Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit is a Checkmate

I think it’s a bad thing for Netflix to be able to have a new show or movie come out without you even being aware of it. It could be negligence on my part for maybe not clicking on a trailer or following the casting announcements, but I also think they could work on their marketing. They don’t need to do that much marketing because their service markets itself by having a new title appear at the top when it first releases or being in the Top 10 of that week, but they could still do more to help us users be more aware. 

Long story short, I just had no idea that this series was coming out and that they had Anya Taylor-Joy as the lead. I was scrolling through Netflix the day it came out and stumbled across it in the Top 10 for the day. I immediately recognized Anya as the lead, but was enthralled by the trailer and immediately started it. Little did I know that it was actually a series. I spent the first forty-five minutes or so confused about why the story felt so slow. It wasn’t until the very end cliffhanger that I actually found out that it was a series I was watching. More than that though, it was listed as a “limited series”. Which means that they have no intentions of future seasons.

I understand the point of calling something a “limited series” when it makes sense like Chernobyl. That has to be a limited series because you can’t really make a season 2 of a show that covers the whole event. Unless that one season has a definitive ending then it doesn’t really work to have it be called “limited”. If this series has enough viewers and the ratings are overall good, then wouldn’t they try to make a sequel season? I would think so because that’s how the industry typically works. Just think of any movie or show that only intended on being a one-off until it became more popular than anyone expected. 

The point here is that this show, without giving away anything, leaves you satisfied with the character arc of Beth (Anya Taylor-Joy) and does have an ending, but it’s not what I would say a definitive ending. I understand that it was based off of a book so maybe they told the whole story that the book consisted of, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t continue the story further. This is something that I feel is very possible with how this series ended. It left me satisfied, but still wanting a continuation. The real question you’re probably asking though is whether the series deserves to have another season. Is it good enough?

This show is not for everyone, and you may be wondering what the hell it’s even about if you’re reading this before even researching it. It’s a point I wanted to make by talking about the potential the show has before even discussing what it’s about. Chess. That is the answer you’re looking for. This is the moment where I expect many people to roll their eyes and check out saying that it’s not for them. I’m here though to tell you that you’re wrong. This show is about chess, but it’s also about the character of Beth and so many other things like mental health and addictions. 

This show makes chess cool and it makes chess sexy and classy. The game itself is complicated and not everyone understands or can play it at the level that these characters and some real life people do which is usually the turn off. I argue though that this show does everything possible to make chess more interesting and engaging to watch. This wouldn’t be possible though without the incredible talent of Taylor-Joy as our lead. 

We see Beth as a young girl and the struggles in life that brought her to being an orphan in the 1960’s. We see her develop an addiction to a pill that helps her visualize her incredible ability to play chess. Sure, it’s a hallucinogen that is making her visualize the chess pieces and be able to picture the game and become better, but it’s her intelligence that actually allows her to be as good as she is. It may have been the pill that heightened her understanding at a young age, but she was incredibly smart before then. 

We see her learn and become better up until the point she is adopted. She has a real underdog story that makes you think of many professional athletes who had to fight from the bottom to become who they are today. Her mental state though is the real issue for her and her upbringing is also a major issue. She is almost too smart for her own good. She’s the best at what she does, but has to cope with that intelligence by becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol. The show covers her rise to prominence as well as her character growth from start to finish. 

She is the lead and is handled the best throughout the whole series giving us a great character arc for something that seems as simple as a board game. It’s not just her however. The whole supporting cast falls into their roles as pivotal people in her life. Her mom that adopted her plays an important role in how she becomes and how she changes. While many of the other people she meets are all also chess players that become a roadblock for her until she beats them. Once she beats them, they begin to understand the deeper layers that she has under that skin. The true her, the one that struggles mentally and chooses to favor alcohol and drugs over embracing her own intelligence.

The supporting cast are all unique characters who all have their own little quirks that separate themselves from each other. They all have moments to become that next bird on her shoulder to help her overcome the next obstacle and to also let her know about the poor decisions she’s making. It shows the life experience that everyone tends to go through at some point in their lives, or some version of it. It shows how you can overcome obstacles and become a better person despite your own personal drawbacks. 

This is a show about chess, but it’s so much more than just a show about chess. This is a show that deals with life in general that I think many people can relate to in one way or another. It’s a great exploration of this young girl and who she becomes, played expertly by Anya Taylor-Joy. She is a force to be reckoned with and will continue to become an expert in acting which she already seems to be. 

As a side note, this might not be relatable for everyone, but there is a manga series called Hikaru No Go. If you have ever read that and you really enjoy it then I think you would really like this show. There are similar elements that I feel make both that series and this show so good and they both make watching or reading about people play a board game very interesting. I now wish we could have a Hikaru No Go live action series. 

This does bring me though to the finale of my review as I bring everything full circle. This show is so good for what it is and is likely going to be overlooked by many because it’s about chess. This show needs to be watched so that we can support any quality shows regardless of what they’re about. I feel like there are a lot of people that would enjoy this even if they know nothing about chess. I feel like if enough people do watch this show then it would force Netflix’s hand into looking at a sequel season. Something that this show deserves because I could watch several more seasons of Anya Taylor-Joy in this role. You need to go watch The Queen’s Gambit.
If you have seen this show and have your own comments or questions then feel free to comment below and let me know your thoughts! Or you can email us at TowerCityMedia@gmail.com and follow us @TowerCityMedia

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