-nam never died during the marbles round in the Game.
Instead (and, major spoilers, obviously), Oh Il-nam reveals he’s actually the curator of Squid Game back in the 80’s so he and his obscenely rich friends can gamble on humans lives, paralleling how Gi-hun would gamble on horses. The old man decided to take part in the games as he really is dying from a brain tumour, and wanted to enjoy the nostalgia of his childhood games.
While millions of viewers have been left blindsided by this twist, Oh Il-nam’s true identity was actually peppered throughout the series, with writer and director Hwang Dong-hyuk leaving us a breadcrumb trail for us to uncover his true identity.
Here are all the clues you may have missed which pointed to Squid Game’s big reveal.
He’s Player 001
As we learn early on in Squid Game, each player’s number is dictated by when they were selected for the game – meaning Oh Il-nam was ‘selected’ first. While the other 455 players are younger, and all have financial difficulties, we never learn any of Oh Il-nam’s circumstances about how we found him in the games, the very first indicator that all may not be what it seems with the character.
Oh Il-nam’s name also literally translates from Korean as ‘First Man’ – an early suggestion that he is the creator, or the ‘first’ person to have ‘faced’ the games as he chose them all.
He knew the Red Light, Green Light song
Instead of appearing perplexed by the circumstances he finds himself in, Player 001 appears non-plussed at being faced by a giant robot made to resemble a little girl, and even recognises the words after she breaks out into her haunting song. Considering Oh Il-nam has been watching the games since the 1980’s, it’s little surprise he can sing along – it may even be a song from his childhood that he chose specially to feature.
He’s not fazed by the dead bodies – or the robot
While the other 455 contestants were left utterly horrified when the giant robot started firing at those caught moving when she called "red light", Oh Il-nam was utterly unfazed, happily smiling and moving between the dead bodies to try and reach the finish line.
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When the perspective changes to that of the giant doll’s, you can see that most of the players are outlined with a green overlay as the doll’s movement detector kicks in. The more eagle-eyed among us may have spotted that Oh Il-nam didn’t have such a green overlay, and just a thin outline – suggesting that the doll was programmed not to shoot him regardless of what happens.
He picked the star shape in the Honeycomb game
After Player 67 figures out the second game involved sugar, and tells Cho Sang-woo discretely, Sang-woo figures out the next round must be the honeycomb game and picks the triangle – the easiest shape. While Ali picks the circle, Gi-hun asks the old man whether he’d like to choose between the umbrella or the star. It’s of little surprise Oh Il-nam sticks with the star, as the shape is far easier to cut around than the umbrella – as he already knew the round.
It was Oh Il-nam that stopped the riots
When things turned nasty between the games, many contestants were killed by Jang Deok-su and his cronies. While the Front Man and the Workers let this go on for a little while, Oh Il-nam must have known he would have been easy pickings as he was old and feeble. It was only when he had climbed to the top of the beds and pleaded that he was “so scared” that the Front Man chose to stop the riots – knowing the creator of the Games was in real danger and couldn’t have been so easily protected.
Oh Il-nam had the perfect Tug of War strategy
When the contestants were told to get into groups of 10, Gi-hun’s group looked physically weak compared to some of the others – not only did he have more women than some other teams, he also had Oh Il-nam, who could barely stand up straight.
However, the old man proved to be a secret weapon, having devised the perfect strategy to defeat even much physically stronger teams. While he may very well have been a bit of a Tug of War master as a child, it also serves as a glaring clue that he was ‘ready’ for the games and had previously looked up manoeuvres.
Oh Il-nam recognised the set in marbles round because he designed it
Oh Il-nam’s dementia becomes the most apparent in ‘final’ round – instead of playing marbles with Gi-hun, he meanders around the set, saying how the roads looked similar to where he used to live. But it’s no surprise the set looks so familiar to him, as he was one of the founders of the game and so probably had a say in designing it.
More clues are apparent in this round if you look more closely – the series of shapes that can be found on the home Oh Il-nam claims to be his are the same shapes that can be found on the business cards, suggesting a link between the characters.
Oh Il-nam loves all the games
When each game is revealed to the contestants, Oh Il-nam makes a point of saying how much he enjoyed each game as a child, and how much he played them. It’s little surprise he feels this way, as he picked out each game for the tournament – and he’s likely picked up numerous strategies after watching people play them over the years.
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There’s no file for player 001 in the 2020 Games
When detective Hwang Jun-ho finds the Squid Game archives, he looks through the files to see if he could find his brother anywhere among the players. When he checks the folder for the 2020 contest, the record for the players starts at player 002. This is perhaps one of the biggest indicators that Oh Il-nam is linked to the games, as there’s no file for player 001, as there’s no need for Oh Il-nam to make a file about himself.
Oh Il-nam had already planned the perfect ‘exit’ plan from the games
Before the marbles round, the contestants are asked to get into pairs, despite there being an odd number. This may have been done deliberately – as Oh Il-nam knew he was at a disadvantage compared to the other players, he assumed he wasn’t going to get picked, giving him a chance to scuttle away from the games quietly and ‘killed’ away from the rest of the players. However, Gi-hun may have scuppered that plan, after he chose to partner up with the old man.
We never saw Oh Il-nam’s ‘death’
At the end of the emotional marbles round, Oh Il-nam gives a tearful Gi-hun a speech, while Gi-hun is hustled back to the main hall by the workers. While Gi-hun walks away, we hear a gunshot, and we assume that player 001 has been killed.
The beginning of the following episode sees Ali and the rest of those killed at the end of the round packed up into coffins and taken to be incinerated, but Oh Il-nam’s corpse is not seen – because he was never killed.