Fair Warning: Spoilers Ahead
There is rarely a series on Netflix that I find so captivating that I binge-watch it in its entirety, but Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit had me awake into the wee hours of the morning hunched intently over my laptop. This surprised me, as the mini-series is an adaptation of Walter Tevis’s book by the same name about an orphaned chess prodigy’s brilliant but haunting rise to celebrity. My original sentiments were that there would be no way a mini-series about chess could possibly hold my attention for too long and, and even if it somehow managed to, it would probably be a leisure watch between classes or while I unwound in the evening. I saw the show sitting comfortably at Netflix’s #1 spot in the U.S. for weeks and finally decided I’d give it a whirl to unwind after a week of studying and stress. That was at around 8 P.M. on a Thursday. About halfway through the first episode, there was no way I was ripping my attention away from the captivating story. Approximately 6 hours later, at 2 A.M. on Friday, I had watched the entire mini-series in one sitting.
And who could blame me? Never before have I seen the game of chess had such a sexy and intriguing presentation on the screen before. The limited series details the meteoric ascent of fictional chess prodigy Elizabeth “Beth” Harmon, a dazzling and tortured young woman who masters the game whilst struggling with substance abuse, family drama, a mysterious past trauma, her perception of sexuality, and several complicated romances. The story is set in the Cold-War Era United States, Societ Union, and France, adding an extra layer of captivation and intrigue for those viewers like me who thoroughly enjoy historical fiction. In a time when the United States and the Soviet Union are in constant competition with one another, Beth feels mounting pressure to succeed and prevail over her international opponents as well as prove herself as a female player in a male-dominated game.
The character’s intellect, hypnotic charm, and elegance are expertly portrayed by Anya Taylor-Joy, who viewers will recognize from Split, The Witch, and the newest adaptation of Jane Austen classic, Emma. She plays opposite Thomas Brodie-Sangster of The Maze Runner, who portrays cowboyish Benny Watts: the #1 chess player in the United States prior to Beth usurping his title. Harry Melling, who audiences may remember as Cousin Doudley from the Harry Potter series, made the striking transition from his reputation as Harry Potter’s spoiled cousin to playing the cunning yet kind Kentucky chess champion Harry Beltik. This star-studded cast of extremely versatile actors made the series even more impossible to quit and all the more memorable.
The Queen’s Gambit is now available on Netflix and is still sitting at the top of the “Top 10 in the U.S. Today” list, capturing the attention and hearts of viewers everywhere. Some of the imagery and subject matter in the show such as mental health, suicidal ideation, and drug and alcohol abuse may prove disturbing or triggering to some viewers, so viewer discretion is encouraged. — Isabelle Williams