The Queen’s Gambit: The Shows I Binged in the 2020 Pandemic

This post is part 4 of 5 in the series:
The Shows I Binged in the 2020 Pandemic

I’m going to start this one off with a bold statement.

Anya Taylor Joy is the most beautiful woman I’ve seen since the first season of Game of Thrones when I perished at the sign of Emilia Clarke as Daenerys. Just… look at this ethereal fairy princess and try not to shed a tear.

If for no other reason – watch The Queen’s Gambit just for Anya Taylor Joy’s exquisitely expressive face and jaw-dropping delivery of the complicated character that is Beth Harmon.

Twitter: anya taylor joy

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way let’s get into the (slightly) less pressing commentary.

The Queen’s Gambit is a Netflix original miniseries that centres around Beth Harmon. A world chess prodigy who came up from her dreary orphaned childhood to become a grandmaster at age 20, beautifully played by the stunning Anya Taylor-Joy, as mentioned earlier. While her story vaguely resembles another prominent chess player at that time, there was no female grandmaster with whom Beth’s story resembled.

It’s primarily set in the ’60s, but the visuals and aesthetic changes that occur throughout those 7 episodes are beyond encapsulating. I’d watch this show, regardless of the quality of its plot, if only for the visual experience of seeing something so interesting and beautiful.

You wouldn’t expect a show about chess to be at all interesting from the perspective of those without knowledge of the game. I, for one, cannot play chess by any means. You could put a chessboard in front of me and tell me all the rules, and I’d pull out a set of dice and start moving around the board like a game of monopoly. What makes this show interesting isn’t the chess aspect, per se. I think the depth of Beth as a character is developed so thoughtfully that regardless of your interest base, you can identify in some facet or another. It’s very hard not to become emotionally invested in the life of this character.

The show touches sensitively and meaningfully on several issues, from substance abuse to perfectionism/fear of failure to (obviously) matters of gender discrimination. It does so without sacrificing the character development of the less dominant characters, too, which I appreciate. I love that the writers could deliver a well-written multifaceted female lead whose ‘strength’ is not drawn from some traumatic, violent event perpetrated against her by a man. There are very few other female leads for whom I could say the same.

The relationships that Beth shares throughout the series are what makes The Queen’s Gambit such an engaging watch. The friendship she forms in the orphanage with Mr Shaibel and Jolene, her relationship with her adoptive mother and numerous relationships which blur the lines between romance and rivalry form the interestingly uncharismatic protagonist that is Beth Harmon.

I will say, I wish it were 2010, if only for a fun Twilight-style fan-base divide regarding Beth’s romantic fate. As pointless as it may be, I want to know how many people are team Townes, how many are team Benny, how many are team Harry, and how many are just happy that there could have possibly been a team Cleo? Personally, I identify as a team Benny with a team Townes moon.

Unfortunately, the book that the series is based on finds its end where the show does. There’s not more content to work with for a possible season two. However, both the cast and the creators have expressed a willingness to renew the series, so we may or may not be in luck.