'Squid Game' Ending Explained: Here's What Happened to the Winner of the Deadly Contest

Squid Game—the new K-drama series on Netflix that's taken the world by storm, ranking no. 1 among top television shows on Netflix in 83 countries, including the U.S.—has seen fans crying out for a second season.

Its gripping final episode ended with a dark twist that's left viewers with more burning questions to be answered.

The mystery thriller sees 456 cash-strapped people each be handed a business card inviting them to compete in six fatal survival games on a remote island for the chance to win 45.6 billion Korean won (around $39 million), with the losers of each game being met by their deaths.

Several bloodbaths, betrayals and 455 deadly eliminations later, one remaining contestant—Gi-hun (played by Korean actor Lee Jung-jae), player no. 456 who was the last person to be recruited—was declared the winner after the final round of the Squid Game (a real-life children's street game that was played by many Koreans in their childhood).

A still from "Squid Game" on Netflix.
A still from "Squid Game" on Netflix. Netflix

The Truth Behind the Survival Games

Traumatized by the deaths (including that of his childhood friend Sang-woo, player no. 218) that led to his victory, Gi-hun doesn't touch his prize money. He returns to his destitute life and becomes a disheveled recluse after finding his mother dead at home.

One snowy evening, Gi-hun receives a business card from the survival competition with a mysterious message noting a time and place at a building location. When Gi-hun goes to the location, he sees Il-nam—player no. 001, an old man with a brain tumor who was believed to have died after being eliminated from the game—bedridden in the corner of an empty office.

Facing a glass wall overlooking a homeless man passed out on the street below, Il-nam reveals the shocking truth that he orchestrated the deadly survival competition that killed hundreds.

A still from "Squid Game" on Netflix.
A still from "Squid Game" on Netflix. Netflix

An enraged Gi-hun demands answers as to who Il-nam is and why he did this, to which the dying old man said: "I make money by lending it out."

The wealthy old man arranged this survival game for himself and other rich VIP guest spectators to watch contestants compete to their deaths because the one thing the rich and poor have in common is that "everything gets boring in the end," regardless of how much money you do or don't have. He wanted to relive the feeling of innocent fun he enjoyed as a child before he dies and participated in the game for that reason.

Believing the survival games had demonstrated the true heart of humanity—one of greed and selfishness, with a total lack of care for others—the old man asks Gi-hun to play one final game. He says if a passerby helps the unconscious homeless man on the street below before the clock strikes midnight, Gi-hun wins the game.

As a stranger does indeed arrive at the scene with police to help the homeless man, the old man takes his last breath and dies while Gi-hun is still in the room.

What's Happened to Player No. 456?

Fast-forward to a year later, Gi-hun is clean-shaven, with his hair trimmed and dyed in an arresting, blood red hue.

Later, while en route to board a plane to visit his daughter in the U.S., he spots a haunting familiar face on a train platform—the salesman (played by Gong Yoo, from Train to Busan and several other Korean films and dramas) who first recruited him to the survival game.

Seeing the salesman recruiting another man, Gi-hun rushes over to the other side and snatches the business card out of the man's hand, warning him not to participate in the game.

"Squid Game" on Netflix.
The business card handed to potential new recruits in "Squid Game" on Netflix. Netflix

Later, while walking along the jetway bridge to board the plane, Gi-hun dials the number on the business card and says: "I can't forgive you...for everything you're doing."

The voice at the other end tells Gi-hun: "No. 456, don't get any absurd ideas. Just get on the plane, it's for your own good."

Upon hanging up the phone, Gi-hun does an immediate about-face, walking out of the jetway bridge and away from the plane.

The open-ended final scene heavily points toward a second season, which could see Gi-hun attempt to put an end to the deadly game once and for all.

Other Mysteries Remain

Gi-hun may also unravel other mysteries in a potential forthcoming season, such as the unknown backstory of the "Front Man" (whose name is In-ho, played by Korean actor Lee Byung-hun), who's been managing the game on behalf of the old man. Why did he stay on the island after winning the game years ago? And what does he ultimately want?

The Front Man also appears briefly in the room just after the old man (player no. 001) dies. Is he responsible in some way for Il-nam's death? And is he now the top dog of the survival game or is there someone else above him?

A still from "The Squid Game"
A still from the new Netflix K-drama series "The Squid Game." Netflix

There's also the question of the Front Man's brother, police officer Jun-ho, who infiltrated the game facility disguised as a staffer and his cover was eventually blown. The Front Man later shoots Jun-ho near the officer's shoulder at a cliff's edge, which throws him into the sea below. But could Jun-ho still be alive?

Before Jun-ho was shot, battling a weak signal, he called his superior for backup police to track him and attempted to send images and videos of the game facility via his phone. But it's unclear whether the files went through.

These are just some of the many questions begging for answers in a sequel. But is a second season in the cards?

In an exclusive interview with Variety, published on September 24, Squid Game director Hwang Dong-hyuk said: "I don't have well developed plans for 'Squid Game 2.'

"It is quite tiring just thinking about it. But if I were to do it, I would certainly not do it alone. I'd consider using a writers' room and would want multiple experienced directors," Hwang explained.

A still from "Squid Game" on Netflix.
A still from "Squid Game" on Netflix. Netflix