This show may be in the hall of fame of Netflix
The first question that pops up in one’s mind while watching the first few minutes of the much hyped Netflix TV mini-series, The Queen’s Gambit, is whether it’s based on a true story? The feeling stays the same till the end of the show, especially because the story seems eerily close to home.
The answer: “Yes, and no!”
Unlike most shows and movies (and documentaries) which make the audience feel like: “Man! This is too good to be true!” (hyperbole), The Queen’s Gambit makes you feel the contrary.
Well, here’s how! Without spoiling, this is a story about an orphan girl who is a chess prodigy. None other than the famous Grandmaster Boris Spassky – who played against the chess rockstar Bobby Fischer – used to play chess with his brothers at an orphanage since the age of 4.
Not only Spassky, the series itself pays homage to child prodigies such as Paul Morphy, José Raúl Capablanca, and Samuel Reshevsky, whose names come up quite often. Reshevsky was the one, who at 8, beat many accomplished players at simultaneous exhibitions.
Also, the grandmaster in the series, Vasily Borgov (played by Marcin Dorocinski), the only player the protagonist Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy) is afraid to face, is apparently based on real life Spassky. He even made Bobby Fischer cry once.
Also read: Tenet: A needlessly confusing, complex tale
Walter Tevis reportedly based his characters in the eponymous book on real life players such as Bobby Fischer, Boris Spassky, and Anatoly Karpov. Could Beth be Bobby?
It should be noted that one of the greatest chess players of all time, Harry Kasparov, played a key role in the series as a consultant. That should explain a lot!
Also, a rags to riches story of an orphan is not uncommon for series or movies.
Based in the 60s, the mini-series takes you back to the old days when chess was a phenomena between the two superpowers, US-USSR, at the height of the cold war, alongside the space race.
The mini series captures many facets of society, such as drug addiction, alcoholism, abandonment, suicide, etc. However, for a drama, it did not make the audience a part of the show. Although in some scenes one can fit into the shoes of a character, but mostly, for an emotional drama, it does not reel you in. The problem of the show was it brushes the surface of everything as it tries to fit everything in seven episodes.
No relationships were developed enough, which is one of my complaints. But, it is again consistent with the theme of abandonment.
Many characters could have been developed further. But the theme was chess and the show did justice to it when it came to that.
I wish it were not a mini series but a full fledged series to fill in all those gaps, and round up the edges. And really, Netflix? Just seven episodes? The writers apparently took two years to bring the book to life. So, if they actually want to bring it back due to the popularity, it would take at least another 2-3 years.
However, the finale and the last few episodes leading up to it could have been better. As an open-ended show, you can fill up the blanks. As for the show itself, it is easy to watch and not challenging. Yet, you’re hooked till the end.
Both the actors who played Beth (Anya Taylor-Joy and Isla Johnston) did a phenomenal job. You can see some known faces such as Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Jojen Reed from Game of Thrones), Jacob Fortune-Lloyd (Francesco Salviati from Medici) and the janitor, Bill Camp (needs no mention; just look him up). Also, how can I forget to mention Harry Melling, who played Harry Potter’s annoying cousin, Dudley Dursley – who was recently in The Devil All The Time.
Also, the set design, costumes, score, and graphics were mesmerising.
While watching this, I could not help but go back to Pawn Sacrifice. Featuring Tobey Macquire and Liev Schreiber, based on Fischer and Spassky – that’s a must-watch. If you liked that one, you’ll see the similarities and this one’s for you.
Every year or so a mini-series comes out which is unavoidable. Last year, it was Chernobyl, and this time it’s The Queen’s Gambit.
To conclude, I think Netflix did it again. This show may be in the hall of fame of Netflix such as The Crown and Narcos, for years to come. I think I’m gonna stop writing and watch it again.