Based on the novel by Walter Tevis, The Queen’s Gambit follows the life and career of Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy), an orphan turned chess prodigy. She struggles with substance abuse in her pursuit to become the best chess player in the world.
Although The Queen’s Gambit is not based on a true story, showrunner Scott Frank succeeds in creating a show that showcases the high cost of genius that many successful people suffer from. Whether it is Van Gogh cutting off his own ear, Picasso drinking absinthe, great talent in one area often comes with struggles in others.
With the series being credited for reigniting the interest in chess and boosting demand for chess sets and accessories, it goes without saying that the chessplay in The Queen’s Gambit is phenomenal to watch. The chess scenes in the Netflix original are greatly executed, often leaving the viewers wanting more regardless of their knowledge in the game. Narratively, the chess scenes are integral to Beth’s character development, as her character is impacted by the wins and losses that she experiences.
Boasting an impressive ensemble of performers, The Queen’s Gambit is an astonishing period piece with beautifully written characters. At the center of it all is Anya Taylor-Joy’s Beth Harmon. Delivering an absolute powerhouse of a performance, Taylor-Joy’s Beth is an incredibly nuanced character that is ravaged by addiction and a traumatic past as the show explores the true cost of genius. As engaging as the choreography of the chess gameplay is in the series, the subtle emotional moments are just as riveting to watch.
Offsetting the performances is the show’s breath-taking cinematography, with cinematographer Steven Meizler bringing his visual sensibilities to the series. With most of The Queen’s Gambit being filmed in in Berlin, Meizler successfully creates a cinematic identity that is elegant and sophisticated, establishing a world that allows the characters of the show to live in. The aesthetic of Beth’s inner world is remarkable as well, as the show visualizes her struggles with visceral energy.
With Anya Taylor-Joy’s Emmy worthy performance, mesmerising production details, as well as a script that prioritises its characters, The Queen’s Gambit is a checkmate for Netflix. Over the course of nine episodes, the series manages to deconstruct the self-destructive aspects of an obsessed perfectionist, all while delivering a story that is engaging from beginning to end. Elegant, Enthralling, and undoubtedly entertaining, The Queen’s Gambit is royally irresistible to watch.