Sinister Details About Squid Game Player 001

This article contains major spoilers for "Squid Game."

The South Korean drama "Squid Game" has taken the world by storm. It's a twisting, turning tale about the lengths people will go in order to survive. Over the course of the series, hundreds of contestants are whittled down to just a handful as the players of Squid Game try to win the grand prize: enough money to change their life forever. The big problem is that in order for that person to win, everyone else in the competition has to die. 

There's plenty of betrayal and heartbreak along the way, but one of the biggest shocks comes near the end of the series and it involves Player 001, an old man named Oh Il-nam (O Yeong-su). While his twist could come as a huge surprise, the creators littered hints about Il-nam's true identity throughout the series. Let's break down the clues that showed us the sinister secret behind Player 001.

The Truth About the Old Man

In the season finale for "Squid Game," we learn that Player 001, the man who befriended main protagonist and eventual winner Seong Gi-hun (Lee Jung-jae), was the one who set up the entire game, the grandmaster behind all of this mayhem. While he lied about his identity and hid his involvement in the games from Gi-hun, he also told some truths about himself. Sometimes Il-nam is telling the truth, but everyone brushes off what he's saying as a sign of his increasing dementia. If only they knew. 

Il-nam has watched the game for many years as The Host, but decided to join in when he realized he was dying. When Gi-hun discovers the truth, revealed to him by Il-nam himself from a hospital bed, he is horrified. Viewers were shocked too, because the character everyone thought was just a sweet old man was actually an evil game-master responsible for so many deaths. The clues were there if you looked, however, though some were very sneaky.

Safe from the Red Light, Green Light Doll

One of the very first clues that Il-nam is playing by different rules than the rest of the contestants is during the first game: Red Light, Green Light. When the giant creepy doll spins her head around to check for movement during the "red light" part of the game, the contestants are highlighted green. Il-nam is never highlighted, and often the player nearest to him avoids her gaze as well. He's occasionally scanned, but the light doesn't linger on him the way it does the other players. He's safe. 

Not only does Il-nam make it through unscathed, he also seems pretty excited about the game. He's running towards the finish line with a carefree smile while others die around him. Of course the guy in charge would rig the game in his own favor, so it makes sense that he's not in any danger of getting shot during the first group game. 

He Knew Which Shape to Pick in the Sugar Game

In the second group game, the players must pick a shape. They will eventually have to use a pin to free the shape from a disc of cooked sugar without breaking the shape. Il-nam chooses the star because he already knows the rules of the game ahead, and knows that the star is the easiest shape for him to cut out. When Gi-Hun asks him to switch before the rules are even announced, Il-nam refuses because he couldn't possibly cut out the more difficult shaped umbrella. 

Each of the games are based on something that Il-nam is nostalgic for, and the sugar game is no different. He's downright excited to cut out the star, seemingly oblivious to everyone freaking out around him as they race to release their own shapes. It doesn't matter what kind of horror happens around him, Il-nam keeps on smiling. On a first watch, it looks like dementia, but when you know the truth, it's so much more sinister. 

He Has a Perfect Tug-of-War Strategy

The players who survived the sugar game get to go on to play a deadly game of tug-of-war. Things aren't looking good for Il-nam's team: he's an old man, plus they have two smaller women on their team. When they go up against a team full of strong, healthy men, Il-nam tells his team a perfect strategy. He explains that he did it all the time as a child, but it's entirely possible he learned the technique as a spectator in other Squid Games. He's downright giggly about the whole thing too, even though he's at the front of the line and could easily be pulled to his death. 

Then again, eagle-eyed viewers noticed that while everyone else's handcuffs are padlocked to the rope, Il-nam's are not. Even if his team loses, he could still unhitch himself and get to safety at the last moment. 

He Stopped the Riot

In episode four, there is a terrible riot that breaks out among the players after lights out. Some of the more violent people decide to try to kill their weaker opponents in the dark, and it's terrifying. It's one of the rare moments where Il-nam isn't in control, and he begs the guards to stop the carnage. He pleads with them through the night-vision camera, his voice trembling: "I'm so scared."

The guards end up going in, stopping the ongoing violence. Why would they listen to Il-nam if he was just a player in the game? After all, the rules don't say anything about murdering your opponents while they sleep. His life is genuinely in danger, however, so they are willing to break general protocol to protect him.. 

He Recognizes the Marble Game Neighborhood Because He Designed It

In the next game, the players are told to split into pairs. Il-nam and Gi-hun team up, only to "discover" that they will be playing against one another. It gives Il-nam a chance to test his friend. He wanders around the fake city streets, telling player 456 how much it reminds him of home. That's because he helped design it, and it's based on his childhood streets. He feigns a bad bout of dementia, acting foolish while Gi-hun plays the game to win. He then turns deadly serious when his friend tricks him in order to survive. After all, Il-nam has told everyone he's dying from a tumor, so Gi-hun doesn't want to throw his life away for a dying man.

Il-nam asks him how he could betray his friend, before going right back to feigning dementia. It breaks Gi-hun's heart, but he has dreams of reuniting with his daughter and helping pay for his mother's medical care in his mind.

His "Death" Happens Off-Screen

After the heartbreaking decision is made, the guards take Il-nam into another room to execute him. Unlike the man brutal executions we've seen before, his happens offscreen. "Squid Game" is never shy about showing the horrific violence of the games, so why was the audience spared from this one? Obviously we now know it's because Il-nam was never executed, and lives beyond the games. When Gi-hun tracks him down after the games are over, the old man is on his hospital deathbed. We do see him die this time, but by then we already know exactly who he is. 

It's likely that Il-nam thought that he would be the odd one out from the marble game and would be taken away by the guards. Everyone would assume he had been killed elsewhere for being the odd numbered player, and he would simply avoid the more difficult games ahead and be able to observe. After all, the marble game is followed by a game where the players hop from one glass pane to another — something the elderly Il-nam wouldn't be able to do. He knew he had to be out before that game, and being "executed" in another room served that purpose just fine. 

His Name Translates to "First Man"

There's one hidden clue that's easier to figure out if you speak Korean. Player 001's real name is Oh Il-nam, which he tells Gi-hun before his faked death. He confirms this again in the final episode. The character's name literally translates to "first man" in English: "Il" (일) means one, and "nam" (남) means man. 

Not only is Il-nam player 001 and the first "player" in the Squid Game, but he's also the creator of the game. He's the top ranked person among the guards, the Front Man, and the VIPs. He is The Host, the number one man in every way.

His Hands Hold the Host's Mask

Everyone who isn't a competitor in "Squid Game" wears some kind of mask, and The Host is no exception. The employees and guards all wear masks with simple geometric shapes on them, but the VIPS and Host get to wear something special. The VIPs all wear different elaborate golden animal masks, and The Host follows this theme. He wears an owl mask made of gold and crystals that is as beautiful as it is terrifying. In the seventh episode, we briefly see a pair of hands picking up the Host mask and putting it on. Those hands look exactly like the gnarled old hands that we also watch cut out a star and play marble games, because they belong to Il-nam.