What happens to the old man in the squid game?

What happens to the old man in the squid game?

Netflix’s newest K-drama Squid Game has been a raving topic on the internet and I credit the uniqueness of the concept, the characters and the fantastic twist for its massive success.

Once you begin watching it, it is bound to keep you hooked with its unexpected shocks and surprises. But my most favorite twist was definitely the one at the end, involving Oh Il-nam (played by Oh Young-soo) aka the mysterious old man from the Squid Game.

So here I am, sharing with you everything you need to know (and some things you might have missed) about the old man, one of the interesting characters I have come across.

Il-nam is introduced as a frail old man who’s a contestant in the Squid Game. But in reality, he was only pretending to be a contestant in the game. He was the mastermind and orchestrator of the games all along. He dies in the end after revealing his intentions to Gi-hun.

Who is Oh Il-nam?

In the beginning of the season, we meet Il-nam as a frail, terminally ill, weak old man who Gi-hun first meets when he enters the dorms on the sinister islands. It’s also revealed that Il-nam is suffering from a brain tumor.

Everything we know about the old man in Squid Game
Oh II-nam and Gi-hun | Source: Fandom

So he has basically decided to get into this Squid Game as his final adventure. In stark contrast to other players, for whom this game is a stake of life and death, Il-nam comes across as the one who is simply looking to have fun as he knows he does not have much time to live.

He is here for the experience, not the money.

Gi-hun and Il-nam form a beautiful bond over the course of the games, almost like a father and a son.

This old man aka Il-nam is the No 1 contestant (in the sense that he is the first player to have entered, or something in the same lines because every contestant has a number in the game) and as of now, all we know of him is that he is just another player in this brutal series of games.

What Happens to Him Finally?

In the marble round, Gi-hun and Il-nam pairs up opposite each other, where Gi-hun tricks him and manages to win the game. As a result, we have to say goodbye to the old man as he is eliminated.

But as was the case with Mi-nyeo (who was eliminated because he did not have a partner), Il-nam was not really eliminated in reality. After a year of the game, Gi-hun is seen leading life in extreme poverty as he cannot use his money because of his guilt of cheating the old man.

One day, he received a letter which requested him to visit an address in Seoul.

When Gi-hun reaches the address mentioned, he realizes that the old man from the games or the No 1 is actually still alive. Finally, he reveals his true identity and his secret to Gi-hun.

The secret leaves Gi-hun heartbroken, and while he was walking away he looked back one last time to face Il-nam. This is the ultimate climax, considering it gives us the final resolve of the moral dilemma in the core of Squid Game’s plot.  

But unfortunately, Il-nam had already died by then. So at the end, Il-nam does die but not in the game. He dies after revealing the truth about his identity and intentions to Gi-hun, which proves that he did think of Gi-hun as a real friend.

What is His Secret?

The old man Il-nam’s was never a contestant of the games in reality. Rather, he was the mastermind behind it all and he handled and orchestrated the games all along.

But not in the evil way. I mean he wasn’t just playing with lives because he was bored. Rather, Il-nam is the representation of the ultimate pessimist in this sense, because he derived pleasure from toying with human beings simply as he has lost hope of any good left in humanity.

Everything we know about the old man in Squid Game
Oh Il-nam | Source: Fandom

For him, they were no longer humans and he is unable to believe in the innate good in people. Gi-hun lies in complete contrast of this belief, as he believes in the good in people. In short, he is, despite the odds faced by him, an optimist.

According to Il-nam, being steeped in wealth and property he is no longer able to enjoy small pleasures in life such as joy or grief. So, he created these brutal games and pretended to be a contestant in them to create a “sport” for his rich friends, also known as the VIPs.

Squid Game essentially gives us a very important and realistic portrayal of unequal distribution of wealth, one of the many unfair consequences of capitalism.

Through Il-nam we see a billionaire who has much more than he would need, while Gi-hun is eternally indebted and has to lead his life in extreme poverty. We also see how their outlooks in life differ drastically.

Oh also, the brain tumor was not a joke. Il-nam was genuinely ill and interestingly, in a sort of irony, he spends his last moments in a game too.

Squid Game | Gi-hun realises the old man was behind everything

He bets with Gi-hun that nobody would help a drunken man covered in snow outside in the streets, as he believes there’s no good left in people for them to do that.

Gi-hun believed someone would eventually help him and finally, he does get help. But in what I would call a dark, ambigious end, Il-nam is not alive to see it.

Il-nam dies with the belief that there’s no good in people, while Gi-hun lives on as he watches the drunken man get help and wins even this last bet with Il-nam.

Hints You may Have Missed Leading to his Secret

Everything we know about the old man in Squid Game
Player 01 | Source: Fandom

TBH I feel there were quite a few hidden tricks that we missed about the final upcoming twist about Il-nam in the end. Here’s a few I spotted.

First of all, he is called Player 01. Basically, this number assigned meant that he was the first player of the game or more like the OG player. It is quite odd that despite being one of the oldest players, he was the one who was assigned 01.

So, that there is a hint that he is not one of the players but the founder player himself. Secondly, he was not targetted during the red light or green light.

If you noticed, every other player’s tracksuit had a green light, Il-nam’s did not. Probably because he is the founder and no danger should fall on him.

Tug of war scene | Squid game

Also, his strategy during the tug of war is simply perfectly designed. Though Il-nam does say that the reason is how frequently he played tug of war as a child, his strategies and motives clearly reveal how qualified he is.

As the creator, he obviously knew best. Finally, his smiles throughout such brutal, violent games is uncanny. He was the odd one out among the players.

While others were competing for money and to lead a life without debts and financial constraints, he was simply wanting to have some fun. In a show that deals with inequal distribution of wealth and the problem of class differences, his smile truly is symbolic considering his identity.

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About Squid Game

Squid Game is a South Korean survival show written and directed by Hwang Dong-hyuk. The nine-episode series released on Netflix on September 17, 2021 and has become an internet sensation. 

It features an ensemble of Lee Jung-jae, Park Hae-soo, O Yeong-su, Wi Ha-joon, Ho Seong-tae, Kim Joo-ryung, Jung Ho-yeon and Anupam Tripathi. It became the first Korean show to reach No. 1 in the U.S. 

The plot revolves around 456 people deep-in-depth, playing multiple dangerous games based on children’s games in a bid to win 45.6 billion KRW. The employees wear a mask with a triangle, square and a circle, signifying the hierarchy and an ode to the ‘Squid Game’ Koreans play.

It’s acclaimed for its dark satire, violence and the class and wealth inequality showcased flawlessly.