By Michael Bald
Graphic by Michael Bald
There have been recent debates over the past couple of years discussing the possibility of movies dying. Not the actual art form, but the structure in which movies are made from a regular two-hour runtime into a mini-series structure instead. While I do see this as a possibility and a bit tragic, this could happen. If the result is anything like the recent “The Queen’s Gambit” then I have no fear for the quality of entertainment to come.
“The Queen’s Gambit” is a Netflix mini-series starring Anya Taylor-Joy as a very troubled but brilliant chess player in the late 1960s and her quest to top the ranks of the world’s best players.
Netflix recently made a movie called “Enola Holmes” where the main character was flawless in every aspect, which made her not very memorable. I was clearly not a fan. Not here, though. Not in “The Queen’s Gambit.” Not only did Taylor-Joy give the best performance of her career playing the main character, but she felt like a real person.
One of the best aspects of the show is that it is a deep character study about an orphaned girl who has had to rely on herself to make it through life without any real role models. Throughout the show, she relies on alcohol and other substances in order to cope with her loneliness.
As she makes it up the ranks in various competitions, she realizes there are lots of people around her who want to help her, and she doesn’t have to be alone anymore. It’s a simple arc and premise but super effective.
On a deeper level, I feel as if the show is a lesson about humans and control or lack thereof. The main character has always relied on herself; she uses chess as an escape because it’s the only thing in her world that she has complete control of. Not only is it an arc of her growing to appreciate the people around her, but also accepting what happened to her and her past.
Another genius aspect of the show is the way it depicts the mines of world-renowned chess players. It’s written in a way where it makes you feel smart as you’re watching it. The way she comes up with the next moves she wants to play and a game she looks at the ceiling and imagines multiple different ways the game could go and knows exactly what move to make based on the other player’s decision. The main character’s deduction skills are so fast it makes the viewer feel as if they can do the same thing in the same scenario.
“The Queen’s Gambit” is an excellent mini-series and character study. It’s only seven parts and each of them is around 48 minutes, but when you watch it, it feels as if time flies by. It’s a great introduction to the world of chess and an excellent character study.