Anyone who hears the premise of The Queen’s Gambit might think that a story about a chess prodigy would be far from thrilling, but they could not be more wrong. This Netflix historical drama, set in the Cold War Era, tells the story of chess prodigy Elizabeth Harmon, who strives to become the best player in the world as she copes with addiction, the loss of loved ones, and sexism from male competitors. Despite these hardships, Harmon forms meaningful friendships and relationships with people she meets in her world travels. The show is an inspiring display of valiant triumph over hardships and keeps the audience enthralled, waiting to see Harmon’s next brilliant move.
The plot of The Queen’s Gambit is riveting throughout the entirety of the show. Whether Harmon is traveling to new cities, competing against chess grandmasters, or forming heartwarming connections with opponents or old friends, each episode made me wonder what would come next. The plot is further enhanced by the stark contrast between Harmon’s reckless drug usage and chess’ order and elegance.
The sexism in the 1960s male-dominated chess world is central to the show. At the beginning of Harmon’s chess journey, she is practically dismissed from a tournament after the organizers tell her there is no “women’s section.” When she begins gaining recognition for her skills, the press continues to focus mainly on her gender, highlighting the anomaly of female success. However, throughout all these instances, Harmon never doubts her skill or her place in these tournaments, a part of the show which inspired me. Harmon proves that women are just as capable as men of being fierce competitors.
Interestingly, Harmon does not feel like her gender is a central aspect of her identity. I found that in not obsessing over her gender, the show made her victories even more empowering, as gender stereotypes were not relevant to her skill or career.
Anya Taylor-Joy’s acting also impressed me; she was able to bring such depth and intrigue to Harmon’s character, and consequently, her chess matches. Taylor-Joy portrayed an array of emotions during these games that, without even understanding the rules of chess, I anticipated her successes and occasional failures. The most subtle smile, panicked look, or gesture let the audience understand the workings of her mind during her many high stakes matches, making even the least action-packed moments captivating.
While chess is a game played solo, one of my favorite moments of the series is when Harmon turns to others for help reaching her goals. While she is undeniably independent, she also works with her past opponents, friends, and family, which gives Harmon depth and gives the show a heart-warming touch.
Intricate plot details, fascinating characters, and impressive chess feats are all showcased in The Queen’s Gambit. Only seven episodes long, it is an excellent show to binge-watch on Netflix and will likely leave you wanting to take out a chess board and try out the Queen’s Gambit opener for yourself.