Tv Show Review: The Queen’s Gambit –– It’s More Than Just Chess
The Queen’s Gambit tells the story of Beth. A nine year-old orphan who is quiet, sullen, and by all appearances unremarkable. That is, until she plays her first game of chess. Her senses grow sharper, her thinking clearer, and for the first time in her life she feels herself fully in control. By the age of sixteen, she’s competing for the U.S. Open championship. But as Beth hones her skills on the professional circuit, the stakes get higher, her isolation grows more frightening, and the thought of escape becomes all the more tempting.
A Sneak Peek Into “The Queen’s Gambit”
At the age of nine, Beth Harmon is all alone. Her mother had just died in a car accident and she is now an orphan. It’s not like she had a very close relationship with her mother, it was the opposite actually. Ever since she was little, Beth has always been a quiet kid. No matter how much her mother yelled or screamed or panicked, Beth would always just calmly stare and said nothing.
Even on the day she was brought to the orphanage, she didn’t shed a tear. One would suppose, in a way, Beth has gotten used to being alone and maybe even prefer her own company to anyone else’s. In the orphanage, kids were given 2 pills every day. One red pill, and one green pill. The red pills were said to be vitamins, to keep the kids strong and healthy. The green pills, on the other hand, were called Xanzolam, which are usually prescribed for women with anxiety and insomnia. In the orphanage, it was given to the kids as tranquilizers to keep them calm and sedated.
She didn’t really care for the green pills until one day when she was in the basement where she stumbled onto a janitor called Mr. Shaibel playing chess all by himself. The sleek design of the board as well as all the pieces fascinated her, and she asked for him to teach her how to play. Upon hearing that, Mr. Shaibel’s reply to her was, “Girls don’t play chess.”
Beth was upset. She has never been this fascinated with something before, and yet now that her attention has been captured by the game of chess, Mr. Shaibel refused to teach her. Despite the refusal, however, Beth did not give up easily. She watched Mr. Shaibel’s gameplay, read books to grasp a deeper understanding of how chess works. And at night––this is where the green pill comes in handy––she would pop in a green pill and the chess pieces would start appearing on the ceiling as if they were magic.
And thus, she practiced in her head.
After a few nights of this and Beth’s persistence in wanting to learn chess, Mr. Shaibel eventually caved and decided to mentor her. To his surprise, Beth––for a girl who has never played chess ever before––held up quite well against himself. Mr. Shaibel was sure that she had never played this game before, but yet, she was able to play so well. So he asked her, “How did you know how to play chess?”
“I practiced, in my head.” Was Beth’s nonchalant reply.
This continued for a while, Beth would finish her school work and tests early, then she would go down to the basement to practice chess with Mr. Shaibel. It took her a while, but eventually, Mr. Shaibel who started off as her mentor wasn’t even able to beat her anymore. Mr. Shaibel surprised by her abilities, so much so that he invited a high school chess teacher to try to beat her. And even then, Beth effortlessly beat him without much thought.
As her obsession with chess grew, her dependence on the green pill did as well. Before when Beth would just take one green pill a day, now she would save up a few days worth of green pills and down them all at once. These days, she could no longer function without it. The green pills are the only way she was able to imagine the chessboard on the ceiling and practice in her head while everyone was asleep. Beth has become addicted to Xanzolam despite all the warnings that her friend gave her about the green pill.
And just when Beth was spearing through her young life getting better and better in chess, the state passes a law forbidding giving tranquilizers to children. Upon hearing that, Beth’s whole world comes crashing down.
What is she going to do now without those magical green pills?
3 Words to Describe This Show
BRILLIANT, GRIPPING, UNIQUE
Ever since I subscribed to Netflix, I have watched so many more shows than I ever would otherwise. From the good ones to the mediocre ones and to the great ones. I mean, I can’t say that I’ve already watched all the shows there is on Netflix––because your girl doesn’t have the eye power for that––but I can say that I have binged a good handful of them and to be really, truly honest, The Queen’s Gambit is pretty up there when it comes to great shows.
Actually, I would even go as far as to say that The Queen’s Gambit might just be the best tv show that I’ve watched in 2020. From the cinematography to the actress and the aesthetic, everything was just so well done. Even now, a few weeks after I’ve finished bingeing it all in one go, I still sometimes go back just to stare at Anya Taylor Joy’s face. Honest to god that woman is absolutely gorgeous.
BETH HARMON AND SOMETHING ABOUT SMART GIRLS
This is something that just started developing in the past few years, but as I grow older, it feels like I am prioritizing more on brains than looks. 5 years ago I was all for that bad boy let-me-fix-you-but-i-wont-bring-you-home-to-momma type guys, but these days, it’s all the brains for me.
