In December 2023, Netflix premiered the third season of “Single’s Inferno,” a South Korean dating show. Known for its dramatic plots and mysterious guests, the series has kept audiences eagerly waiting for its annual return. This latest season is the most successful so far, with over 71 million hours of views alone, compared to 79 million hours from the previous two seasons combined.
In “Single’s Inferno,” six female and six male guests are brought to “Hell Island,” where they are given limited food and makeshift cabins to sleep in. With no access to social media or external contacts, guests are forced to overcome the challenges of living together while trying to find love. Every afternoon, contestants are given a chance to escape to “Paradise Island,” a luxury hotel, if they successfully match with another guest on the island. It’s only during these date nights that contestants are allowed to reveal details of their personal lives, such as occupations and ages.
Midway through the show, a secret participant is introduced to the island to disrupt the relationship web. Finally, at the end of eight days, contestants make their dramatic final decision about who they’d like to end up with, attempting to “hold hands” with their desired date.
In this season, the immediate twist comes after the first date night, when viewers learn that, for the first time, there will be two “Hell Islands” with completely different casts. Though the two islands, which guests were allowed to switch between, brought immediate suspense to the show, the tension only lasted until episode three, when all members came together as one cast for the rest of the season.
Season three also increased the frequency of date nights compared to prior seasons by making it mandatory for participants to match with another guest every day. This rule change certainly enhanced the dramatic elements of the show, allowing the audience to observe different combinations of couples in every episode. But it also pushed guests to go on dates even when they weren’t interested, limiting opportunities for those with more meaningful connections to get to know each other.
One of the season’s participants, Lee Gwan-hee, a 34-year-old professional basketball player in the Korean Basketball League, caused much debate online for being a “walking red flag.” Known for his situationships with the “33% Trio” — three fellow female guests on the island — Gwan-hee surprises the audience with one change of heart after another.
While Gwan-hee’s drama is undoubtedly entertaining, it took away from other guests’ screen time, who had fewer opportunities to showcase their personalities and interests.
Out of all of its seasons, the latest installment of “Single’s Inferno,” while definitely the most theatrical, is also the most unbalanced. The season did provide millions of viewers with laughs during the winter holidays, but the reality of the relationships developed in the show may be called into question.
Rebecca Weng is a Senior Staff Writer for Arts and Culture. She is a freshman from Guangzhou, China studying English and CS-Econ.