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A Non-Chess Player’s Humble Review of ‘The Queen’s Gambit’

“The Queen’s Gambit,” co-created by Scott Frank and Allan Scott, tells the story of a chess prodigy and the various challenges that she faces in both her personal and professional life. This concept piqued my interest, as I rarely see shows and movies centered around the game. Honestly, the only chess related “show” I can recall watching is the 1997 Pixar short, “Geri’s Game.” Unlike the simple four-minute “Geri’s Game” though, “The Queen’s Gambit” has the extremely ambitious goal of creatively presenting several chess games over a series of seven episodes. So, does “The Queen’s Gambit” successfully achieve this? Here are my thoughts… (Don’t worry, I will avoid any major spoilers for those of you who haven’t seen the show yet).

The Chess Scenes.

I have to admit, I was a little worried going into “The Queen’s Gambit” that seeing one chess scene after another would get dull extremely fast. However, the chess scenes actually ended up being one of the strongest aspects of the series. I thought every game was filmed in such a creative and unique way!

The Characters.

Overall, the acting in “The Queen’s Gambit” is very well done. Anya Taylor-Joy, who plays the main character, Beth Harmon, delivers an amazing performance in this series. Additionally, I thoroughly enjoyed Thomas Brodie-Sangster’s performance as Benny Watts (one of the other talented chess players we are later introduced to). However, while the acting in this series is strong, the characters themselves sometimes confused me. For instance, the main idea the show wants us to take away from Beth Harmon is that she values chess over building close relationships with people–often coming across as cold and distant. However, throughout the series, she is shown to build friendships with the other characters rather effortlessly, often proving to be one of the more charismatic characters in the show. Another problem I found was with some of the side characters. While some of them added to the show’s charm, like Mike and Matt, some of the side characters ended up having no point to them for the amount of screen-time they were given (I’m looking at you Cleo, sorry).

The Outfits.

The costume designs are probably my favorite part of this show (besides the chess scenes, obviously). Set mainly in the 1950s and 1960s, “The Queen’s Gambit” shows off a stunning collection of iconic outfits. Gabriele Binder, who was in charge of costume design for this series, did an amazing job at coinciding Beth’s wardrobe evolution with her rising fame as a pro chess player. If you wanted to see Beth Harmon’s outfits in more detail, Netflix partnered with the Brooklyn Museum to create a virtual tour (I actually recommended checking it out, you can learn more about each outfit and the creative processes behind them).

Overall, “The Queen’s Gambit” is probably one of my favorite series to be released on Netflix. Even though my knowledge of chess is limited, I was still able to thoroughly enjoy this series!

Mackenzie is currently a sophomore at the University of Colorado Boulder pursuing a Strategic Communications major. When she’s not studying or writing, you can usually find her enjoying a movie night with her friends or playing video games. Check out her Instagram @mackenziehornik
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