On the surface, The Queen’s Gambit, a TV series created and directed by two-time Oscar nominee Scott Frank, has nothing special. The typical clichés of a TV series already seen are all there: childhood trauma, split family, addiction, alcoholism. Yet, despite the mediocrity of the “already seen” and boredom are around the corner, the Netflix TV series surprises and amazes, offering seven episodes in which it is practically impossible to take your eyes off the screen. Not for anything else is it taken from the pages of the novel of the same name by Waltter Tevis, which is very banal.
At the helm of a show boat that includes Game of Thrones and Harry Potter alumni, among others, is the very young Anya Taylor-Joy (Peaky Blinders, Emma) who offers a fresh, complex and authentic character and, on her own , it may be worth the whole TV series.
REVIEW QUEEN’S GAMBIT
CHILDHOOD PROBLEMS, THE PASSION FOR CHESS AND THE CLIMBING TO SUCCESS
It all starts with a tragedy. A little girl comes out unscathed from a car accident with her mother. We still don’t know because it will take us 7 episodes to find out but that episode will be crucial in the life of Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy). As a little orphan in a Catholic boarding school, Beth discovers an unusual passion for the game of chess, which she learns with the support of the school’s handyman, Mr. Shaibel (Bill Camp). In an era and a world where chess is still forbidden to women, Beth imposes herself on everyone with patience, intuition and determination, beating the competition first in the city championship and then in the regional and state one.
Helping her in this challenge is her adoptive mother, Alma Whatley (Marielle Heller). A woman who, after losing her husband to a “job in Denver”, devotes herself entirely to managing her daughter’s career. First a rival, later a potential love interest and only then a trusted friend is Townes (Jacob Fortune Lloyd). Among the main rivals of Beth, however, there are Harry Beltik (Harry Melling), Benny Watts (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) but above all the Russian Vasily Borgov (Marcin Dorociński), the arch-rival of the Soviet Union who will be the last mountain to climb to become the best.
AN (ALMOST) PERIOD DRAMA
The first great merit of the TV series The Queen of Chess is its setting. The ’50s and then’ 60s are an interesting limbo between what is so close that it can no longer really be considered “period drama” and what, on the contrary, is far enough away to retain an ancient charm and therefore exciting for any lover. such. What strikes first of all in the Netflix production is the time devoted to the story. Although this is a miniseries, the 7 episodes do very well in dedicating due space to each character, scene and situation. Although Beth still remains the focus of everything. Her figure, so shy and cold but in reality, at the same time, deeply sweet and in need of affection make her a heroine that is difficult to love but for which it is almost impossible not to cheer.
His path is in fact questionable, marked by loss, economic difficulties and, last but not least, an addiction to drugs and pills that is difficult to digest. Beth seeks a refuge from life in chess but, paradoxically, in doing so she loses those pieces of her life that chess could not have saved. Playing for her is natural, instinctive, and only with time does she understand the importance of strategy and playing technique, which players better than her and real professionals transmit to her with the progress of the most important matches.
COMPLEX INTERPERSONAL RELATIONS WITH A STAR CAST
Another element that does not fail to strike is the evolution not only of the protagonist towards her own “addiction”, to which she entrusted her most important victories, but also of Beth’s towards the people around her. An inept mother, unable to react to a man who betrays her, becomes much more to her. Become a point of reference, a best friend to cherish and protect. The rivals he has defeated without a shot are transformed into friends, even lovers, with whom to share his passion for chess but also a piece of his life. Curious is the duo Harry Beltik – Benny Watts, who want the exact opposite of what Beth needs at different times in her life and career. Harry is the man who wants Beth, the girl, while Harry wants Beth, the chess player. She herself does not understand how to separate these two entities. Entities that coexist within her until the end, when she realizes that there are no parallel tracks but a single track to follow.
If a choice is to be made, however, the best and most exciting relationship isn’t between Beth and her friends or her mother. The most sincere and intense relationship is that with Mr. Shaibel. I don’t think there is more sadness in Beth’s eyes than the moment she discovers the blackboard with the newspaper clippings thanks to which her first teacher followed her deeds. Master whom she left behind and did not have time to thank for the gift he had given her.
To conclude, the TV series The Queen of Chess is an intense, touching and, in its small way, magnificent TV series. Anya Taylor-Joy’s interpretation is magnetic, the costumes are beautiful, the soundtrack perfect and the story simply captivating. I can’t find a better TV series to watch on a gloomy Sunday with chocolate in hand. Ah, and beware: you may develop an innate but obsessive passion for chess after watching so … get ready to order a chessboard on Amazon!