This new Korean show came out almost a fortnight ago on Netflix but thanks to peak-period work and, er, Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom I’ve only just got around to starting watching, I’m four episodes in now, and my Tl;dr opinion is: it’s good and an interesting idea, but it’s appeal isn’t quite immediate and you’ll need to be prepared to stick with it a bit.
Netflix are calling it a combination of Physical 100 and Survivor, I don’t think they’re terribly helpful things to compare it to to be honest but there we are. 24 women come to the Island of Fire to test themselves, they are in six teams of four each representing a different high-pressure physical job (police, firefighters, soldiers, stunt actors, athletes and security guards). First job – cross 1km of mudflats to get to a different island, grab your flag and pole (60kg) and come back across the flats to plant your flag in the arena. This is a race, as the fastest teams get to make a big strategic decision – on the island are six ‘bases’, each with their own pros and cons in terms of location, size, ease of access and such like. The map they’re given only shows the locations of the common amenities and their own base, they will have to recce to work out where everyone else is stationed. Every day, at any time, a siren will go off across the island marking the beginning of an eliminatory Base Battle – before each battle each team will hide a team flag somewhere in their base and each player will carry their own personal flag upon their back. If your personal flag gets captured you’re eliminated for the rest of the battle (and this is announced to the rest of the island so other teams have an idea of your team strength), but if another team manages to infiltrate your base and remove your team flag, your team is eliminated from the show and that team will take over your territory – so there’s lots of talk of strategy, who to attack, how much to defend, that sort of thing. There’s almost a fencing like quality to these base battles, lots of spying looking for an opening, feints, counterattacks and the like.
What there isn’t much of is a great deal of levity, at least in the initial episodes, these are Very Serious Women playing a Very Serious Game and it’s not really until after the first Base Battle the show chills a bit and gives us a bit of slice of life and gives us a chance to learn about the contestants so we can start backing them. Between base battles, the teams can buy food, equipment and defensive supplies to improve their base from the store, the currency is the calories burnt in the previous day – there’s a communal gym they can train in to earn currency although perhaps tellingly the team with the most to spend seems to be the one which does the most running. There’s also an Arena Battle, the one I saw was quite good, making and putting out fires and was probably the first chance anyone got to breakout and look quite heroic, the winning team wins equipment and timed-shield so their base can’t be initially attacked during the next base battle.
I think they could have done a bit more with the mysterious island setting, it seems a shame that other than each other’s bases there’s not much else to find through exploring.
I’m invested now so I will watch the rest, helped that episodes (other than the initial hour long one which dragged a bit) clock in at around 45 minutes. There are definitely some interesting concepts here – I don’t think defense building and base raiding has really been done before, but it’s not something that might click immediately.