Writer, Parker Zhang.
Chess clock ticking, pawns moving on the ceiling. Then, boom! Checkmate.
Released on October 23, 2020, The Queen’s Gambit was received efficaciously well. Critics praised it for its well-thought-out storyline and its uncompromising protagonist who was real and not afraid of imperfection. With a 97% Rotten Tomatoes rating, I was itching to get my hands on this new mini-series.
From the outset, the Queen’s Gambit captivated me with its muted colours. Indicating to me that this story was tragic, depressed and just starting. What pulls me in, is the elaborate scenery of the time. I’m impressed with the work of the production staff who worked hard to replicate the Deep South in the 1950s.
When the story starts, Beth Harmon, our protagonist, is a sombre child. Beth is orphaned moments after a car crash that was fatal to her mother. Through the story arc of seven episodes, we follow Beth through her youth. In the first episode, we follow her through flashbacks. These flashbacks provide insight into her life right up to the present, having a cause-and-consequence-like effect. Due to her superior intellect, Beth ends up going down to the basement of her orphanage, where she discovers chess.
Through the episodes, we see her develop her chess-prowess in tandem with her reliance on drugs. Opening our eyes, we ought to realize that people sacrifice in abundance, but we refuse to see others’ pain, and it is when we discover their coping methods that we start to judge.
The Queen’s Gambit, in the end, is a tale of Harmon finding her life purpose: chess, which has been the one constant in her life. Chess is what introduces Harmon to her friends, it is the thing that allows her to pay her bills, and it is her kingdom. Beth Harmon relies on chess, because unlike the chaos of life, “…[chess is] an entire world of just 64 squares…”; it’s so different from the everyday complexities of politics and social conventions. Beth had so many things wrong with her, and so when she found something she understood, she grasped it as the meaning of her life.
“It’s an entire world of just 64 squares. I feel safe in it. I can control it, I can dominate it.”
– Beth Harmon (The Queen’s Gambit)
I think the Queen’s Gambit is a must-watch, especially to all those chess fanatics out there. Beth’s story will motivate people beyond chess, extending to perseverance through hard times, namely learning a new skill or this ravaging pandemic. This miniseries deserves high praise, making me want to practice my chess skills!
*Mature Content. The Queen’s Gambit is rated TV-MA for many reasons. While there isn’t explicit nudity, there are several sex scenes and implied sexual encounters.