What to Watch Verdict
Netflix's new competitive reality series will keep you glued to the screen.
Packed full of action
Great at building tension
Early challenges can feel a tad dragged out
Physical: 100 is a compelling watch that’s unlike any other reality show I’ve laid eyes on; now that I have, I'm going to be coming back to it every single week.
For the uninitiated, Physical: 100 is a Korean Netflix Original that's drawing plenty of comparisons to Squid Game, and it's easy to see why (though this is separate from the actual real-life Squid Game series they're working on).
Physical: 100 pits 100 incredibly physically fit contestants (see our Physical: 100 cast guide) from all walks of life against one another to try and find who has the best physique. Those stars are tasked with duking it out in demanding physical “quests” that challenge their speed, agility, strength, and determination to try and become the last one standing. There's big money on offer for the person who does, as the winner stands to walk away from Physical: 100 with 300 million won (roughly $250,000).
The quests themselves take place in massive arenas that are designed to push the competitors to their very limits in all sorts of ways. So far, we’ve seen three major sets: a massive, monkey bar structure for a competition to see who can hang the longest, a suspension bridge for the sand-gathering team task, and two smaller side-by-side arenas for the One-on-One Death Matches which see the stars grappling with one another to keep hold of a ball during a three-minute brawl.
As a show that revolves around its action, everything’s captured in brutal detail. Being in tip-top shape, the contestants do not mess around and fully throw themselves into each task, and it makes for truly compelling viewing. You’ll be treated to plenty of close-ups of the athletes as they throw themselves into the challenges, and are regularly shown highlights from bouts in slow-motion and from multiple angles to emphasize just how demanding the show is.
Physical: 100’s greatest strength is the show’s ability to build tension. The announcements from the game’s mysterious leader are packed with long pauses and punctuated by close-ups of anxious participants. Alongside that, the show is often broken up with talking-heads segments where the competitors big themselves up or namedrop fellow competitors who they think will be a threat. The show's editors also contribute to the sense of tension, as they know exactly when to cut to the credits to make for a solid cliffhanger ending that will keep you coming back for more.
That being said, I did feel that the show’s pacing could be just a touch quicker; with challenges spilling across multiple episodes, I did find myself growing somewhat tired of them at the outset. Seeing how the different contestants tackled the tasks in their own way still kept my eyes glued to the screen, but I was also glad to skip over some of the One-on-One matches in favor of speeding things along to the next stage of the competition.
Regardless, Physical: 100 has gotten off to a solid start, and I'm hopeful that the challenges will come along just a little bit quicker to make sure things stay interesting as more contestants are eliminated from the show.
Episodes 1-4 of Physical: 100 are now streaming on Netflix. New episodes drop in pairs on Tuesdays, with the series finale arriving on February 21, 2023.
Martin is a Staff Writer with WhatToWatch.com, where he produces a variety of articles focused on the latest and greatest films and TV shows.
Some of his favorite shows are What We Do In The Shadows, Bridgerton, Gangs of London, The Witcher, Doctor Who, and Ghosts. When he’s not watching TV or at the movies, Martin’s probably still in front of a screen playing the latest video games, reading, or watching the NFL.
By Lucy Buglass