13th Nov2020

‘The Queen’s Gambit’ Review (Netflix)

by Paul Metcalf

Stars: Anya Taylor-Joy, Isla Johnston, Chloe Pirrie, Bill Camp, Marielle Heller, Marcin Dorocinski | Created by Scott Frank, Allan Scott

With everything 2020 is throwing at us, it would probably be no surprise that one of the best pieces of television would be a show about chess. Here we are though with the release of The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix… a piece of television that just may make you want to learn how to play!

When a nine year old orphan is introduced to the game of chess she soon masters the game. As she grows older though she soon realises that life and the game she so loves bring higher stakes, especially when she looks for ways to escape the stress.

The first thing that truly stands out about The Queen’s Gambit is what a star Anya Taylor-Joy is becoming. Though we are introduced to her at the start of the first episode, the focus is more on the younger version of her firstly played by Isla Johnston, who too does an excellent job in creating the character we see on the screen.

A lot of what we get to know about Beth Harmon is created in early episodes with the younger version of the character, and when we make the transition to the older version, it feels seamless and we know the character well. We are also totally sold on her love of Chess, which is hard to not get caught up in. It comes as no surprise that there is a rise in popularity in the game at the moment, and that is because of how beautifully the show presents the game.

Each episode of The Queen’s Gambit is named after a part of a chess game, and these work as the theme for the episode. This is just another example of how the show lives and breathes the game, bringing it to life not only to the characters but to the audience itself. What is also done well is the way we are introduced into the world of competitive play. How we learn of how the Russian players dominate the game, and of course how they become Beth’s greatest competition, her nemesis that she must beat. They are almost used as a metaphorical nemesis for the character as her life falls apart or rises based on how she holds up against the stress of the game.

You don’t need to be a fan of chess to like The Queen’s Gambit, but by the end you may become one. It is also fair to say that fans of chess will also get a lot out of the show based on how well it presents the game. This is how well the show uses the game as it’s structure, it’s theme, and of course the main catalyst for it’s main character’s path through life. When her whole life is based upon chess, it literally becomes it.

The Queen’s Gambit is arguably one of the best pieces of television to come out of 2020, and at a time when life can feel so hard, this is an excellent escape from the stresses we have around us. A must see show, it is fair to say we need more shows like this in our lives.

***** 5/5

The Queen’s Gambit is available on Netflix now.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek

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