By: Kimberley Bond
Netflix’s Squid Game has captivated audiences worldwide after it was released on the streamer, with viewers becoming hooked on the numerous twists, shocks and red herrings in the garishly coloured but intensely gory survival drama.
Quickly garnering popularity by word of mouth, and with its bleak but moving storyline, it’s little surprise Squid Game is on track to be Netflix’s most-watched show ever.
The final episode in the nine-part series ties up a lot of questions viewers have – but still leaves plenty of room for interpretation, mystery and enough set-up for a season two.
So if you’ve been left scratching your head about what exactly went down in the Squid Game finale, then fear not: here’s everything you need to know about the final episode: One Lucky Day.
Squid Game ending explained
After Player 67’s murder, childhood friends turned bitter opponents Seong Gi-Hun and Cho Sang-Woo now have to face the final challenge in the games – the titular Squid Game.
As the most physically aggressive game up until that point, it soon becomes clear that this childhood game is simply just a fight to the death – with Gi-Hun and Sang-Woo given knives to help slaughter their opponent.
After a brief tussle, Gi-Hun manages to pin Sang-Woo to the ground, but offers a way out which spares his life – they forfeit the game altogether and simply walk away from the prize fund. Instead, Sang-Woo says sorry to Gi-Hun, and stabs himself in the neck – leaving Gi-Hun the winner of billions of won.
After a brief chat with Front Man, a blindfolded Gi-Hun begs to know why these cruel games are allowed to continue. Front Man replies: “You bet on horses, we bet on humans” – and places Gi-hun back into the outside world with his prize money stored on a credit card that has been stuffed down this throat.
But it quickly transpires that Gi-Hun’s suffering in the games was all futile. Viewers will remember the happy-go-lucky gambler made the decision to re-enter the competition to raise the money needed for his mother’s operation. However, when he arrives home, he finds his mother slumped on the floor, having died while Gi-Hun was away.
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A year passes, and Gi-Hun has been living modestly, having not touched a penny of his winnings and consumed by grief over his mother’s death. After buying a rose from a poor street vendor, Gi-Hun sees he’s been given another card – this time, from his ‘gganbu’ Oh Il-nam – someone Gi-Hun thought was killed in the games.
Armed with a date and a meeting point on the card, Gi-Hun travels to the top of a high-rise to find Oh Il-Nam alive, but incredibly weak – he’s in a hospital bed and strapped up to life support.
It becomes clear that not only did Oh Il-Nam survive the tournament, he’s also one of the curators of the games themselves. Speaking from his death bed, the old man explains that he became incredibly wealthy in his youth, but that extravagant wealth made everything so boring and passé.
To spice up their otherwise mundane lives, Oh Il-Nam and other obscenely rich pals devised the games in the 1980s, and frittered away their millions by betting on the players.
He decided to enter the contest this year because he really is dying from a brain tumour, and he wanted to play the games he devised just once before he died.
In his dying moments, Il-nam has summoned Gi-Hun for one final game. Gesturing over at a drunk man who has passed out in the snow, Il-nam asks Gi-Hun to bet whether he believes someone will save the man from freezing to death in the snow before midnight. While Il-nam is doubtful, Gi-Hun says he will bet “everything he has” that someone will help the man, as he believes that, despite everything he saw in the games, people are inherently caring.
Gi-Hun wins the bet, with the police pulling over to assist the gentleman – but Il-nam dies before he sees the act of kindness, thereby dying with his beliefs that mankind is made up of first and foremost selfish, brutal creatures.
The meeting sees Gi-Hun embrace a new lease of life (and a new bright red hairdo). He firstly gets Player 67’s little brother out of the orphanage, and brings him to Sang-Woo’s mother, who agrees to look after him. Before disappearing, Gi-Hun leaves San-Woo’s mother a suitcase which contains half of all his winnings, fulfilling his promise to San-Woo that he will take care of his friend’s mother in the outside world.
Now deciding to travel Stateside and see his daughter, Gi-Hun finds himself stuck in his tracks on the way to the airport after he spots the Game Recruiter, engaging in another game of ddakji with a man in the subway. While he desperately runs to confront the businessman, Gi-Hun misses his chance to speak with him. Enraged, Gi-Hun takes the business card from the man who was playing ddakji and continues to head to the airport.
But before stepping on the plane to America, Gi-Hun decides to call the number, and threatens to find those running the sadistic games. While the mysterious caller tells Gi-Hun to let it go and get on the plane, Gi-Hun changes his mind – walking off the jet bridge as the credits start to roll.
This cliffhanger seemingly leaves things open to a second season, with writer and director Hwang Dong-hyuk telling RadioTimes.com that he would divulge more into Oh Il-Nam’s backstory should the show get renewed for a second season.
However, he did seem to quash the theory that Gi-Hun’s dye job was symbolic of him choosing to become a guard, foreshadowing events in the second season.
Exclusively speaking to RadioTimes.com, he explained: “[Gi-Hun’s red hair] represents that he will never be able to go back to his old self. It is also a sign of his rage.”