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Review: “The Queen’s Gambit” More Than Just Chess

New show shows realistic view of addiction, among other things
Photo by Elsa Pedrosa
The first season of “The Queen’s Gambit” can be watched on Netflix. The show has episodes ranging from 48 minutes to a little over an hour.

Pawn to E4. The Sicilian defense. The queen’s gambit. I never thought I would be fascinated by pieces moving around on a checkerboard.

Beth Harmon, played by Anya Taylor-Joy in Netflix’s new series “The Queen’s Gambit,” has inspired the nation to take an interest in the game of chess. “The Queen’s Gambit” was released on Oct. 23, and it has been in Netflix’s top 10 shows in the U.S. since the week it was released. According to Netflix, over 62 million households have watched the show.

The main character of the show, Beth Harmon, was orphaned at 9-years-old after her mother died in a car accident. The janitor at the orphanage, Mr. Shaibel, played by Bill Camp, teaches Beth how to play chess. Beth quickly caught on to chess, and it didn’t take her long to be able to beat Mr. Shaibel in almost every match they played. The relationship between Beth and Mr. Shaibel is what shaped her as a person, and without him, she would have gotten nowhere in life.

I cannot imagine anyone else playing the role of Beth Harmon besides Taylor-Joy. She carried herself with poise, but she also managed to display the pain and trauma weighing her down. The way in which Taylor-Joy delivered her lines was utterly jaw-dropping and reminded me somewhat of spearmint: cool, sharp and witty.

While the main idea of the series is chess, there is also much more to each episode. The environment Beth grew up in allowed her to meet Mr. Shaibel and discover chess, but it also provided her some issues she would carry into adulthood. One of the main reasons Beth was able to improve so quickly was because of the tranquilizer pills the staff would give all the orphans. Beth struggled with addiction to both alcohol and the drugs from the tranquilizers, and she did her best to cope with it.

The outside world just saw Beth as the best chess player in the nation. Little did they know, she was battling addiction every day of her life. The show displays how it is important to realize the people we idolize, the celebrities we love. They all are dealing with their own issues, and they are human too.

The lens addiction was shown through in this show was realistic. Throughout each episode, you can see how Beth’s addiction gets better, then worse, then better, then worse again. It exposed the true raw nature of drug abuse, and it proved how addiction hurts everyone involved.

Because “The Queen’s Gambit” is set in the 60s, Beth, as a woman, is not fully accepted into the male-dominated chess community. Having a female main character changes the perspective of how you watch the show. For me, as a woman, it made me feel like I could do anything and take on any challenge. It is important for girls to have strong female figures to look up to, and Beth Harmon certainly is one, especially when it comes to showing the men how it’s done.

While the acting in this show is phenomenal, the writing and directing, all done by Scott Frank and Allen Scott, is even better. Each line was written perfectly. The way the episodes were split up flowed beautifully, always leaving me satisfied after the end credits rolled. Every aspect, every detail, everything about “The Queen’s Gambit” is in the most simple of terms – perfect.

After watching “The Queen’s Gambit,” I’m not so sure any other show will be able to measure up. So, if you think the show is going to be boring because it’s about chess, you’re wrong.

About the Contributor
Sarah Small
Sarah Small, Managing editor
Top 3 bands... Led Zeppelin, Sublime and The Black Keys If you had to be stuck on an island with a celebrity, who would it be? Aubrey Plaza What is your zodiac sign? Pisces