Squid Game became a sensation when it premiered in September 2021. It broke Netflix records, inspired ill-advised theme parties, and led to historic industry moments — series lead Lee Jung-jae was the first Asian actor to win the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, and Hwang Dong-hyuk’s win for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series marked the first time a non-English series was awarded in the category. It was no surprise when the series was renewed for a second season in June 2022.
But exactly what that second season looks like remains as mysterious as the man handing out cards in the subway in Season 1. Netflix has slowly been releasing information about not just Squid Game Season 2, but also its unscripted spinoff, Squid Game: The Challenge. Here’s what we know so far.
There were few survivors at the end of Squid Game Season 1. The final challenge comes down to a battle between childhood best friends Sang-woo (Park Hae-soo), also known as a Player 218, and Gi-hun (Lee Jung-jae), Player 456. Gi-hun wins the game but ultimately caln’t bring himself to kill Sang-woo, as the rules demand. Instead, Sang-woo makes Gi-hun promise to take care of his mother, then takes his own life to end the game once and for all. Gi-hun leaves with the money only to discover that his mother died — he missed his chance to say goodbye, all for a cash prize.
A year after leaving the games, Gi-hun gets a mysterious invitation to visit Il-nam (O Yeong-su) a.k.a Player 1, who, despite losing in an early round of the games, appears now to be alive (though barely). But he wasn’t really just another player — Il-nam was the creator of the entire violent game, which he concocted to keep his rich clients (the gold-masked VIPs) entertained. The act of betrayal activates Gi-hun to return to the games, seemingly to take revenge on the Front Man (Lee Byung-hun) who is keeping the challenges going even after Il-nam’s death.
In the midst of the action, Hwang Jun-ho (Wi Ha-joon), a detective investigating the disappearances of those taken into the games, finds his way onto the island where all the contestants were competing. While there, he discovers the true identity of the Front Man — he’s Hwang In-ho, Jun-ho’s brother. Moments after, In-ho pushes Jun-ho to his supposed demise.
There aren’t many characters returning for Season 2 — the deadly nature of the game at the center of the series makes it difficult to keep too many central characters around. But a recent teaser from Netflix' confirms that Lee Jung-jae, Lee Byung-hun, Wi Ha-jun, and Gong Yoo will reprise their roles.
Joining the cast as new players are Yim Si-wan, best known as a member of the boy band ZE:A, and South Korean actors Kang Ha-neul (Curtain Call, Insider); Park Sung-hoon (The Glory, Memorials); and Yang Dong-geun (Cheer Up, The Forbidden Marriage). So far no women have been cast to fill the void left behind by Jung Ho-yeon and Kim Joo-ryoung.
When the show was renewed last summer, series creator Hwang Dong-hyuk tweeted out a few hints for what is in store: “Gi-hun returns. The Front Man returns… The man in the suit with the ddakji might be back. You’ll also be introduced to Young-hee’s boyfriend, Cheol-su.” (Young-hee, for those who forgot, is the Red Light, Green Light doll who boasted the highest kill count of the 33rd games. Maybe her boyfriend is here to outdo her?)
Based on the casting alone, there are some loose ends from Season 1 that will need to be addressed. If Wi Ha-jun is returning, for instance, that implies that Detective Jun-ho may not be dead after all. And if he is alive, he now knows who is running the game. Netflix’s casting teaser also indicates that the new cast members are new players in the game. How or if the 34th Squid Games will differ from what was portrayed in Season 1 remains to be seen.
Gi-hun’s reason for returning is murky. As the hero of the series, it would make sense for him to try to destroy the games, especially based on all the information Il-nam shared before his death. But that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s going back as a player. One fan theory posits that Gi-hun’s bright red hair signaled that he was joining the staff of the Squid Games, working to tear down the operation from the inside.
Netflix has not yet announced a release date for Season 2. According to the Netflix-centric blog What’s on Netflix, filming for the series starts in July and is expected to last for up to 10 months. Based on that timeline, the earliest release would be sometime in Fall 2024.
The success of Squid Game led to the green-lighting of the reality competition series Squid Game: The Challenge, which premieres in November 2023. The premise mirrors that of the scripted drama: 456 real people from around the world compete in Squid Game-inspired challenges for a chance to win $4.56 million. A teaser released by Netflix shows the hopeful contestants entering the playground for a game of Red Light, Green Light, dressed in the same track suits as the fictional characters on the series.
Contestants aren't killed off if they lose a challenge, of course, but that doesn’t mean that the show is entirely harmless — within the first day of filming back in January 2023, medics were called to treat up to five contestants for cold-related injuries. According to a recent Variety report, a number of contestants collapsed on set while filming during a cold snap in the U.K.
Squid Game Season 1 is streaming on Netflix. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.
Brianna Wellen is a TV Reporter at Primetimer who became obsessed with television when her parents let her stay up late to watch E.R.