What are your thoughts on Jang Deok-Su (gangster guy/player 101)?

2021.10.16 20:42 question_quigley What are your thoughts on Jang Deok-Su (gangster guy/player 101)?

I've seen a wide range of perspectives on this guy, from people saying he's the devil incarnate, to people saying he's as much a victim of a broken system as anyone else.
I saw an interesting post here that analyzed him as depending on his tough-guy persona as a means of survival - he's built a reputation as someone who should not be fucked with by bullying the weaker players and killing anyone who crosses him. This is likely a result of his way of surviving in his regular life too - we don't know too much about his background, but we know he was heavily involved in high-calibre organized crime, a world that people are often born into, and where you are tough, or you die.
At the same time, behind his persona, Deok-Su is terrified of death. He initially voted to abandon the game in the second episode, which surprised me given that he's the type of person who seems built for the horrors of squid game at first glance. His means of survival is also a double edged-sword - he's put a target on his back by making himself everyone's enemy. Gi-Hun points this out to him in the dorm when he says that he can't trust his own teammates not to stab him in the back, since everyone is incentivized to kill the biggest, strongest, and cruelest player. He is shaken by Gi-Hun's comment to the point that he calls off his team's planned rampage in favor of resting and keeping watch. Out of all the players, he arguably has the most horrifying incentive to be in the game - his debt is his own fault and a result of his own greed, but the punishment is that he will be murdered and have his organs harvested, an absolutely brutal fate that most people would do extreme things to avoid.
When Deok-Su dies on the bridge, once again we see his terror in the face of death. He resorts to begging player 212 to let him have a chance and jump to the next tile when he realizes she intends to kill him - in that moment he genuinely seems like a scared child in the face of a situation that he can't handle.
It's easy to hate him given his cruelty (I lost my empathy for him in my first viewing after he killed the man who tried to take back his food ration and the girl who saw him cut in line), but on my second viewing I came to appreciate his character more. It's hard to argue with his statement on the bridge - "this is hell, and there are no rules in hell!" The players are clearly meant to kill each other eventually, so what does murder really mean in the context of the game? Even his betrayal of 212 could be seen as justified in a way, given that 212 was arguably only using him for his strength anyway, and we have no way of knowing if she would have betrayed him eventually anyway if it became in her best interests to do so.
What are your thoughts on Deok-Su?
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