Warning: The following contains spoilers for Season 1 of Squid Game.
If player 067, Kang Sae-byeok, is Squid Game’s tragic hero, the character poised to finish the game and for maybe the most noble cause—liberating her brother from the orphanage, giving him a better life—only to fall at the last moment, then player 212, Han Mi-Nyeo (played spectacularly by Kim Joo-Ryoung) might be something of the show’s noble villain: we root for her only at the end, during a moment of sublime redemption.
Unlike Kang, Han’s backstory is almost entirely unknown. In the second episode, we learn during her plea to the guards that she has a newborn child who she hasn’t yet registered; she says she still needs to name the baby. But even this admission is dubious. When the players return to the game after being released, one remarks how the mother (Han) has also come back. He wonders sarcastically if she had the chance to name the child.
Han is positioned as the master manipulator among the players. At times, it’s difficult to know whether her strategies are calculated or desperate, which is why Han seems to be one of the more divisive characters on the series—Twitter either hates her or loves her.
She's annoying. She's a badass. She ruins the series. She makes the series.
One thing is clear, though: player 212, Han Mi-Nyeo, has the most spectacular death.
What is the significance of player 212?
Aside from shear survival, much of Han’s character motivation involves player 101, Jang Deok-su, the gangster. Both characters are portrayed as extreme egoists, playing the game uncooperatively for survival and self gain. These characters are set against others like Seong Gi-hun (No. 0456) and then later Kang, who form teams and attempt to collaborate so that multiple players can win.
These two approaches represent both conflicting strategies to the games as well as each character’s internal struggle. By the end, Kang begins playing cooperatively and Cho Sang-woo, No. 0218, begins playing selfishly—strategic turns which also represent character changes.
Han’s redemptive moment is more vindictive than selfless, but it, nonetheless, embodies a character change. Throughout the game, her fear of Jang was equal to her fear of death. When crossing the bridge behind Jang she decides to finally take him down once and for all, killing both of them rather than letting Jang bully her and live. Her act exposes Jang’s cowardice and shows Han to have been the more principled player—even if her principles are reduced to mere revenge. According to her own rules, at least, she won. She conquered Jang. She conquered death.
Her death also reinforces the larger moral argument of the series, which is the latent cruelty—and ultimate failure—of egoism, the position that one ought to act only for self gain. Every player who employs this strategy loses in Squid Game. Han and Jang are the biggest proponents of this zero sum position. When both forces finally meet, the outcome is irony: they both die.
What happens to player 212?
She’s almost certainly dead. Although, we don’t see her hit the ground, we can assume that she’s not returning for future games.
Still, there’s always the chance we see her in future seasons.
Squid Game is on path to become Netflix’s biggest international hit of all time—and one of the top series of all time, period. The battle-royale style thriller from South Korea has turned bloody entertainment into an actual floating piggy bank filling up with real won. Hopefully, that success means future seasons and money in the pockets of the creators who made it all happen.
If the series goes on to future seasons, we may learn more about the deceased players; seasons which take place in the past—focusing on the games of previous years—may reintroduce players we know. This would likely be more Easter-egg-y than narratively involved.
We’ve probably seen the last of player 212.
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