The Queen’s Gambit tells the story of fictional chess prodigy Elizabeth Harmon as she rises through the grandmaster ranks of chess champions in the 1960s. The seven-episode mini-series made viewers fascinated with the world of the competitive chess circuit. Based on Walter Tevis’ 1983 novel of the same name, it focuses on Beth as she develops into a world-renown chess player.
Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit is flawless; here are three reasons why
Although Beth remains a fictional character, it’s inspired by the American-Russian chess rivalry during the Cold War. At the time, young American Bobby Fischer defeated the standing world champion – Russian Boris Spassky – during the 1972 World Chess Championship. Like Fischer, Beth remains a young prodigy that has difficulty relating to her peers.
Giving us the emotional range, Anya Taylor-Joy gave Beth a thing of beauty that remains a force to be reckoned with. Her work in the finale alone is Emmy Award-worthy. Her breakout performance in The Witch is simply stunning, especially with little dialogue. If you’re not impressed with Anya as Beth, she was also taught all of the moves that her fictional character would make in a chess game minutes before they film a scene.
Leading this series, she had to learn an entire chess game minutes before filming highly stressful and emotional scenes. Aside from that, she also brought her charm to the role. Anya decided to come up with a specific way that her character would move the chess pieces. She decided to use her history with ballet dancing, she physically acts different and undeniably feminine than her male counterparts.
Bill Camp and Marielle Heller
Aside from Anya, Bill Camp and Marielle Heller delivered the most emotional moments of the entire series. Camp portrays the orphanage janitor who teaches young Beth, showing her the beauty and the ways of the chessboard. Heller, on the other hand, has a more lengthy filmography as a director helming 2018’s underrated Can You Ever Forgive Me? and Tom Hanks’ Mr. Rogers biopic A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. She gave us a funny and empathetic performance as Beth’s adoptive mother.
Surprisingly, this remains Moses Ingram’s first-ever major role and to be honest, I can’t wait to see what she does next. Jolene remains such a standout among all of these notable actors. She steals every scene she resides in despite the little screen time. A good and bad influence on Beth, she gives Jolene warmth and edge. Aside from her dynamic with Anya’s character, Jolene also shines the light of being a black woman in the 1960s.
The writing and direction.
The series was created and written by Scott Frank and Allan Scott who have been attached to adapt the book for several years. Previously, Scott wrote some iconic movies like Marley & Me, Logan, and Minority Report to name a few. Aside from that, Frank also directed all seven episodes of the mini-series. Of course, this helps to give it a movie-like feel that makes it a perfect Netflix content to binge-watch.
Although it largely dedicates its episodes to chess, the mini-series also told incredible stories circulating grief, substance addiction, trauma, and being a woman in a male-dominated field. The Queen’s Gambit sets Beth up as a typical manic pixie dream girl character, albeit minus the whimsy attitude. She’s immature, unstable, and has an almost mystical relationship with chess.
Beth is repeatedly shown as the object of men’s sexual desire. The men continuously lust after her, even as she strongly defeat them in the sport again and again. This was showcased with her short-lived relationship with Harry Beltik who ignored various red flags because he’s clearly in awe of her. He even moves into her home on a whim despite her being a young woman whose mother just passed away.
The cinematography, set design, and wardrobe.
Cinematographer Steven Meizler gave us some visually stunning wide shots and close-ups, perfectly dragging us into Beth’s world. Ingeborg Heinemann helped bring the set to life. It has a perfect muted-yet-vibrant tone allowing Beth to simultaneously stand out and blend in.
Costume designer Gabriele Binger incorporated the lines of chessboard throughout Beth’s wardrobe. Of course, this adds another important and beautiful detail to the story. Only a genius could come up with Beth being in an all-white outfit at the end of the series as she looks like a chess piece – a Queen to be exact.
Even Stephen King likes it.
I've watched a lot of TV during this cursed year–I know I'm not alone–and the best of the best is THE QUEEN'S GAMBIT, on Netflix. Utterly thrilling. I thought nothing would beat THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO SEVEN, but this does.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) October 28, 2020
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Angela Grace P. Baltan is a Communication graduate from Colegio de San Juan de Letran. She doesn’t hesitate to be opinionated in analyzing movies and television series. As a writer, she uses her articles to advocate for feminism, gender equality, and mental health among others.