A Review of “The Queen’s Gambit”

Marin Durkee

The first reaction most people have when they hear Netflix came out with a mini-series all about chess is that it will be boring or overrated, but this show is far from it.  The Queen’s Gambit is an 8 episode mini-series set in the early 1960s, that follows the life of the young female chess prodigy Elizabeth (Beth) Harom, played by the lovely Anya Taylor Joy.  When I started watching the show I wasn’t sure what to expect, and the first episode made me nervous to keep watching, but afterward, I was really enjoying it.  It wasn’t that the first episode was slow, more that I was concerned about where the show was going.  The first episode follows Beth as a young girl when she first arrived at an orphanage after her mother died in a car accident.  Just seeing Beth after the tragedy of her mother and how she dealt with all of the change was concerning.  I will caution there are some brief spoilers and that the show has a somewhat heavy amount of alcohol, smoking, language, and the use of a “tranquilizer” pill that Beth gets addicted to through the whole show.

The Queen’s Gambit was able to attract a lot of attention to chess, not that chess wasn’t popular, I just wasn’t necessarily interested before.  But after I watched the show, I started to understand chess and wanted to play.  I gained a new respect for chess and women in chess. In the show, Beth Harmon, a young woman playing a game that at the time, was mostly dominated by men. As a woman, people really didn’t have much hope for her when she started and knowing the ‘60s, I wouldn’t expect anything different.  Throughout the entire show, people continue to underestimate her, even when she starts to become famous.  There are times when the people around her really start to see her as a serious player, and it was interesting seeing the dynamic between Beth and the other characters.

Towards the end of The Queen’s Gambit, I got irritated at some of the choices Beth made. Around episode 5 I was really proud of Beth as she was starting to take control over her life and make good decisions, but by episode 6, she just went down a spiral. One would think that her close friend and U.S. Champion, Benny Watts (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), would influence her more, but it wasn’t until she saw her mistake from someone who meant the world to her that she flipped her life around.  

As a lover of fashion, I thought that the costumes were fantastic. With the show being set in the ‘60s, they were given a wide variety of options and styles.  One of my favorite items was Beth’s brown cardigan. Even though it was a simple piece, it was worn a lot during the show and I always liked how it was incorporated.  During all of the chess games and public events, Beth wore beautifully colored dresses and skirts, which contrasted the men she played against, who wore simple suits (besides Benny).  Beth never disappointed when it came to fashion.

Overall,  The Queen’s Gambit is a must-see show with great characters and fantastic fashion, that looks at important issues.  It was definitely a show that had me laughing, yelling, crying, and kept me intrigued.  It is probably one of the best Netflix original series in a long time, and even though it’s just a limited series, I finished wanting to see more.  If you are looking for a show to watch, this is certainly the best new thing.