Squid Game Season 1 Finale: Recap, Review & Ending Explained

One Lucky Day

What is the final game?

Episode 9 of Squid Game begins this finale just like it started, with a look at the rules for the squid game played as children. Two competitors remain for this final challenge – Sang-Woo and Gi-Hun. It all comes down to this. They’re going to play squid and each will be on opposing sides of offense or defence. Gi-Hun however, chooses offense.

With the VIPs watching from above with interest, the Front Man adds extra narration, confirming that this game is the most physical and violent from childhood days.

There are few rules with this one, but only a few. Gi-Hun has a pocket knife, which he intends to use to try and win this game. As rain falls, the two men slug it out.

Stiff punches are traded while Sang-Woo manages to grab the knife and stab Gi-Hun several times. It’s not enough to hit the killing blow though, which Gi-Hun thwarts by biting a chunk out of his opponent’s leg.

Who wins the final game?

Using the knife stuck through his hand, Gi-Hun pulls it out and looks set to stab Sang-Woo…but decides not to. He lets the man live while Gi-Hun walks to the finish line. But he can’t cross it.

Instead, he decides to enact Rule 3 and end the games right here. In doing so, this means he gives up the prize money completely but saves his friend. Only, Sang-Woo forces his hand and stabs himself in the neck, telling Gi-Hun to help his Mother before passing away. As he does, Gi-Hun wins by default.

With the games over and Gi-Hun blindfolded, he sits in a limo with the Front Man. In-Ho mentions how these games are akin to betting on horses before eventually drugging Gi-Hun and pushing him out into the street. Inside his mouth though is a credit card.

Gi-Hun uses the card inside the terminal and checks out his balance. His Pin number? 0456. He withdraws 10,000 won, leaving him with 45,999,999,000 won (48 million dollars.)

Does Gi-Hun manage to help his Mum?

Following this ordeal, Gi-Hun swings by the old neighbourhood and finds Sang-Woo’s Mother. She hands over some mackerel while Gu-Hun remains silent, unable to tell her the heartbreaking news about her son’s fate.

Gi-Hun heads home where he finds his Mum lying on the floor. Despite doing all he can for her, his Mum has passed away. He holds her as best he can, struggling to hold back tears as he mourns her passing. Unfortunately Gi-Hun has not been able to help his Mum, who has clearly passed away.

Has Gi-Hun paid off his debts?

We then cut forward 1 year later. Gi-Hun is a changed man and is called to see the bank manager. He wants to try and help him grow his financial assets but Gi-Hun is having none of it. He hasn’t touched the money since winning it and instead, asks the bank manager for 10,000 won.

Heading down to the docks, he uses that to buy a rose. Only, attached to that rose is a black envelope with a red ribbon. Inside is a business card, with the words: “December 24, 11:30pm, Sky Building 77th Floor” written on. And the sender? “your gganbu”

Now, although we’re not explicitly told it would seem like he hasn’t paid off the loan sharks or his bank loans. Having said that though, the latter could well have automatically been dealt with through the small amounts of interest accumulated in his account.

Is Il-Nam still alive?

Gi-Hun arrives at the lavish apartment right on time, where he finds Il-Nam alive! Gi-Hun is completely shocked, unable to accept that this man is alive. However, the shocking truth is that Il-Nam is actually a part of all this and helped to set up the games. As he says himself, he makes a living out of lending money to others.

He called Gi-Hun over because he’s noticed that he hasn’t spent any of the money he’s won. Il-Nam quizzes him, believing Gi-Hun is suffering badly from guilt over all those who have lost their lives in the games. This would also explain why Gi-Hun is still scrounging a living.

How did the games start?

Now, based on what Joon-Ho found in the archives and Il-Nam’s little monologue that follows, it’s safe to assume that these games started back in the early 90’s. Since then, there’s always been one winner and it seems like that winner could well go onto become a figurehead staff member like Front Man (given In-Ho won the games one year) or be sucked back into the games one way or another.

