The squid game did not invent survival series where anonymous people are forced to overcome tests and compete against each other, whether for life or death or for prizes that dehumanize them along the way. Battle Royale, Cube, The Hunger Games or Alice in Borderland, the Japanese series also on Netflix, are just some examples from the last three decades. But when a title along these lines suddenly appears, like The 8 show, produced in South Korea to make matters worse, alarm bells go off: on Netflix they have a clear successor to The Squid Game.

It is ironic to speak in these terms. At the end of 2024, the second season of the survival series is scheduled to be launched, which still holds the platform’s consumption record to this day. Creator Hwang Dong-hyuk has taken his time to think, write and shoot the sequel with Lee Jung-jae, of which no further details are known. Meanwhile, the predecessor in this genre, Alice in Borderland, has a third season underway. But The 8 show has a presentation that is designed to leave no one indifferent.

The story of The 8 show begins with a young man who, after requesting a loan that he cannot repay, tries to take his own life. Not only are there two creditors who are chasing and threatening him, but he has also done the numbers: with his precarious salary and the impossibility of making a profit from his university degree, he will have to spend his entire life working to have a healthy bank account. . Is it worth it to you? As he is about to jump off a bridge, he receives a message: he has been given a generous income from someone who just wants to buy the time he was about to waste by taking his own life.

This is how he ends up in an eight-story building with seven other strangers. Each one lives on a different floor and they have a common area where both the pool and the food are made of plastic. The rooms don’t even have a toilet. The advantage is that they charge extraordinary amounts for every minute they are there. Of course, there is a trick: if they want to improve their living conditions, they must buy paying prices well above the market. What is worth buying or not? How can eight strangers agree? And what disturbing rules will they discover, considering that they don’t even know who is behind them or what they gain from them?

Creator Han Jae-rim does not have a risky approach to dystopia and survival, at least in the first episodes seen by yours truly. They move through common places: the discovery and exposition of the first rules of coexistence and play, the presentation between strangers, the tensions due to the difference in characters and the creation of a space (not as impressive as the spectacular production design of The squid game).

The important thing, however, is that they work in what can be interpreted as a cross between The Squid Game and The Hole. If Hwang Dong-hyuk’s series showed the extent to which the desperation of vulnerable people forced hundreds of strangers to compete to the death as a valid option, since the capitalist system has no moral principles and cannot provide a minimum of well-being, The 8 show finds mechanisms to explain how privilege and economic income mark social dynamics.

It proposes a perversion of control, blackmail, classism and economic arbitrariness of a system not thought of from parameters such as ethics and justice. It is better not to reveal the details but, when the second episode begins, the intellectual mechanism becomes clear: relations of power and tension are established based on the differences of the contestants that social criticism places on the surface.

The way The 8 show mixes the spirit of the game, the constant enigmas and this reading forces you to stay glued to the screen and hit the “play the next episode” button at the end of each installment. Credit titles contribute to having faith. How many series we can see delving into this theme without getting fed up or seeing too much of the seams is something that each one will have to check after achieving the titles already mentioned.

But it is a formula that works and that puts a question on the table: why two giants like South Korea and Japan are so interested in this social and political criticism, from the point of view of creation and production, and why that in other countries this same fiction trend does not occur (although it is consumed). It may say a lot about each society and not just East Asian countries.