Review: Netflix’s “The Queen’s Gambit”

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Netflix's mini-series "The Queen's Gambit" was released on Oct. 23 and has remained in Netflix's Top Ten since its release. Image courtesy IMDB.com.

Netflix’s mini-series “The Queen’s Gambit” was released on Oct. 23, and has been in Netflix’s Top Ten ever since.


The series is based on the 1983 novel “The Queen’s Gambit” by Walter Tevis. The story follows Elizabeth Harmon, a young orphan who becomes an international chess prodigy during the 1960s.


Anya Taylor-Joy, known for her role in the movie “Split,” plays Beth Harmon. Taylor-Joy is an American-born Argentine-British actress.


Other notable cast members include Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Benny Watts, Harry Melling as Harry Beltik and Chloe Pirrie as Alice Harmon.


The story begins with Beth being orphaned after her mother dies in a car crash. Beth is sent to an orphanage for girls, where she befriends a custodian named Mr. Shaibel, who teaches her to play chess. When her adoptive mother notices Beth’s passion and skill for chess, Beth is thrust into the world of professional chess.

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Beth is nine when the series begins, but the story follows her through her teenage years and into early adulthood.


While “The Queen’s Gambit” is a piece of historical fiction, it shows issues that are still relevant today.


Throughout the series, Beth struggles with addiction and substance abuse. While in the orphanage, Beth was given tranquilizer pills that she formed a dependency on. When she was learning to play chess, she would take several of the pills at once and visualize the board on her ceiling. Beth linked her talent with chess to the pills she was taking. An integral piece of Beth’s journey is her realization that she did not need the pills to win at chess, and that her talent was her own.


The show depicts suicide and mental illness. It is revealed that the car crash that killed Beth’s biological mother was not an accident. Her mother committed suicide by driving into oncoming traffic with Beth in the car. At various points in the show, Beth displays self-destructive behavior because of the trauma stemming from her mother


One of the many reasons that “The Queen’s Gambit” has gained popularity is because of the complexity of its characters.


Beth’s adopted mother, Alma Wheatley, is an example of this. After being left by her, Alma used Beth’s chess abilities for money. While it was clear that Alma loved Beth, she also took advantage of her.


Beth herself is an extremely complex character. When she plays chess, losing is not an option. Any time she loses, it is crushing to her and causes her to doubt her self worth. She is driven by anger and a need to prove herself. It is said that she has an aggressive, attacking playing style, which is reflective of her personality.

The series has a refreshing take on sexism during this time. After she proves her skill, Beth is never underestimated for being a woman. While other players were initially shocked at her youth and gender, the higher she rose the less it seemed to matter. As she began competing internationally against the world’s best players, others respected her game and were intimidated by her skill.


Because of its intriguing plot, complex characters and real world issues, it is clear why “The Queen’s Gambit” is still on Netflix’s Top Ten months after its release.

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