Many spoilers ahead!
When writer and director Hwang Dong-hyuk set out to create the dark and bizarre thriller Squid Game, he didn’t look too far from reality for inspiration. “I wanted to write a story that was an allegory or fable about modern capitalist society, something that depicts an extreme competition, somewhat like the extreme competition of life,” he told Variety. The result was the premise of his now top-ranking Netflix series: a twisted underground program where people with staggering debt are recruited (and volunteer) to play simple games at life-or-death stakes for the chance at a ridiculous amount of money.
As players claw their way through the competition, the Game offers a twisted, unnerving look at human nature—the lengths people will go for money when they are that desperate, whether goodness and compassion can arise from such chaos, and whether life, even when it’s boiled down to schoolyard games, is ever really fair.
Whether you’re sill processing the finale or just here for the spoilers, we break down the ending of Squid Game here.
Who wins the game?
By the end of the sixth game, protagonist Seong Gi-hun (Lee Jung-jae) emerges victorious. He squares up with childhood friend-turned-nemesis Cho Sang-woo (Park Hae-soo) in a bloody round of squid game and knocks down his opponent. But, steps before winning, Gi-hun asks to vote on terminating the game, assuming that Sang-woo will side with him and create the necessary majority to end the whole tournament. But Sang-woo stabs himself in the neck and dies, letting Gi-hun win.
What does the winner do with the money?
For a while, nothing. The final episode takes a time jump to a year after Gi-hun returns home with his winnings, but he hasn’t done anything with the money since. His bank even invited him for a special meeting to point out that his money has just been sitting there, basically untouched.
Later, he picks up Kang Sae-byeok’s (Jung Ho-yeon) younger brother from the orphanage, and leaves the youngster in the care of Sang-woo’s mom, along with a suitcase packed with cash. With it, he left a note that says, “It’s the money I owe Sang-woo.” The gesture fulfills Sang-woo’s dying wish that Gi-hun take care of his mother and also does right by Sae-byeok, his friend and third-place player who was killed by Sang-woo before the final game.
Who started the game?
It was our old friend, Oh Il-nam (Oh Young-soo). In the finale, Gi-hun mysteriously receives a card from the Game a year after he won, which leads him to Il-nam, still alive but basically on his death bed. He didn’t die after losing the marble game after all (we didn’t actually see him get killed on screen). In fact, he’s the host and co-creator of the whole scheme.
Il-nam reveals to Gi-hun that he’s a wealthy man who got rich off lending people money. He and his co-creators, bored with their wealth, decided to create the Game to “finally have some fun.” But watching the sport wasn’t enough for Il-nam. He wanted to feel something before died—his illness and brain tumor are real—so he started participating as a player. After his confession to Gi-hun, Il-nam dies in bed.
What happens in the last scene?
In the final scenes, Gi-hun is in the airport and finds someone being recruited for the Game and intercepts him, begs him to not go, and takes the calling card from him. Before boarding his flight to Los Angeles to see his family, Gi-hun calls the number on the card and tells the phone operator he wants to know why the whole operation exists. The Front Man (Lee Byung-hun), who oversees the run of the Game, hops on the line, urging Gi-hun to get on the plane and mind his business. Gi-hun hangs up and leaves instead of boarding the plane. End scene.
It seems Gi-hun is set on stopping the Game. But now the question is, how will he try to do it? Is he just searching for answers or will he go back in to play and take it down from the inside? Unfortunately fans might not find out his next steps—or at least not right away. Hwang Dong-hyuk “[doesn’t] have well developed plans for ‘Squid Game 2,’” he told Variety. “It is quite tiring just thinking about it. But if I were to do it, I would certainly not do it alone,” he added. “I’d consider using a writers’ room and would want multiple experienced directors.”
So, for now, Gi-hun’s next move will be up to our imaginations.
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