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Why Squid Game's Old Man And Guards Have Fans Raising Their Eyebrows

Contains major spoilers for "Squid Game"

The ultra-popular South Korean Netflix series "Squid Game" had quite a few twists and turns throughout its first season, but none were as shocking as the huge revelation it saved for its finale.

One of the most heartbreaking contestants caught up in the titular competition was 001 or Oh Il-nam (O Yeong-su). The elderly man often had a cheerful disposition despite the dire circumstances but was also living with dementia that appeared to be getting worse as the competition wore on. During the fateful game of marbles that saw friend pitted against friend, Seong Gi-hun (Lee Jung-jae) used Il-nam's forgetfulness to his advantage. The pair had been allies throughout the competition, and although Gi-hun was desperate to exit the game with his life, he took no pleasure in beating and subsequently condemning Il-nam to death.

But that wasn't exactly what happened. A year after the game, Gi-hun receives a mysterious note and finds that Il-nam is actually still alive. Not only that, he's the man behind the games themselves and was competing because he knew he was near the end of his life and wanted one last thrill. The twist is a pretty mind-boggling one, especially when thinking back to exactly how some of the games played out during the competition.

On the show's Reddit page, some fans have been trying to work out the logistics of how Il-nam and the guards coordinated to keep the elderly man from dying.

How did Il-nam plan to survive tug-of-war?

One of the big clues the show left about Il-nam's actual fate is the fact that when he's "shot" by the guards after losing marbles his "death" happens off-screen. In reality, the guard faked the shooting and if Il-nam had lost Red Light, Green Light, or the sugar cookie game, there was likely a similar plan in place. But, as a Reddit user pointed out, one competition, in particular, wouldn't have allowed for Il-nam to fake his death.

On the Season 1 discussion thread, user u/ClassroomWarm asked the question, "If they didn't win tug of war would the reds just have let old man.. die?" Unlike most of the other competitions, the contestants who lost the third game, tug-of-war, weren't killed by the guards or a gun turret. Instead, the game took place over a massive pit with the losing team simply falling to their deaths. Had Il-nam's team lost tug-of-war, there wouldn't have been a way for the guards to covertly intervene.

This question opened the door for a larger discussion not just about what Il-nam was expecting, but how much the guards themselves knew. User u/dreamwolf321 posited, "They might not have known who he was... maybe the Squares knew, but the underlings probably not." On the other hand, u/maskedbanditoftruth rebutted, "The underlings knew enough not to actually shoot him in the marble game."

Theories flew back and forth about how Il-nam's deceit was orchestrated. But when it comes to the simple question of "what would have happened if he lost tug-of-war" several users presented a compelling theory.

Fans think Il-nam was prepared to die the entire time

For several commenters, the answer to what Il-nam had planned if his team lost tug-of-war is simple: he would have died.

User u/SacredVow pointed out that Il-nam obviously knew what games he would be participating in. They argued that while he likely practiced the individual games when it came to tug-of-war, "he went in to his own games prepared to die if he lost ..."

That was a view shared by u/dreamwolf321. They wrote, "I feel like the old man wouldn't care regardless. He had a huge smile on his face throughout the game... he was loving every minute. Probably thought it would be an badass way to go out if he did lose."

Considering Il-nam's ill health was not all an act, that seems to be the most likely answer. He joined the games for the thrill of it and while he clearly wasn't trying to die, part of that thrill was likely the possibility that he might have flown off that tug-of-war platform if things had gone a different way.

User u/JelliedHam provided some interesting analysis of this mentality. They argued that his willingness to die in a game he created where others were desperate to live makes him all the more sinister of a character.

"Must be nice to have nothing to lose, already old and dying, and all of your affairs and family (if any) are taken care of," they wrote. "It's brutally demented to torture people in vulnerable positions to feel alive, and doubly so to pretend you're one of them."

You can catch "Squid Game" on Netflix.