Checkmate! Netflix introduces a new hit
~Diane Frola, Staff Writer~
The Netflix miniseries, “The Queen’s Gambit,” based on Walter Tevis’s novel by the same name, tells the story of a young orphan and chess prodigy and her rise to championship.
Now watching chess is not something most people find alluring and action-packed. Yet, this mini-series captivates its audience with a strong cast of characters, immersive effects and filming, and a beautiful story full of growth. The show has become Netflix’s most-watched scripted limited series with over 62 million viewers during its first month.
Through seven episodes we watch the orphaned chess prodigy, Beth Harmon, face battles and tribulations both in life and on the chessboard. The show follows the troubled genius from her childhood in a girl’s orphanage to her rise to acclaim as one of the best chess players in the world.
Anya Taylor Joy, who plays Beth, gives an amazing performance depicting the mysterious yet emotionally stunted lead. The single-minded focus of Beth’s character has the audience entrapped in her obsession. You can feel the deep passion she has for the game that leaves the viewers loving chess even if they have never played themselves.
Beth’s love for the game has seeped so thoroughly into her audience that there has been a large surge in chessboard sales recently. With chess board manufacturers seeing an increase of anywhere from 200% to 1000%.
Even if you are not a chess fan and never will be, this show will still entertain any audience as you don’t have to understand the game to enjoy the show. Because as amazing as the game is depicted, so is the story and characters surrounding it.
Beth’s life is a tragic yet encouraging coming of age story. The show covers a few very heavy subjects, including death, abandonment, and addiction.
The show also includes an amazing cast of characters such as Beth’s alcoholic, caring adoptive mother, Alma Wheatly, played by Marielle Heller. Or the lovable orphanage janitor, Mr. Shaibel, played by Bill Camp. One of the most stand-out supporting characters though would be Jolene, played by Moses Ingram. Jolene is someone we meet right at the beginning of the show as another orphan who takes Beth under her wing and becomes her first friend. Ingram portrays a strong and mischievous girl who will have a lasting impact on Beth’s character throughout the show.
Even as a genius prodigy, Beth is still playing in a man’s world. She faces a lot of misogyny as a woman in a man’s game, but she continuously faces it head-on and really doesn’t seem to notice. To her chess is simple and ingrained and doesn’t belittle itself to the issues of people. So we see Beth face each opponent with a careful, beautiful, and precise strategy that decimates all her adversaries.
We meet a wide range of chess players throughout Beth’s life that continue to shape who she becomes. Some even become friends of Beths over time. Some of these impactful characters are the narcissistic, cowboy dressing Benny Watts, played by Thomas Brodie-Sangster, who you really can’t decide if you wanna love or hate. The tedious and reliable Harry Beltik, played by Harry Melling. And a personal favorite, the odd and dependable twins played by Russell and Matthew Dennis Lewis.
This eclectic cast is surrounded by a pleasurable and beautiful aesthetic and design based on the 60s time period. Beth travels to many different places such as Las Vegas, Mexico City, Moscow, and many more to play in tournaments. She stays in many swanky hotels all having their own stunning and grand design yet always screaming 60s vibes. Beth also has an amazing and evolving wardrobe that follows her ever-growing identity and showing some of the coolest and iconic fashions of the time.
“The Queen’s Gambit” may not seem like everyone’s cup of tea but I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a new show to watch. No matter if you like chess or not this series is bound to captivate you. And who knows, maybe you will wanna try out playing chess soon.