Back then though, Il-Nam and a whole bunch of rich buddies got together and decided to come up with a more productive way of spending their money. With more cash than they knew what to do with, they all set up this series of games. The VIPs are actually those in charge of the games, betting money on people like horses.

They created this game as a way of “having fun.”Gi-Hun is pretty disgusted but Il-Nam is quick to remind him that 93% of people willingly signed their contracts again, knowing exactly what lay in store for them from these games.

Why did Il-Nam join the games?

While the background behind Il-Nam’s inclusion was a lie, there were some things that still rang true. He has a tumor, he’s dying and doesn’t have long to live. Il-Nam decided to join in and play the games this time. He wanted to feel a sense of joy in engaging with others, rather than just spectating and dying. After all, if he’s going to die anyway why not feel some sense of joy in the process? If you’ll recall, while playing Red light, green light during episode 1 the man had a big ol’ grin on his face the whole time.

Joining and playing with Gi-Hun during the fourth challenge allowed him to remember all the moments he had forgotten in his life from such a long time ago. This is why Gi-Hun was able to progress forward and why Il-Nam “sacrificed himself.” Although this gunshot was obviously a decoy.

As the clock chimes midnight, Il-Nam passes away – for real this time. Now, Il-Nam being part of the games also explains why he initially chose not to continue playing during the first episode. Given this is supposed to be a democratic process, he didn’t want to impede on this.

One further flashback also shows that he’s also colloquially known as “The Host” of the games, which explains why the Front Man took over in his absence.

How does Gi-Hun react to this news?

With Gi-Hun finally learning the truth about the games and their origin, he undergoes a drastic transformation. He gets his hair cut and dyed red, heading off to help Cheol, Sae-Byeok’s brother. He brings her to Sang-Woo’s Mum and asks her to look after him. As he walks away, Sang-Woo’s Mum opens the suitcase to find it completely packed full of cash with an accompanying note: “Its the money I owe Sang-Woo.”

En-route to the airport after ringing Ga-Yeong, Gi-Hun notices that same sleazy businessman from before playing with a poor guy outside. Exchanging slaps and smacking envelopes, Gi-Hun charges across the platforms but misses the man as he boards a train and escapes. For the unsuspecting victim however, Gi-Hun snatches his business card away and demands he not compete.

At the airport, an enraged Gi-Hun rings the Front Man and promises that he’ll pay for what’s happened to him and the others. Instead of boarding the plane, he turns and walks away, determined to fight back and put an end to this once and for all. Ahm what an agonizing cliffhanger!

The Episode Review

So Squid Game bows out with an open ending, one that gives some crucial answers to some of the big questions but leaves things on a tantalizing cliffhanger too. Will this be renewed for season 2?

Much like Alice In Borderland, this show has a lot more to give and the idea of extra games, more insight into the other VIPs and taking down the hierarchy is something that promises lots of maneuvering if this is renewed.

In terms of final twists though, the revelation that Il-Nam is still alive and actually one of the key players behind everything that’s happened is a real hammer blow to the gut. It’s definitely an unexpected turn of events and one that does show that there’s some good left in humanity, especially given the way Gi-Hun helped the old man out in the games.

Il-=Nam’s insider knowledge also explains away a lot of his hints and tips, along with knowledge behind different parts of the games as well. It’s a small inclusion but one that feels pretty consistent with the show’s narrative as a whole.

The Joon-ho angle is another nice touch, although by the end there’s lots of big question marks around how the Front Man feels about killing his brother and how he’s affected by this. That’s to say nothing about how he’s able to slip back and forth between the island and Il-Nam without arousing suspicions – especially given he’s supposed to be missing.

Despite that though, Squid Game bows out with a decent enough finale to this unusual and utterly engrossing show. Roll on season 2!

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Feel free to check out our full season review of Squid Game here!


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