Squid Game is on track to become the most popular Netflix show of all time… And everyone can’t stop talking about it. But more importantly, the South Korean Dystopian drama has us all questioning how far we would make it in these intense games. Sure, strength and agility were big components of certain challenges… But the people who made it the farthest definitely had some brains. But the question is… Which character was the smartest? That’s what we’re asking today.
I’m Kyle, and this is Squid Game Players: Dumb to Brilliant. Today, we are only looking at players in the games. So we won’t be ranking anyone who isn’t actually competing. As usual, we’ll be starting with the dumbest characters and working our way up to the most brilliant. These characters are… The Dumb.
Starting out, with the Gold Medal of Stupid… we have Player 199 – Abdul Ali. The Foreign Worker. I know… He was such a good guy, we hate to rank him here… But c’mon. He got played hard in that marble round. I don’t care how good natured you are… In a life-or-death game where one person gets a bullet to the head.
.. you do not give your sack of marbles to the person you’re playing against and then skip off to count birds because he told you to. You could tell very early on that he was just prime to be taken advantage of. He was easily the most trusting person there; and that was not the virtue you’d want in a situation like this.
The poor guy was just way too naive. Next, we have all the players who ran backwards once the first player was eliminated. I get it, this is a stressful situation. And that first sniper round clearly caught everyone off guard. But, let’s be real… the games’ rules were stated.
Nobody expected that elimination meant death, but the general rules of the game stayed the same regardless of the actual stakes. Despite over half the players being taken out, the Red Light Green Light should have been the easiest challenge. But these players reacted too impulsively; and for that reason… we had to rank them here. Next, we have Player 69 – The Husband. You can’t help but feel for this guy, but the reason we rank him in the dumb category is for lack of thought.
The marble challenge was revealed to have very loose rules. Anything goes outside of violence. So presumably, he and his wife either A) didn’t figure this out and just played generic marble games in order to let fate decide who lives… or B) they decided together that he would be the one to live.
Perhaps because he was more capable and likely to survive until the end. Losing your spouse is tragic, but I can’t help but think she would have wanted him to push on instead of offing himself before the next challenge.
I mean, if he couldn’t handle living without her, he should have been the one to let himself die in the marble round.
Didn’t really think things through. Rounding out the Dumb Category, we have Player 271. This guy is worth a quick mention because he’s pretty weak and decides to pick a fight with the toughest, most aggressive player in the room. Not a wise decision on his part.
With the dumb characters out of the way, we now enter The Grey Area. These characters showed some wits at times, but certainly not enough. Starting with Player 278 – The Henchman. This guy doesn’t have a whole lot of depth to him, but he’s worth mentioning. He’s definitely a pretty dopey dude, and a follower.
But I suppose you could say that he was smart enough to understand the need to group up early on in the competition with stronger players. Though the marble games he played weren’t any sort of gauge of intelligence, he was definitely shown to let his emotions get the better of him.
So we placed him just outside the Dumb category. Moving onto Player 244 – The Pastor. We aren’t going to hold the man’s faith against him in-and-of itself, but his constant need to put things into the hands of divine intervention in every situation as opposed to trying to problem solve for himself doesn’t earn him any brain points.
That said, he’s smart enough to lay out some strategy occasionally. Such as when he suggests going after the weaker teams when given the chance. Moving onto Player 240 – The Young Woman Ji-yeong. I don’t think we know quite enough about her to really rank her intelligence, but it’s worth noting that she doesn’t do anything that is really dumb.
Unless you include sacrificing herself… But we’d argue that this was a calculated decision, and can’t really hold it against her.
We’re going to round out the Grey Area with Player 212, The Manipulative Han Mi-Nyeo. She is really a mixed bag when it comes to wits because she bounces back and forth with being successful and unsuccessful with her manipulation. She is smart enough to realize that she is a weaker player in many ways, and makes attempts to use others to survive. She uses Deok-su’s team to stay alive during the riots, but also gets screwed over and betrayed by him not long after. Something she probably should’ve seen coming.
