The 8 Show Season 1 Review – A thrilling but messy addition to the death game genre

Season 1



Episode Guide

Episode 1 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 2 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 3 -| Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 4 -| Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 5 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 6 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 7 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 8 -| Review Score – 3/5

The 8 Show is a thrilling Netflix K-drama that made its debut in May 2024 among much hype. Based on the manga Money Game, it follows 8 participants who join The 8 Show where they will be given exorbitant prize money just for spending their time locked in an 8-level studio. Oh, and no murder is allowed.

But as hidden rules start cropping up, the game turns into a fight for survival and a battle to control one’s greed in the face of unlimited money. It doesn’t help that the timer mysteriously keeps increasing making the participants wonder if they will be stuck in the game forever.

The series stars Ryu Jun-yeol, Chun Woo-hee, Park Jeong-min, Lee Yeol-eum, Park Hae-joon, Lee Joo-young, Moon Jung-hee and Baek Sung-woo and is helmed by filmmaker Han Jae-rim of Emergency Declaration fame.

The K-drama begins with an artistic style complete with metaphors and tungsten lighting for that 90s gritty look that sets apart the participants’ back stories from the game. We can go as far as to say that it feels like we are watching something of Wong Kar Wai’s with the dreamy aesthetic. And with an oversaturation of K-dramas now, networks have to do their best to stand out.

Especially, with the pre-release buzz of The 8 Show being another Squid Game. Well, apart from the gaming format, it is completely different from the aesthetics to the storyline. We have to applaud the production value which is always top-notch when it comes to Netflix or K-dramas.

The retro music, the carefully placed shots, the blocking, the fake studio, all of it not only sets the tone of the series but also gives us some clever symbolism and metaphors on greed, the need for control and base instincts. It gets a little too on the nose later with the obvious dialogues explaining society and hierarchy but it is still fun to catch and analyse these themes.

There are also the Marxist themes of exploiting the labour class and the ingenuity of capitalism that are critiqued initially. Season 1 is also a mirror to our real world and entertainment business. If a TV show is entertaining, more people tune in. In exchange, like the participants entertaining the fictional audience, in the real world, the network rewards us in return by renewing a show for a second season.

Sure, we don’t get much of this once the actual conflict begins, but then we have other elements out there that have us hooked.

And how? Well if Netflix death games like Squid Game and Alice in Borderland have taught us anything, every odd movement or prop is a clue that leads to a shocking plot twist later. And that is exactly what happens here. Sure, we know that something major is going to change for the second half of the show and we can guess who the catalysts are but the writers use the tropes in such a clever way that we do not see it coming. 

However, from there onwards, it is all downhill. What starts with great potential turns into a mess as The 8 Show is eager to keep shocking the audience just like the fictitious audience of the game. The violence keeps getting creative in line with the rules of the game but that’s not the problem.

It’s the unnecessary prolonged scenes of gratuitous violence and visual display of torture. Yes, we get it, some people are psychopaths while even the most empathetic person can lose themselves in the face of money. This has been demonstrated since Episode 1, no need to keep shoving it in our faces. Otherwise, Netflix is going to lose half of its audience. 

There are a couple of important loopholes too that are never addressed which is a bummer since as a limited series, this one is probably never going to get a Season 2. The end gets very convenient thanks to an extremely faulty reasoning. Even the most cautious and logical one starts acting without thinking first.

In fact, the major conflict in the finale can be avoided if someone just says, hey, we’ve won, why do we need to do this obvious gamble which will most likely not pay off? You may say it is necessary to provide a redemption arc for a certain someone. You may also go, then how do we get the big climax?

Well, that’s up to the writers to put their heads together and give us infallible, ingenious stories; but there is so much potential that we viewers often come up with our own ideas while trying to make sense of a show. No wonder fan theories are always wild and exciting while the reality is never up to par.

But it is the actors who are committed to their roles, who are not afraid to look ugly that keeps us seated till the end. The 8 Show begins with 8 very generic archetypes such as the pitiful one, the fighter, the smart one, the indecisive one, the friendly one, the thug, the logical one and the pampered brat. But once the story unfolds, we start seeing more of them as all their layers are peeled off. They turn complex and complicated which adds to the conflict.

Yes, even the sinister 8F who shows all the traits of a psychopath. And speaking of 8F, Chun Woo-hee absolutely steals the show in almost every single episode. It is no easy feat to do so in an ensemble story, especially with Netflix trying to push their Ryu Jun-yeol’s Jin-su as the main character agenda.

But despite him being the only one whose thoughts we can hear and see most of the story through his point of view, him coming through in the most crucial moments and getting all the hero energy, it is 8F we cannot take our eyes off. And this is done cleverly as she plays off the brute 6F who is the opposite side of the same coin. While he has his emotions, she has none which makes us wonder why she cries or what it is that makes her afraid. She is an enigma that we want to dissect as we search for her every time she is not on screen. 

Well, there you have it, Netflix’s The 8 Show which has its ups and downs yet happens to be entertaining while also making us think for ourselves. It lures viewers in with its commentary on society while also breaking the 4th wall and critiquing variety shows. However, the second half is too chaotic making it a fun but one-time watch.

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  • Verdict - 6/10

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