The entire 7-part mini-series – “The Queen’s Gambit” – is incredibly good-looking, starting with its star, Anya Taylor-Joy. The photography is colorful and stylish, the editing is crisp, and the narrative pacing is refreshingly swift. (The action does not stop for people to talk about their feelings, which is the greatest failing of modern drama.)
It’s all rather artificial. We don’t end up feeling these characters are real, but rather bold renderings of imaginary types, like a comic book, perhaps. But artifice can be a virtue when it’s done exquisitely well. This is a comic book with gorgeous production values, and it’s well worth the watch.
It’s about chess; or rather it uses chess as the peg on which to hang the story. The main character, “Beth Harmon,” is a savant who rises to glory because she can visualize chess positions on the ceiling. There are sub-themes about addiction, sex, and finding out what really matters in this big, cold world, but really it’s about chess.
The games in the show are based on real, famous games. Former world chess champion Gary Kasparov consulted on the show to make sure everything was true to life, chesswise. Amazingly, you can watch on YouTube a chess expert play through and analyze the games, with historical commentary. If you dig chess at all, it’s fun; see agadmator’s Chess Channel: specifically here, here, and here. (Watch the show first, for maximum appreciation.)
In these times, good entertainment is…well…good! This is a damn good show, and I recommend it.