Last year the coming-out-of-age novel “The Queen’s Gambit” became Netflix’s newest project and latest sensation that gained viewers with the speed of light.
The adaptation of Walter Tevis’ literature piece about a girl with prodigy-like skills in chess didn’t catch everyone’s eyes for no reason. The intriguing story, gripping dialogues, tense scenes, and of course, the brilliant actors and actresses all contributed to putting “The Queen’s Gambit” on the list of the greatest binge-watching worthy TV series. Here’s a sneak peek at why it’s a must-watch.
An orphan turned prodigy
After surviving a car crash, Beth Harmon is taken in by Mrs. Deardorff, the director of Methuen Home, an orphanage for girls. It doesn’t take long for the teaching staff to become aware of Beth’s unusual character and above-average intellectuality. Soon enough it is discovered that the nine-year-old has also an impressive talent for chess. With the help of the home’s janitor, Mr. Shaibel, Beth learns the game in one single breath and not long after, is given the title of a wunderkind.
During her teenage years, together with her adoptive mother (played by Marielle Heller), Beth hits the chess tournaments all over America. In no time she is recognized as the orphaned prodigy and ruthlessly starts conquering one match after the other, leaving her opponents (almost all of them male) in awe and disbelief.
Isla Johnson depicts exquisitely the character of a gifted yet somewhat traumatized child, overdosed on tranquilizers, who finds an escape route in chess. Her performance is fantastic and makes us fall into the story from the very first minutes. As Beth enters puberty, the protagonist role falls on Anya-Joy Taylor’s shoulders who transforms the character so effortlessly from a peculiar helpless child to a player to be reckoned with.
Excelling in a man’s world
Although her remarkable talent leaves speechless some of the greatest male players of that time, Beth still doesn’t receive the same treatment and admiration as her male rivals. Giving up would be way easier. Instead, she becomes a thread in a sport completely dominated by men. She gets to play against the best of the best, defeating one after the other, with every win sending women all around the globe a powerful message: you are capable of doing anything.
Addiction and recovery in “The Queen’s Gambit”
With every story, however, there must be a dark side, something that makes the protagonist reach a breaking point. “The Queen’s Gambit” is no exception to the rule. Beth’s addiction to tranquilizers and later alcohol leads to her self-destruction. The outcome is horrendous (as expected): showing up drunk in competitions, losing her concentration, and most importantly, losing the people that care about her. By the finale episode, Beth is back on her feet, throws herself back into the game, and is ready more than ever to rule the world of chess.
“The Queen’s Gambit” is not just the story of a girl turned prodigy, but the story of a turbulent journey of self-discovery. Dealing with mental health issues and addictions while trying to become the next Grandmaster isn’t something that should be taken lightly. Overcoming those obstacles is a challenge itself, even a greater one than becoming a world-renowned chess player. Beth’s life is in constant turmoil. Luckily, an exit sign appears – a chance to take back control of herself. Her journey is undeniably inspiring and motivating. It will certainly raise your spirits too.