When The Queen’s Gambit – a limited series about an orphaned chess prodigy’s rise while battling addiction- premiered last October, I thought “That’s just great! Netflix is now in the business of streaming anesthesia! I mean… Chess?”. But who doesn’t love a good nap right? So I hit play on the first episode and 59 minutes later I was buying a subscription to chess.com and popping episodes like our protagonist Beth Harmon was popping pills at 9. Just imagine a gummy bear-devouring child, if gummy bears came in chlordiazepoxide flavor ??.
Since then, way over 60 million households got hooked too, and like any acid trip it left us some serious sequelae. For starters, an actual sequel! This limited series will have a second season called award season, which premieres this Sunday, February 28th, when the cast and crew of this story wins 2 Golden Globe awards ??. Do I have evidence? No. Doubts? No. Was I Trump’s previous spokesperson? HELL NO. The Queen’s Gambit’s other sequelae to enjoy include blindness , schizophrenia, and food intolerance ???.
If you’ve already gotten high on it, but haven’t felt any of these aftereffects, then read me to realize what you’ve been missing out on. If you haven’t, then read me to learn why you risk -and should risk- living with the aftermath of becoming addicted to the best series I watched in 2020. Rest assured at least you don’t risk doing the walk of shame from your ex’s house the following morning if you get high on it. Unless you Netflix and Chill… ?
A Star Was Born and Burned My Eyes
When I say men are blinded by my sexappel, I’m lying. They get their eyesight back in an hour or two ???. Your retinas will enjoy the same fate after you watch actress Anya Taylor-Joy blow up as a superstar as she leads The Queen’s Gambit. Anya, who is American, British and a fellow latinx from Argentina, blazed my eyes with every move she made with the chess set of a character she was given to play in Beth Harmon.
Beth is a Pawn piece ♟️. She has very limited moves as an institutionalized 10 year old orphan. Yet, just like a Pawn can turn into Queen by crossing to the other side of the board, Beth’s prodigious talent for chess opens up the path for her to reach her potential not just as a chess player, but as a person. Across a playing field dominated by Knights and towering addictions, Anya, who is 24, morphs her way as Beth from a 15 year old girl to a 20+ queen.
Anya’s precision is atomic ⚛️. As the years go by, little by little she straightens her posture, glamorizes her walk, tenses her stare… She even made sure to change Beth’s way of moving the chess pieces as she evolved. As a result, supported by immaculate make up, hair and wardrobe artists -whose pieces are now in a museum- Anya paints her character’s years long journey so effectively that you would bet she used a time machine, but also so subtly that’s not until you’ve binged all 7 episodes that you’ll ask yourself “WTF? Did she use a time machine?”
Anya is a fraud. I said it! She didn’t actually play a mutant in the last X-Men film ❌. She proved she is an actual shape-shifting mutant in the greatest breakout performance I’ve seen since Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone. You can see her next in the psychological thriller “Last Night in Soho”, or rewind and watch her in “Emma”, the Jane Austen adaptation for which she is already nominated for a Golden Globe.
Things Get Real… When You Hallucinate
Watching Beth is to hallucinate a woman from a society where feminism has won ?♀️♀️, and Anya makes her so real that you’ll be rendered schizophrenic as the line between our misogynistic reality and the dream of gender equality blurs ?. To have a character like Beth feel so real in the distant 60’s, makes that feminist dream feel more of a fact for a less distant future. Just like a Queen piece ♕, Beth is a female in a male dominated field whose path is undefined by her gender but by her power. She moves wherever and however she wants to move. Nothing and no one can stop her, except for herself. She is unfaced by gender disparities, even though she daily faces them by living in the 60’s. She said she doesn’t mind being a woman in a men’s club, but not being the best in the club.
You could easily dismiss this anachronic character as unbelievable as Senator Ted Cruz flying to Cancún as Texans are freezing to death ❄️, but Anya’s brilliant acting allows Beth to become as real as Senator Ted Cruz flying to Cancún as Texans are freezing to death ?. She makes sure we feel how Beth’s trauma is responsible for her extreme two-sided introversion. On one hand, it isolates her from all the social noise that comes her way because of her gender. On the other, it isolates her from any support system she could rely on to fight her inner demons ?.. Either way, Anya allows you to always feel the pain behind the introversion, so you understand that becoming a Queen piece that won’t stop at any wall -gender related or not- was a survival mechanism for Beth, but also how this rendered her as emotionally available to others as a Marie Antoinette ??.
Like High Blood Pressure, This Changed My Diet
The Queen’s Gambit will make you realize that you carry enough PTSD to pay a shrink’s student debt in your first year as their sole client ???. We are so used to bad things happening, especially the worst on TV, that we borderline expect them even on Peppa Pig ?. Deception, violence, rape… have become tropes to create “compelling” stories. During the first episode of this series that began development 30 years ago as a movie with Heath Ledger (Yes. The Dark Knight’s Joker ??) as the director, I knew 9 year old Beth was going to get raped by his chess teacher, banned by her principal from learning the sport, become a Cinderella with no fairy godmother to save her from her adoptive family, and taken advantage of by fellow chess players claiming to be friends… Turns out, I was right, as right as a left hand.
The Queen’s Gambit makes the most aggressive twist a TV show can make right now: not making ONE of those morbid twists you can see coming before you hit “play”. This was so refreshing, that since I watched this series I’m bad-for-sport intolerant ?. If I wanted to see people being the worst versions of themselves just for the sake of it I’d turn on C-SPAN. Now I only consume lean content, lean of Murphy’s Law, which creators like Shonda Rhymes (Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal…) abuse. Not only does it make stories less real since no life but Batman’s is plagued with so many villains and tragedy, but it also makes them commonplace. No matter how much you enjoy a rollercoaster, if you ride it every single night there will be a point when you’d rather be at a library.
Even though you now know that these predictable “every bad thing that could happen will happen” twists won’t happen, I have not spoiled anything for you! ❤️ Watch The Queen’s Gambit and see for yourself how – without them- Oscar nominated creator Scott Frank (Godless) and his team made this such an intense story that chess sales increased up to 1000% according to game companies ♖♖♘♘. Overdose on the The Queen’s Gambit now ? (I might be on my third watch…) and have your eyes blinded by the rising star of Anya Taylor-Joy, your head spinned by the postfeminist character of Beth Harmon, and your hunger for content forever changed by this cliché breaking show. If you end up too hungry, relax, because the weather is sunny with a chance for another whirlwind. Frank is already developing an adaptation of the novel “Laugher After Dark”, by “Lolita” author Vladimir Nabokov, with Anya in mind.