If you’ve not seen people raving about The Queen’s Gambit, where have you been? Granted, people have recently become more obsessed with Bridgerton, but I think The Queen’s Gambit deserves a bit more time in the spotlight. Here are five reasons why you should be watching it:
TW: drug abuse, other substance abuse, suicide, death of family members.
- The outfits.
The Queen’s Gambit starts in the 1950s, and progresses into the 1960s. I’d never been one for 1960s fashion (I’m more into the high-waisted skater skirts of the 50s) until this. Beth’s fashion sense is just unreal, and the costumes are so meticulously designed and considered. The fashion also plays a role into the actual character of Beth, who takes great pleasure in fashion. A lot of the outfits are designed around the chess board, so expect to see a lot of strong colour blocking and blacks and whites in her wardrobe. I’m just so obsessed with her clothing I’ve started to regularly search on secondhand sites for 60s-style clothing in the hopes I can dress more Beth Harmon. So far my only success has been finding a pair of high-waisted jeans with bit turn-ups, which isn’t even that iconic of a piece of clothing in terms of the Beth wardrobe (she wears them in about one scene while she’s at home).
- The cinematography and effects
A large part of The Queen’s Gambit revolves around Beth’s addiction to the tranquilizers she was given in her orphanage. As a result of these drugs, Beth is able to visualise a chess board (often on the ceiling), and see the pieces moving, predicting the outcome of games. The way this is done is visually really clever, and it’s only the start of the beauty of this show. At the minute, there is a big trend in TV towards making shows look glossy and high-budget. While to an extent The Queen’s Gambit does partake in this, there is still some amount of personality in the aesthetic. Beth is a bit rough around the edges, and so is the cinematography. The camera spins and swirls around the room with a drunken Beth, and the cellar where Beth learns to play chess is appropriately gritty.
- The script
Obviously, a good TV show needs a good script. And The Queen’s Gambit delivers. The audience can swing from rooting for Beth to almost despising her across a single episode thanks to the extreme mood swings and downward spirals Beth finds herself falling into. The other characters are also really interesting, and while the cast is fairly busy for a 7-episode series, it carries its cast well, giving enough screentime to all the major characters to allow the audience to develop an investment in them, which often serves to further complicate the audience’s reaction to Beth’s behaviour, which is frequently insensitive and rude towards the other characters, but of course, the audience wants to be rooting for her.
- The acting
Anya Taylor-Joy in the lead role of Beth Harmon is, well, a joy to watch. She’s an extremely expressive actor, which is really instrumental for a show where a decent portion of screentime is given over to chess games where, notoriously, the competitors do not speak to one another. Instead, Taylor-Joy’s body language and expression tells the audience all they need to know. Even someone with no knowledge of chess will know when Beth’s game is not going the way she wants. The rest of the cast, too, are outstanding, in particular Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Benny, another young chess player Beth competes against early on and later befriends, and Marielle Heller as Alma Wheatley, Beth’s adopted mother.
- The storyline
And finally, the storyline. As I touched on before, the audience’s opinion of Beth really changes throughout this show. As a young orphan, we see Beth become addicted to tranquilizers. After her adoption, her adopted parents separate, and Beth sees her adopted mother lean into alcoholism. Beth takes up smoking and drinking at a young age, and these join her addictions. She becomes dependent on substances, and falls further into a downward spiral after a personal tragedy. The way the show deals with her addiction is really interesting, because we also see the effect on those around her. She pushes them away, is rude, self-destructive, and falls into a pit of addiction. We also see peaks and troughs in her chess career, not just her personal life. And when Beth doesn’t win at chess, Beth falls deeper into the downward spiral. The whole story just hangs together so well.
Honestly, The Queen’s Gambit is one of my favourite shows probably ever. It definitely deals with some topics that could be triggers (drug abuse, other substance abuse, suicide, death of family members), so be aware of that before diving in, but it is genuinely beautifully made, and I’ve rarely been so impressed by a piece of media.
Have you seen The Queen’s Gambit?