‘Death’s Game’ Part 1 Review: Is Amazon’s K-Drama Worth The Hype?

It wouldn’t be an overstatement to proclaim that South Korea consistently delivers some of the most riveting thriller entertainment. Long before the (K)wave of interest in soppy K-dramas and overproduced K-pop, it was thriller Korean cinema that was gripping audiences all around the world, exemplified by masterpieces like Oldboy and I Saw The Devil. This is probably why said genre keeps delivering hard-hitting shows every month. This year alone, we’ve had a dozen in this category, with Sweet Home 2 being the latest in the mix. So, when I heard of Death’s Game, I was certainly excited to see what the industry was going to cook up for us. The South Korean industry, known for its prowess in adapting webtoons and consistently delivering compelling content, had something promising in store. Oftentimes, though, the buzz surrounding a show intensifies when it hails from said industry. When we got to see the ensemble cast of Death’s Game, there was more reason to believe that this show would be the next big thing. No, really, such a massive cast in a TV show, and that too on Prime?! Unexplored territory.

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The show follows the story of a man who has lost all hope on earth and decides to take his own life to end his misery. He considers death a means to end his pain, not the end itself. This irks “Death” herself, and she decides to punish him for trying to meet her before it was meant to be. The punishment: experience how painful death can really be. It’s almost like being reset in a video game, hence the name of the show. I suppose when all the excitement from seeing who is showing up next in the show wears off, there is still a lot to look forward to. This has got to be one of the fastest-paced K-dramas I’ve seen. It does not halt for a second, going from one scenario to the next within minutes; the context– already established. Normally, shorter K-dramas sometimes come across as rushed or even incomplete, but this one, even if it’s only the first part we’ve seen, has managed to be quick and impressive at the same time.

Don’t worry; as the name suggests, the show goes places with its gore and does somewhat feel video game-like. Visually, it reminds me of shows like Hellbound or the earlier mentioned Sweet Home in terms of aesthetics. There’s drama from start to finish, and the sound design, cinematography, and costuming all add to that. Specifically, there are certain scenes that are quite shocking because of the camera angles and point of view they’ve been taken in, making for a fantastically thrilling watch. I suppose the big worry in a show like this could be the inconsistency in character development, seeing how quickly we have to move on from one character to another. However, the show moves really smoothly between the alternative personas in a graceful manner that doesn’t feel incomplete in any way. The show is essentially a message to anyone who may be struggling, but in the form of an intense rollercoaster ride that doesn’t quite end (just yet). All we can do now is wait for what’s to come and expect it to be just as good. I’m also very keen on knowing how the end will turn out, considering how the story has gone so far.

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In terms of performances, there was no doubt that this massive cast was going to do an incredible job, but watching the show really makes it clear. Seo In-Guk and Park So-Dam are fire as the two leads—a man with no faith and Death herself. I was stressed that they wouldn’t get as much screen time considering how many characters we’ve got to go through in the show, but it’s just enough to make us understand and feel for the characters. You’ve got to pay attention because there are more actors in here than you could imagine. What I’m most excited to see is Kim Ji-Hoon’s role and how it develops in the second half of the series. At this point, you could almost say he’s being typecast as the bad guy. It’s too bad he’s so good at being bad.

Over the years, there has been a lot of discourse about the Korean suicide rate. Just like elsewhere, many times, the media touches on the subject to encourage citizens to help themselves. It seems this “trend” (for lack of a better word) has become even more popular in the last two years, and many shows are pretty much PSAs on suicide and mental health. I don’t think this is a problem at all; in fact, I think it’s absolutely wonderful because we know how largely impactful media can be, especially in a country like South Korea. This year, we had Revenant, which added a horror spin to the subject. Daily Dose of Sunshine was quite depressing, but it was a detailed series about how one can react to a person struggling with some sort of mental condition or even empathize with them.

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I’m not quite certain why the showrunners decided to deliver this show in two parts—four episodes each—so far apart. Personally, a month-long wait may take away from the thrill of the show quite a bit. Even if the series ended on a massive cliffhanger with a lot of unanswered questions, If you’re someone who doesn’t have the patience to wait out the gap, I’d suggest holding on till the second part releases and binging the whole thing at once. On the other hand, if you feel the slightest sense of “missing out,” then quickly watch this show because anyone who cares has already done it! I’d give Death’s Game 3.5 out of 5 stars for its quick story, thrilling action, gore, and surprising comical moments.


Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika, or "Ru," is a fashion designer and stylist by day and a serial binge-watcher by night. She dabbles in writing when she has the chance and loves to entertain herself with reading, K-pop dancing, and the occasional hangout with friends.

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In terms of performances, there was no doubt that this massive cast was going to do an incredible job, but watching the show really makes it clear. 'Death’s Game' Part 1 Review: Is Amazon's K-Drama Worth The Hype?