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‘The Queen’s Gambit’ Explores the World of Chess Through Fascinating Characters

Beth faces sexism, addiction, and the loss of loved ones, all while winning chess tournaments.


The Queen’s Gambit
is the story of a girl who only has one goal her entire life: to win at chess. The show starts in the early ’50s, when Beth Harmon is left at an orphanage in Kentucky after her mother’s death. At the orphanage, the janitor, Mr. Shybel, teaches Beth how to play chess and she becomes just as addicted to it as she is to the tranquilizer pills the orphanage gives its students. This series does an amazing job of showing you Beth’s whole world, and her mind, in just seven episodes. She is a self destructive, often mean character, but even when you are fed up with Beth you are still rooting for her. 

Beth faces sexism, addiction, and losing loved ones, all while winning chess tournaments. One of the best things about the show is how it starts when Beth is very young and goes until she is in her 20s. Even though 15 years are being fit into just seven episodes, it doesn’t feel rushed or cramped, but is actually a fairly slowly paced show. The creators only show what matters, and although this does leave you wondering what was skipped, it is very satisfying. The series manages to tie up almost all the loose ends in just seven hours of runtime. There is no cliffhanger, and Netflix should leave the story as is and not make more seasons. The show leaves the viewer not needing any more information, which is rare and shows they did a good job. 

Something that is used in many TV shows to captivate audiences is making the main character very relatable. In shows like Gilmore Girls, Rory is very relatable to many people, and in the cast of Friends, it’s hard not to find a character you can relate to in some way or another. But in The Queen’s Gambit, it’s much harder to relate to Beth. She is an orphan who is a genius at chess and travels the world playing it. There could be people out there like that but they put her in the 1960s, a time we are no longer in so we can relate to her even less, as she was made to be such a unique person. Although it is true that many people relate to the themes of loss and loneliness in the show, Beth is proof that a show can be loved by many without those people relating to the characters or their passions 

Beth Harmon is played by Anya Taylor-Joy, a British, American, and Argentinian actress. Taylor-Joy has been in many movies and TV shows but she looks so different in all of them, so she is not as easily recognizable as her striking features might suggest. The directors use this to their advantage by making her look different ages throughout the show. In an interview with TV Insider, Taylor-Joy said she really fell in love with Beth Harmon, which she showed through her seamless embodiment of the character. The other actors in the show also do a great job supporting the main character. These side characters help us understand who Beth is and help her to be a better person and to find happiness. Because the show is so short we don’t find out much about the other characters, so the focus always remains on Beth’s character progression.

The Queen’s Gambit is a really wonderful show that takes you into a world you would never experience otherwise. It seems like a true story, from how well Taylor-Joy plays Beth, the extreme attention to detail, and how unusual all the characters are. It seems as though this story really did happen, and as though Beth Harmon is a real person. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like chess or know anything about it. At the end of the show you might not even know more about the game itself, but you will know more about the incredible world that a seemingly simple game created. The Queen’s Gambit is artful and purposeful, and conveys the game of chess in a way that makes you want to get a board yourself.