She also has a hard time gaining sympathy from others, because they can see some of her more obvious manipulation tactics.
Which is why she ultimately is left without a partner for the marble game… Which ends up working out in her favor. That said, she’s smart enough to use her lighter for the honeycomb challenge; and although it she ended up killing herself along with Deok-su… it was a really smart move to get close and latch onto him like she did. Not to mention the fact that she used their deaths to smash one more glass platform for the remaining players. With The Grey Area wrapped up, we now get to the brighter bulbs in the box.
These characters show their fair share of wits throughout their run. Simply put, these are The Smart Characters We’re going to start the Smart Area with Player 111 – Byeong-Gi – The Doctor. You might expect a doctor to rank a little higher on the IQ chart… but he doesn’t really display too much problem solving skills outside of cheating, though he is still brighter than most players.
But, also, let’s not forget that the reason he’s competing is because of malpractice. That said, we can’t deny that it was a smart move to cheat by leveraging his skills to help corrupt guards harvest organs.
Though he should have cut his losses when the guards told him they didn’t have information on the upcoming games… as opposed to just freaking out. Next, we’re actually going to place Player 456 – Seong Gi-Hun. The Protagonist. He is definitely a smart character, as he’s able to adapt to many situations thrown at him. For instance, his discovery that allowed him to beat the honeycomb game even though he had chosen the worst possible shape really showed his resourcefulness.
And as sad as it was… he was quick witted enough to realize he could trick the Old Man in the marble game. Granted, he did luck out a number of times… For instance, getting caught after tripping in Red Light Green Light… or just getting paired up with the two guys smart enough to win the game of tug-of-war with the weakest team. His other problem is that he is very naive… He puts too much trust in other people, such as Cho Sang-Woo… and lets his empathy get in the way of his survival instinct by pairing up with the Old Man out of pity… Even assuming that the next challenge would be more physical. He is a very good, empathic character, but his naive nature routinely gets in the way, and he’s even indecisive at times… For instance when picking a number for the bridge game.
That number ended up being to his advantage, but that was purely by luck.
He would have been Number One if it wasn’t for the other guy pleading with him to switch… We’re actually going to place Player 101, Jang Deok-Su – The Thug next. It might be a little surprising that we rank him this high because he definitely seems to rely more heavily on brute force and intimidation rather than wits… But if you pay close attention, he actually does a pretty solid job utilizing both brains and brawn. For one, he’s smart enough not to trust anyone. He takes on the leadership role of his group, but he makes sure to watch his back because he knows those guys are about as trustworthy as he is. He’s also smart enough to keep the doctor close to him and protected once he learns about his insider information.
And as sociopathic as it is, using the opportunity to take out as much of his competition as possible during the riot, while he had the advantage of physical power was a solid play. Now, after the riot, he is played pretty well by our protagonist… who points out that he should be worried about his group of thugs himself, because he’d be the best target. This arguably passifies him temporarily and gives the others time to regroup and survive another night. But the best display of brains probably comes from the marble games… When it looks like he’s about to be eliminated from losing too many marbles… He stays calm under pressure and demands a game-switch to something he is better at. He shows that he was listening to the rules and also pivots to something that he is better at.
The reason we don’t rank him as any brighter is because he did way too much throughout the games to create enemies for himself… To the point where one of them literally killed herself just to take him out with her.
In 4th place, we have Player 067 – Kang Sae-Byeok – The North Korea Defector. She is an example of an all-around smart and resourceful player throughout her time in the games. For one, she’s very cautious and untrusting of everyone around her, which given the context… is definitely to her benefit. She’s smart and proactive enough to sneak into the vents to spy on the workers; and then uses Sang-woo to identify what the next game is.
