The Queen's Gambit
Image courtesy of Netflix
What’s not to love about the nerdy premise of The Queen’s Gambit? Loner, quiet girl finds she has a natural gift whilst challenging current social norms and battling her inner demons? Count me in!
I’ve just finished watching this show and couldn’t have watched it at a better time. Having just received the news of my increasing Netflix subscription indulging in yet another piece of amazing quality drama from Netflix certainly helped soothe that pain and reassure me Netflix is far from out of good ideas.
Our heroine is Beth Harmon. Forced into a children’s home due to tragic circumstances she is unwittingly and sadly turned into a drug addict. Tragically this is aspect of the show is based on factual events. Historically many countries around the world have used sedatives in children’s homes to help staff deal with ‘troublesome’ children. Many have since issued formal apologies. It seems however that some of the drugs look to unlock her thinking and unleash her incredible ability to play chess. They, of course, bring their own problems to the table.
The shows uses compelling special effects to help the viewer visualise what is going on in Beth’s mind as she plays out entire games in her head, playing out alternative moves and working through the variants that creates. I’ve always found it amazing how far ahead talented chess players can think and even more incredibly take on several players simultaneously.
Chess is underlying throughout but for me a big star of the show is the 50’s and 60’s era it is set in and the changing fashions and styles. The sets are incredible as ever and Beth's outfits are amazing. My wife and I watched this and both commented how dull fashions seem now compared to then. After watching this I’d love to see some of that flair and colour come back and don’t get me started about how much cooler and interesting car design was back then!
The drama is well paced and whilst at times it can get dark there is enough changes going on and some good laughs thrown in as well. At times it can get pretty nerdy about the chess aspect especially near the end of the season but I think it is necessary to the story telling. If you, like me, get a bit glossy eyes in those moments you I don’t think you lose much. Perhaps a seasoned chess player might be nerding out in some of those dialogue moments and it adds something for them! Clever editing and visual effects mean you’re not watching lots of very slow moving chess games either so even those scenes are dynamic enough to keep you engaged.
There’s a good reason The Queen’s Gambit became Netflix’s biggest streaming success on its release with over 62 million households watching it in the first 28 days and it creating a big increase in the sale of chess sets and interest in the game. It’s fair to say its rekindled my interest in it too and I’m considering dusting mine down again or perhaps playing it online. Some high quality chess sets really are a thing of beauty.
It’s a visually beautiful show with an unusual subject matter that is both funny and moving. If you’ve not already seen it make your first move to add it to your watch list!