It all began with a square board game, 36 pieces, and two players, and the threat of checkmate. To most individuals, the mention of the word “chess” does not bring sweeping excitement or fascination. I would imagine the words “boring” and “dull” might arise considering the amount of patience — a trait most lack – is required for the game. However, Netflix’s original series “The Queen’s Gambit” starring Anya Taylor-Joy is a complete attention grabber making the topic of chess nothing short of a binge-worthy thriller. Driven by a powerful lead performer who strikes her audience with authentic emotions and gripping energy strong enough to make this show one of Netflix’s best series. It is a race between character development with trials of addiction, mania and trauma that capture the immediate attention of each viewer through excitement and relevant topics. Scott Frank with co-creator Alan Scott adapts Walter Tevis’s novel into a show that has turned chess into a thrill ride for millions of viewers.
The story begins with 8-year-old Beth Harmon (Isla Johnson), a newly-orphaned child after a car crash that takes her mother as well as leaving Beth mentally stricken, but physically unscratched. With no father in the picture, Beth is sent to a Christian School for girls and left awaiting adoption. Meanwhile, in the school, she discovers a love for chess thanks to the help of her school janitor as well as some little green tranquilizer pills that each student is given. When it comes to Beth’s time for adoption, she remains driven by her addiction to chess and the green pills that supply her with hallucinations, helping her understanding of the game grow. In short, the coming years of Beth’s addiction lead her on a dangerous path of substance abuse in midst of her character’s development to find herself as a young adult in a male-dominated world.
Beth is a real handful… and not just in her childhood years. Anya Taylor-Joy works precisely to capture Beth’s enthusiasm and wit while balancing her mental and emotional downward spiral. While the story revolves around Beth’s chess success, it also expressions the intoxicating loneliness of Beth’s relationship with herself and others while also coping with trauma. Taylor-Joy captures Beth’s lowest points of downing bottles in stranger’s apartments to her biggest achievements like flying across the world to compete against the very best chess players. She embodies Beth’s lost, confused yet energetic and enthusiastic self as if she were actually Harmon.
Scott Frank and Alan Scott do more than cast their lead perfectly. Supporting characters such as Beth’s adoptive mother, Alma Wheatley played by Marielle Heller in captures the role of a housewife struggling to survive on her own. Heller embodies the emotions of a grown woman who has yet to find herself or her dreams. Next comes Harry Beltik (Harry Melling) and Townes (Jacob Lloyd) who become incredible competitors to Beth. Through trials, these actors prove their loyalty and dedication to the part through the confusion of Beth’s life. Each supporting actor/actress brings a dedication to their role, adding more and more value as the show continues.
“The Queens Gambit” strikes the heart and the mind. A newfound fascination with chess mixed with the trials of Beth Harmon’s life will capture you entirely. As Beth’s journey continues, she discovers more of herself while always keeping chess in the back of her mind. Through battles of addiction and trauma, Beth is able to grow from her past with the help of others. Finding your passion means nothing without the relationships built along the way. You’re going to want to checkmate this show off your watch list.