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Webb Canyon Chronicle

The Student News Site of The Webb Schools

Webb Canyon Chronicle

The Student News Site of The Webb Schools

Webb Canyon Chronicle

Netflix plays its pieces perfectly in The Queen’s Gambit

Netflix+plays+its+pieces+perfectly+in+The+Queen%E2%80%99s+Gambit., edited to fit 4×3 by Noelani Chock (‘23)
Netflix plays its pieces perfectly in The Queen’s Gambit.

The Queen’s Gambit, Netflix’s new historical drama, will addict any viewer to chess. Not only has the show reached number one on the top ten Netflix watchlist, The Queen’s Gambit has scored 100% fresh tomatoes and received high praise from various reviews and Webbies.  

There was not a point where I wasn’t interested,” Angie Zhang said (‘23). “It’s about chess and history. I’m surprised I never looked away.”  

The show follows the life of Elizabeth Harmon, an orphan who masters the game of chess all while struggling through addiction and adolescence.  

SPOILER ALERT: From here on out, if you have not seen the show yet but are interested in doing so, there will be spoilers, so skip to the last paragraph to avoid them. 

An opening must capture the eyes and interests of its audience, and The Queen’s Gambit has us in their grasp within a few minutes of pure havoc. The gaze of Elizabeth Harmon burns onto our screens as the episode describes Harmon’s childhood.  

Sent to the Methuen Orphanage for Girls after the death of her mother, Harmon acquaints herself with an AfricanAmerican girl named Jolene who introduces Harmon to her future addiction: little green vitamin pills. She also meets an old janitor named Mr. Shaibel who teaches Harmon chess, sparking her unwavering passion for the game.  

For Harmon, playing chess successfully is due to the reliance on her pills that give her hallucinations, allowing mental chess games to dance on her ceiling at night. However, the conflict revolving around Harmon’s later life is due to her inexperience with emotions after every sense of pain from loss and sadness had been corrupted with the euphoria from chess and green pills. 

At 15, Harmon is adopted by the Wheatleys but is raised solely by Mrs. Wheatley who encouraged Harmon’s chess life after she placed 1st in a chess competition, beating out the state champion. The unexpected win of a female defies the gender norms in sports and seems a bit unrealistic considering the time frame and the patriarchal society that was prevalent, but Harmon still finds strife in the world as she struggles to fit in with the societal standards of a teenage girl. Her outfits often show this disconnect; her plaid coats differ from a green setting or a black dress contrasting from a pink room. Just as Harmon describes chess being a world of 64 spaces that she controls, her life is that of a piece on a chessboard, waiting to be ruined by a better player. 

Harmon’s first blow to her carefully controlled life was against Benny Watts after the two tied for the title of United States champion where Harmon admits that she played right into his hands. Moving forward, she plays in Mexico and loses to the world champion, Gorgov of Russia, but her anger stalls as her adoptive mother dies and she is left to deal with her first real instance of pain and sorrow with only pills and alcohol as her distractions.  

Along comes Harry Beltik, former Kentucky champion of chess, who helps Harmon prepare for the US championship. In love with Harmon, he stays by her side until the moment he finally convinces himself that she is only using him to fill her emptiness. This manipulation is the only way Harmon knows how to cope; she played Beltik as if he were one of her pawns on a chessboard. 

At the next US championship, Harmon abolishes Watts’ defense in under 30 moves. He then trains Harmon for her upcoming Paris tournament, and they have fun as she meets Watts’ friend who models in France. Watts and Harmon start a relationship, but it is cut short as she knew Watts was more interested in her brilliance for chess rather than as a partner, playing effectively to the loneliness that follows Harmon’s whole life. 

Paris brings the viewer back to the opening scene where the havoc all makes sense as she is hungover from a scandalous night with the French model. Even after taking her beloved pills, she can no longer visualize her strategies as Gorgov, once again, defeats her. Her euphoria is becoming a curse and an unexpected visit from Jolene fills in the gaps to Harmon’s missing pieces. 

The death of Mr. Shaibel brings Harmon back to the orphanage she grew up in where she cries over the memories of when chess was a sense of bliss for her. As she begins to understand that her life is not limited to a chessboard, she takes a chance of reminiscing over her dead mother. Her mother left her with intense lectures about living her life freely and trusting her own instinct. Harmon throws away her pills and defeats the world-renowned players gathered in Russia. Now only reliant on her own mind, Harmon is scared for the seemingly first time in the show, but her friends back in America ban together to strategize plans with Harmon to defeat Borgov. Replacing pills and alcohol with teamwork and instinct, Harmon visualizes the Queen’s Gambit stratagem on the ceiling above her board without the use of pills, allowing her to defeat Borgov and overcome her own inner conflict. The series leaves us with Harmon’s intense glaze smiling through our screens 

In only seven episodes, Netflix hooks its audience into a passionate relationship over the game of chess and the struggles of being a prodigy in a criticizing society. Actress Anya Taylor-Joy completely fools us into thinking she is a master of chess.  

However, the decision to have her play the ages 15 to early 20s created some confusion on how many years had gone by between certain moments. Overall, her performance stands out so much that the rest of the portrayals are somewhat shadowed.  

Though Thomas Brody-Sangster and Harry Melling capture the perfect amount of love and professionalism in their performances, the other characters seem a bit bland due to the radiance of the main cast.  

Along with the drama comes the historical component of the show. The setting replicates the latter half of the 20th century of the wealthier classes: velvet sofas and pops of color in America and darker neutrals patterned with plaids in Europe. Unfortunately, the wardrobe lacks representation of the era, as many of the background characters sport simple shirts and skirts that seem out of place next to the prestigious coats and dresses worn by Harmon. Nevertheless, the creators overcome these critiques with the masterful plot. 

The Queen’s Gambit is a story of procrastination over the uncontrollable aspects of life symbolized by a queen on a chessboard and her seemingly infinite yet limited manners of movement. Partnered with outstanding performances from actors and actresses such as Anya Taylor-Joy, Thomas Brody-Sangster, and Harry Melling, The Queen’s Gambit is deserving of multiple awards. No matter if you know nothing or everything about chess, watch The Queen’s Gambit, for it will take all your pawns of hesitation and leave you resigning your skepticism within the first minutes.  

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About the Contributor
Noe Chock
Noe Chock, Chief Editor of Media
Once you get to know Noelani Chock (‘23), she might remind you of a series of fireworks, launching off a compact spot and bursting her colorful energy to those around her. Dedicated soccer player and avid K-pop fan, Noe catapults into the Webb Canyon Chronicle as the Chief of Media, with the ambitions of contributing to future media progression. Noe, ironically allergic to crabs, is a compassionate Cancer that carries the water sign trait of devotion and as a result, is eager to experience an explosive final year. When she is not blocking shooting balls in soccer as a goalkeeper, digging balls at her varsity volleyball practice, or igniting spirit events as head peer-advisor, you’ll find her kickin’ it back at the beach with friends, munching on some boba and sushi, or concocting her next colorful batch of slime. She hopes to continue the Webb Canyon Chronicle’s momentum from last year and organize an extensive project like the Unbounded Days video series. Her radiant presence and immense school spirit are impossible to miss on campus, so watch out — Noe is back to finish her senior year with a bang.  Favorite song: “0x1 Lovesong” by TXT 

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