Maybe I am just evolving more and more into a zombie….
Me turning into a zombie aside (please love me still), while I was first pulled into the show because of Beth’s looks, it was her smarts that pulled me in and made me stay. There is something so endearing yet awe-inspiring about her way of moving through life. Despite the era that The Queen’s Gambit was set in, with chess being something that usually only men participate actively in, Beth knocked down all those stereotypes without batting an eye. What’s even cooler is that she wasn’t even trying to be a feminist or to stick one out for the girls.
Beth just loved chess, and she pursued it with all her might. It wasn’t that she was trying to show all those men that women can also play chess if she’d like, but it’s just she just didn’t care. Beth couldn’t understand why everyone was so surprised at the fact that she enjoyed and was good at playing chess. For her, it was just something that she loved and took great pride in. The way she looked at the world was for the most part very innocent, and something about that made me want to roll her up into a burrito and protect her forever.
IT’S MORE THAN JUST CHESS
A lot of people might be put off by the trailer, or by the synopsis when they see that this show is all about chess. Well, take it from someone who binged this show all in one go in a day: yes…and no.
Yes to the fact that The Queen’s Gambit is indeed a show about chess. However, it was also more than that. It tackles the topic of mental health, friendship, romantic relationships, addiction. Really, this show is deeper than what they show you in the trailer.
With Beth Harmon being a chess prodigy and whatnot it is understandable that there will be a lot of chess play going on, despite that, the show managed to make it in a way that it’s not boring nor repetitive. And this is coming from someone who detests chess from when she was little. I understand no chess whatsoever yet I have no problem following along with the storyline.
Trust me, The Queen’s Gambit is more than just chess.
DEPRESSION, LONELINESS, AND OTHER DRUGS
The Queen’s Gambit follows Beth from when she was nine years old through all her transitions into being an adult. Her despairs, her proudest moments, the people that come and goes. The viewers get to see all of that. Beth when she’s happy, Beth when she’s angry…her tears, her drunk, her crazy.
I love how Beth’s mental issues are depicted in The Queen’s Gambit. It’s like one of those people who seems to have it all on the outside, but on the inside, they were all broken in pieces. Maybe how Beth handled stress and how she always strives for nothing but perfection struck a chord in me, or maybe it was something else. I don’t really know for sure, all I know is that I really appreciate how they portrayed mental issues and drug addiction in this show.
While watching Beth go through all her mental breakdowns or her non-stop drinking blender, it never once struck me as something that is…odd. It was as if all of the emotions that she went through are all just part of life––of dealing with her emotions and growing up. It wasn’t portrayed as some sort of taboo, even among her friends. They sympathize with her, they were kind and understanding yet also firm with Beth. I don’t know, maybe this part of the review doesn’t make sense at all, but I just really appreciate that The Queen’s Gambit portrayed periods of depression or anxiety as something that people go through in life, instead of something that needs to be hospitalized. You feel me?
ROMANCE IS…KINDA IN THE AIR?
Another thing I love about The Queen’s Gambit: there is no pressure for Beth to date. Sure, she has pursuers who come to try their luck, and Beth herself also was attracted to some characters in the show, but there was never an underlying pressure from her stepmom or friends to push her to date. Which, thinking of when this show was set in––the year 1958––was quite surprising, at least for me.
While in this show Beth was never in a relationship for long, she never lacks male attention. Which makes sense given how gorgeous she is. However thinking how in the 50s and 60s where women are mainly housewives and listen to their husbands, it’s really refreshing to see Beth conquering the world one chess play at a time. Not only that, in the show, she became so well known for her ruthless chess play that men were intimidated by her. Which I can only imagine is not something you see often in the 50s and 60s.
Needless to say, The Queen’s Gambit’s takes on how Beth approaches sex and romantic relationship as a whole is very refreshing. Especially when you take the era into mind.
If you haven’t watched this The Queen’s Gambit, you have to. No, seriously, you need to. If you follow this blog long enough, you already know that your girl rarely ever get so gung-ho about tv shows. Books yes, every now and then. But tv shows? Almost never.
Ever since I finished watching The Queen’s Gambit, I have recommended it to nearly everyone I know that has ears attached to their heads. I seriously cannot recommend this show enough. Even if you don’t think you’ll enjoy it, just give it a 30-minute trial. If it didn’t catch your interest after that, you can drop it entirely. However, if you ended up bingeing it in under a day as I did, your girl expects a kiss on the cheek and a chocolate ice cream.
Not to mention, even if the show was just kind of bleh for you, wouldn’t you watch just for Anya Taylor’s doe eyes and gorgeous cheekbones? Because I damn well know I would. *wink*
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