Much like the game of chess, openings are crucial to setting the stage. The Queen’s Gambit, a new addition to Netflix as of October 23rd, is no exception to this. The opening episode started with a scene of a woman getting out of a bathtub, fully clothed and drenched, makeup running down her face, throwing back pills, and rushing to get to an important chess game. Before the game actually commences, it jumps back about a decade before, showing viewers a dramatic scene of a girl’s mother dying in a car accident. This little girl is subsequently being transported to an orphanage. The girl is revealed to be Beth Harmon, the main character, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, and it takes the viewers through the late 1950s to the 1960s.
At the orphanage, Beth Harmon and all the other girls are fed tranquilizing pills to keep them sedated. Quickly becoming hooked, she realizes they help her understand and focus on chess more thoroughly. She is introduced to chess by the school janitor, where the two play in the dingy basement during church services. It is here that the young prodigy is born. Beth is eventually adopted by a depressive and alcoholic mother and a distant father. In her teenage years, she deals with balancing high school and chess. She enters competitions and eventually becomes a world renowned chess player.
Chess becomes Beth’s safe space, where she is in control of her own ending and “destiny.” Outside of the game, her life is troubled and chaotic, and chess is the lifeline that ultimately saves her. Chess is something for her to be proud of and show off to everyone. She can take out and control her anger and obsessiveness on the board.
Personally, I found the series very enjoyable and entertaining. For those who have never played chess, that fact did not get in the way of viewing. The producers did an amazing job of incorporating chess that both beginners and more experienced can enjoy. Anya Taylor-Joy does an amazing job of balancing both the madness and intelligence that Harmon exhibits. Her co-stars, including Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Harry Melling, also do an amazing job at playing her acquaintances. As the saying goes, “genius and madness go hand in hand,” which is perfectly displayed through Harmon.