A TV show about chess set in the 1960s? How good could that even be?
Turns out: very very good.
Saying that The Queen’s Gambit is about chess is completely correct. Yet, it’s really only half of the story. It’s also a story about loss. About growing up. About addiction. About friendship.
And all of that in only 7 episodes.
Plotwise, we cover protagonist Beth from being sent to an orphanage at 9, through learning to play chess, being adapted into a less than perfect home life, and learning that she can absolutely dominate when it comes to chess. She wins time after time, from her state to national championships, and then over the world. By the End Game, she’s playing the perfect opponent for the chess world: the Russian Borgov. But not without troubles along the way. Loss (both in chess and personal), addiction, and growing up. It’s a solid plot and manages to be aboslutely fascinating, for how little room it needs to breath.
Characterwise, I absolutely love the casting of Anya Taylor-Joy as Beth. She has an almost Elfin, otherworldly quality that makes the entire series just a little less grounded, which really works. On top of that, she absolutely nails the feel of someone that dominates in one field and is in way over her head otherwise.
Other than that, seeing Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Harry Melling as her opponents/mentors/potential lovers was … a little bizarre. They each have rather distinct and well known roles (at least to me) in Game of Thrones and Harry Potter respectively that it was a bit hard to get past, but I enjoyed it. Mr. Shaibel, for what he was in, was great as the rough school janitor with a good heart and all of the Russians felt very… Russian.
Honestly, there is nothing that I would have changed about this show. It’s one of the best bits of TV that I’ve seen in a while. It’s short, tells the story it needs to tell, and ends both leaving you wanting more–while at the same time feeling satisified with what you got.
Well, well worth the watch. It doesn’t even matter if you like or even know how to play chess–although I expect if you don’t, you might just want to give it a try when all is said and done.