The Collegian
Thursday, December 03, 2020

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Film Fridays: The Queen's Gambit

<p><em>Graphic by Carissa Gurgul</em></p>

Graphic by Carissa Gurgul

Editor’s Note: This review contains spoilers. The views and opinions expressed in this article do not reflect those of The Collegian.

Throughout our day to day lives, we make millions of choices that determine the outcome of the day. There is no real way to understand the consequences the smallest choice may have on your day. In a sense, every decision has its own importance. Having a favorable end result is the objective. One may even compare the composition of these choices to the ever-evolving game of chess.

“The Queen’s Gambit,” a new drama limited series from Netflix, is the culmination of genius and obsession with mastery over the game. Although the focus is chess, the series portrays its protagonist Beth Harmon — superbly played by Anya Taylor-Joy — through a lonely lens. Her world is isolated as no challenger can match her prowess, nor can anyone understand her struggles.

This series is the chess drama you never knew you needed.

The main arch follows Harmon from youth to young adulthood in its seven-episode run. With episode runtimes averaging around an hour, the time usually gets away from you. If you find yourself with a few hours to kill before heading home for break, “The Queen’s Gambit” is worth your attention.

Despite its strengths, the show does have a few dull moments. They aren’t drastic, but occasionally I found myself distracted during exposition scenes. I’d often realize that I had been looking at my phone or focusing my attention elsewhere instead of focusing on the scene. Maybe it was my fatigue of dialogue scenes after watching for a few hours. However, I do think these faults are minor and do not sway my recommendation for this series.

But the chess, my god, the chess. This show makes a chess match with Harmon intense. The clicking back and forth of speed clocks being checked, the clank of pawns and bishops as they collide and the sound of her opponent’s king resigning make every frame something to behold. Believe me when I tell you that these scenes are awesome. I remember the satisfaction of beating my dad in chess as a kid, so these scenes were that much better. 

“Chess is beautiful,” Harmon says in the early episodes. I walked away from my initial watch reflecting on that most. There is a beautiful scene where Harmon describes what chess is to her, and her simple understanding of such a complex board is truly amazing. The supporting cast is also impressive with an appearance from Thomas Brodie-Sangster from “Maze Runner” and “Game of Thrones” fame.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the series. It’s not every day that a high-level chess match would be thrilling to watch. “The Queen’s Gambit” is available to stream on Netflix now.

Contact features writer Quinn Humphrey at quinn.humphrey@richmond.edu.

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