And it’s also worth noting that she’s able to use her own tactics to win the first two challenges. Keeping her cool throughout and even being smart enough to utilize the meat shield technique during Red Light Green Light. Okay, down to our Top 3 Brightest Players… These last characters played the game pretty masterfully.
And for that reason, we’ve labeled them Geniuses. We’re giving the Bronze Medal of Brains to Player 017 – The Glass Maker.
This guy did not have a lot of screentime, but to be totally honest… He was using his smarts the whole time. This guy was able to use his skills as a glass maker to identify what platforms were safe to jump to. But more specifically, he was smart enough not to tell anyone what he knew. Presumably to eliminate his competition… But also, probably because if he alerted anyone to his discovery… The people in charge could have changed something… Which they ultimately did, by turning off the lights. He only revealed what he knew when he absolutely had to, and it was his turn to go first.
This guy played the game about as tactically as you could during this round. The only way he could have been smarter was if he thought to watch his back. We’re giving the Silver Meal of Brains to Player 001 – Oh Il-Nam – The Old Man. Now, the revelation at the end in which we find out he’s responsible for everything kind of makes it difficult to rank him by the same standards as everyone else. It could be argued that he’s the smartest character on the show, given the fact that he tricked everyone in the games.
One can imagine the level of thought and strategy that goes into putting this whole event together.
Not to mention keeping up the facade of the character he was playing. Given everything he got away with, there is no denying that this Old Man is brilliant. With that said, we felt that we wanted to give the Gold Medal of Brains to a real Contestant who got thrown into things randomly and had to rely totally on his wits under pressure. And for that reason, The Gold Medal of Brains goes to Player 218 Cho Sang-Woo.
Say whatever you want about the unethical stuff this guy pulled throughout the competition. This guy played the game about as intelligently as one could, assuming the only goal is survival.
Even in the first game, he’s quick-witted enough to give the main character advice on surviving. And although he may not have intended it at the time, he uses this trust he builds to manipulate him for much of the games later. Not sharing the honeycomb game revelation with his group early on was an incredibly cold but calculated decision that he took to get rid of his competition.
But this also shows that he knew early that things were going to come down to the last man standing… Meaning teammates and allegiances would ultimately be worth diddly-squat. But even knowing this, he’s smart enough to fly under the radar; routinely making himself out to be helpful when advantageous to him. His last minute strategy on the tug-of-war game saved everyone’s life on his team. Tricking Ali is probably some of the quickest thinking of anyone in the show. When you really think about it, his opponent had him beat… Down to his last marble.
The fact that he was able to play on Ali’s emotions, come up with a way to give him the old switch-er-roo of the marble bags and send him off on a pointless task while he collected the marbles… all in the context of his opponent knowing the life-and-death nature of the challenge really shows the guy’s manipulation ability. And that’s not even pointing out the fact that he was the only one who realized that he could define the “game” in whatever way he wanted as long as it didn’t include violence.
He was the only one who extracted that from the rules once they were stated. Pushing the glass-maker was a bit cold, but to be honest, not even comparable to the betrayal of Ali. The glass-maker revealed immediately that he let everyone else ahead of him die without telling anyone the survival information he had.
Knocking the guy through the glass was kind of deserved to an extent; and also gave him the certainty to reach the end of the bridge.
Stabbing the girl was about as cold-blooded of an action that we saw throughout the series. But as horrible as the decision was, it wasn’t a stupid one. Assuming things came down to the last man standing, it was an easy way to increase his survival odds from 33.3% to 50%.
Was Cho Sang-Woo a sociopath? Hard to tell. I think he was a text-book example of Machivallianism.
Essentially embracing the Ends Justify The Means mentality; and willing to use whatever tactics he could to survive. But what do you think?
Did he play the game smarter than anyone else? And for that matter, who do you think the dumbest character was? Let us know in the comment section below. Don’t forget to hit that notification bell and binge our Dumb to Brilliant Playlist. Where we break down which characters from your favorite shows, cartoons and movies have the most brains.
But most importantly, stay wicked..