The newest drama series to hit Netflix, “The Queen’s Gambit,” has the internet buzzing with excitement. Rotten Tomatoes rated the series 100% in its Tomatometer and 97% in the average audience score. IMDb also gave the show 8.9 out of 10 stars.
The consensus among Rotten Tomatoes critics is that it “is an absolute win” despite the series’ flaws.
The limited series is Scott Frank’s adaptation of the coming-of-age novel of the same name by Walter Tevis and begins in the late 1950s. The series opens with a foreshadowing scene where Beth Harmon, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, rushes to a chess match right after chasing two pills with a shot of alcohol.
The episode rewinds to introduce Beth as a nine year old, played by Isla Johnson, who miraculously survives a car accident that instantly kills her mother. With an absent father, young Beth is sent to an orphanage. During her time there, she befriends Jolene, played by Moses Ingram, and develops a dependence on little green tranquilizers and a passion for chess.
The intelligent young Beth is sent to the basement to clap erasers where she meets the school janitor, Mr. Shaibel, played by Bill Camp. He introduces her to the game of chess and not only teaches her the various strategies, but also when to politely resign and lay down her king.
After spending years at the orphanage, 15-year-old Beth is adopted by Alma and Allston Wheatly, played by Marielle Heller and Patrick Kennedy, respectively. With her chess books packed and self-loathing in hand, Beth makes her way to the Kentucky suburbs. She enters her first chess tournament which begins her career with the sixty-four squares.
Throughout the series, viewers are given glimpses of Beth’s internal struggles and her passion for chess. Frank utilizes the camera in such a way that the viewer feels as though Beth is playing the game with them. During every game, Beth stares across the board and intently at her competitor.
Taylor-Joy truly brings Beth’s character to life by bringing an energy that lends to the story of addiction and a damaged, isolated soul. Each episode showcases the quiet teenager honing her chess skills as she works toward the U.S. Open championship.
Of course, Beth’s struggles are just part of the storyline. The plot is centered around the game and the accuracy of how it’s played is credited to chess consultants Bruce Pandolfini and Garry Kasparov.
“Even though it’s such a mental game, I think what we’ve done with the show is choreograph all of the chess sequences with a different understanding,” Taylor-Joy said.
Every game brings a different element to the series as each is played out like an action sequence. Some games are very intense while others are played more passionately. Mixed with Beth’s personal demons, addiction to tranquilizers and obsession with conquering the world of chess, the series brings one edge-of-your-seat cocktail of entertainment.