“The Queen’s Gambit” Review: An Unexpected Netflix Hit

The Queens Gambit follows Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy) as she tries to become a chess Grandmaster.

Netflix

“The Queen’s Gambit” follows Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy) as she tries to become a chess Grandmaster.

Kaitlyn Chen

“The Queen’s Gambit” is a record-breaking Netflix limited series that became an overnight success. The exciting series is one of the most-watched television shows of 2020.

When I first started watching “The Queen’s Gambit,” I didn’t think I would enjoy it because I have no interest in chess. A series about chess and romance would be boring, right? Wrong. As I watched, I noticed meaningful messages and themes that go beyond chess. Unexpected turns, wins and losses, internal turmoil, and a thrilling journey keep the story engaging.

In the series, Anya Taylor-Joy plays chess prodigy Beth Harmon as she grows from an orphan to one of the best chess players in the world. After her mother dies in a car crash, nine-year-old Beth gets sent to the Methuen orphanage home where she learns how to play chess from the janitor, Mr. Sheibal, in the orphanage basement. 

Aside from chess, the series portrays addiction, gender discrimination, and loneliness. When the orphanage gives out tranquilizer pills to the kids to keep them calm, Beth ends up getting addicted to the pills. The pills help her hallucinate chess games playing out on the ceiling, and she ends up using these hallucinations later in her life. When she competes in chess tournaments, she realizes that she is usually the only woman competing. People don’t expect her to know how to play chess because it’s not thought of as a women’s game, but soon they realize that she is unbeatable. When she gets older, she is adopted out of the orphanage and starts to play in bigger tournaments, but she also begins to lose and question her strategies and abilities. She soon finds herself alone and with no one to turn to. Filling her time between matches by taking pills and drinking, she strategizes for her next game.

The show’s producer, Allan Scott, revealed that the script took 30 years, with 9 rewrites. Every studio he showed it to said that no one would be interested in chess, but it became an overnight sensation on Netflix, earning over 62 million viewers in the first month of release ,as well as a Rotten Tomato score of 97%.

Anya Taylor-Joy’s great acting brings the character of Beth alive, and her unpredictable reactions and behaviors keep the audience interested. Small details are also captured on screen such as the mannerisms of the players and the way Beth moves her pieces. The depth and thought put into each character bring the story alive. 

“The Queen’s Gambit” is a very good and unpredictable binge. Beth isn’t perfect – she fights her personal demons of addiction and obsession, intensifying the game of chess. The show tells a great story in only seven episodes.