While Netflix started off as a streaming platform whose primary focus was on streaming film and series, its goals shifted to making original content and especially series. While we had top-rated series such as House of Cards, Stranger Things and The Crown, the most influential one was last year’s The Queen’s Gambit. The limited series about chess prodigy Beth Harmon didn’t only set some audience records but it also rose the popularity in chess. If you haven’t seen The Queen’s Gambit yet, then you better start watching the series. Here’s why!
More than just a series about chess
The title of this series refers to one of the oldest chess openings you can use to start a chess game and The Queen’s Gambit itself is based on Walter Tevis’s 1983 novel with the same name. Chess is the main ingredient of The Queen’s Gambit, but that doesn’t mean the series only focusses on the game. There’s also a lot of focus on each character’s emotional arc, going after your passion, defining the odds, human relationships, etc. Even if you’re not into chess, you will connect with the characters because of these topics.
Anya Taylor-Joy as the stunning female lead
She already shone in movies such as Thoroughbreds and Split, but The Queen’s Gambit was the most impressive performance from Anya Taylor-Joy without a doubt. She portrays Beth with such flair, dignity and emotional depth and she takes this series to an entirely new level. During the chess games, she oozes cleverness, wittiness, and when she talks to her opponents, it becomes even better. Taylor-Joy is being surrounded by a superb supporting cast. First, there’s Isla Johnston as the young Beth. Her performance involves a lot of innocence, intelligence and sweetness, and she’s just a thrill to watch. Can’t wait to see Johnston in her upcoming short movie Unmourned and television series Ray James.
Another strong performance comes from Marielle Heller as Alma Wheatley, the woman who takes orphan Beth under her wings. Heller’s performance is hugely diverse. At first, she makes you feel uneasy about Wheatley, especially because you get the feeling that Wheatley’s intentions aren’t honest and sincere, but thanks to Heller her warm and emotional performance, you open up to Wheatley more and more throughout the series.
The male cast you know from somewhere else (but just can’t put your finger on from where)
There are also amazing performances by the male cast of The Queen’s Gambit. Thomas Brodie-Sangster (who hasn’t change a lot since his days in Love Actually) also gives a two folded performance. In the beginning, as the harsh, distant and relentless Chess champion Benny Watts but when the story of Benny continues, and more scenes involve Brodie-Sangster and Taylor-Joy, his performance becomes much more likeable, open and heart-warming.
There’s also Harry Melling (yes, Dudley Dursley from Harry Potter) as the state champion and Beth’s friends Harry Beltik and Melling certainly know how to portray both the competitive spirit as well as the poignant side of Beltik. Last but not least, there’s also Bill Camp as Mr. Shaibel, the withdrawn but caring custodian at the Methuen Home for Girls and Beth’s chess teacher. Camp brings much sweetness and emotions and the scenes between him, and the young Johnston are just so joyful.
The magical combination of stunning cinematography and astonishing editing
The excellent performances will draw you to the screen but the extraordinary cinematography from Steven Meizler and the impressive editing by Michelle Tesoro take this series to a whole new level. There are the many long takes used that show the audience the powerful and confident appearance of Beth. Think about Taylor-Joy entrance and walk through the Vegas hotel and Mexico City hotel. The most emotional and impressive long-shot is, without a doubt, the one right at the end of the series. The way Taylor-Joy walks amongst the other chess players while being filmed with a handheld camera brings so many emotions.
However, while the long shots are awe-inspiring, the most extraordinary scenes are certainly close up ones during the chess games. You can feel the tension, the pugnacity and the hunger for a victory from every player in a way and not only because of Meizler’s cinematography. No, also the editing of Tesoro’s heightens those emotions. The fewer chess pieces are on the board, and the higher the stakes become, the faster the editing becomes, and the more excited the audience feels! We’re pretty sure that you will get that thrilling feeling instantly when watching The Queen’s Gambit!
What’s next for The Queen’s Gambit?
So far there are no plans for a second series, but there’s “Creating: The Queen’s Gambit”, a documentary that gives you more insights into the making of this spectacular series. Watch it now and don’t forget to practice your chess moves, might come in handy at some point.
Also Read: It’s time To Talk About Marielle Heller