The Queen's Gambit (TV Review)
The 7-episode Netflix limited series, The Queen's Gambit, is some of the most compelling television in recent memory. Make no mistake, this is Anya Taylor-Joy's world and we are all just living in it. Taylor-Joy rarely disappoints, and even though this is a different medium and role for her, she has once again outdone herself. As most of you know, I prefer movies; but the role of Elizabeth Harmon is the best of Taylor-Joy's already illustrious career.
The majority of the series is set in the 1960s, and the production design, music and costuming are really something to behold. The series jet-sets around the world, including locations in Paris, Mexico City, New York City and its grounded centerpiece of Lexington, Kentucky. In these "mini reviews," I'm not here to breakdown the series, but more so just to tell you why I enjoyed it and why I think you should watch it too.
Taylor-Joy plays Beth, who is a girl dealing with a myriad of issues and triumphs. Beth is a chess savant, who began rivaling the best chess players in the world when she was as young as 10-years-old. It is an important detail to mention that she learned the majority of her chess skills while living in an orphanage and was mentored by the janitor there, Mr. Shaiebel (one of my favorite supporting characters of the series). Now, if you think following the rise of a young chess player doesn't sound that exciting, just know that the series uses this unique plot device as a backdrop to a riveting character study of Beth Harmon. Chess aside, this is a story about addiction, loneliness, family, female empowerment and, above all, acceptance.
I will also say that having the series set at only 7 episodes was perfect. It definitely did not overstay its welcome, it never felt bogged down by unnecessary storylines or characters. There is an abundance of supporting characters, most of which only serve as catalysts for Beth's forward progress in the story. The most intriguing of which may be Beth's adopted mother, Alma. This is a relationship that the show really harnesses in a time when it seems Beth is destined to be all alone, which gives us hope for her future.
The arc for Beth in this short series is truly remarkable. We get to watch the growth of a literal 9-year-old orphan all the way through to a world renowned chess grandmaster. The series is shot beautifully, accompanied by a tremendous soundtrack that acts as a time machine to the 1960s French-Pop culture. I think there are very few actresses working today (if any) that could have pulled off this level of endearment to the role as Anya Taylor-Joy. I will be shocked if she doesn't have many more statues on her mantle when awards season is all said and done. When other young actors working today watch her in The Queen's Gambit, they no doubt picture her breaking the 4th wall and whispering "Checkmate" right at them.
The Queen's Gambit is currently available on Netflix. Find it here.