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November 11, 2020

The Queen's Gambit - a Netflix miniseries review

by Alison DeLuca

Publicity poster for The Queen's Gambit

I'm still on the eternal quest last week for entertainment that doesn't involve travel or crowds. Flicking through the new arrivals on Netflix, I noticed The Queen's Gambit but didn't pay much attention.


That's when I started to see tweets and posts from friends raving about the series. The Queen's Gambit is astonishing, one said. Addictive, said another. I inhaled it. Best series since The Crown.

WELL. Since my husband and I were anxiously awaiting the new season of The Crown, that last one finally got me. As I prepped for the COVID versions of Halloween and Thanksgiving, I turned on The Queen's Gambit

Just like my friends, I got sucked in right away. The first installment begins with Beth Harmon emerging from a cold bath, fully clothed and hungover, which made me want to find out how did she wound up there. It then goes back in time into pure Cold War Fairytale as Beth survives a terrible car crash and goes to Methuen Orphanage. 

There she finds a foul-mouthed friend called Jolene, little green tranquilizer pills that are given to all the orphans each day, and a janitor who teaches her chess. Each will change Beth's life forever. 

The camera work is lovely, saturated in colors like the green of Beth's pills, the flame of her hair, turquoise of retro furniture and wallpaper (appropriate - since the series is about a game based on colors.) I could almost smell the old books, card catalogues, rotary phones, and Eau de Nil perfume.

Anya Taylor-Joy is brilliant as Beth (and Isla Johnston is incredible as young Beth.) I particularly loved Mr. Scheibel, the custodian who teaches her chess, Mrs. Wheatley who adopts Beth and becomes Mother, and of course the chess players who slip into her life later. But above all, Moses Ingram as Jolene rules the screen whenever she appears. 

As well, the score took my breath away. I loved the original instrumentals plus throwbacks like Classical Gas, framing a scene where Beth and Benny, one of her chess tutors, proceed to obliterate their opponents during a match. That music and the camera-work as well as lovely costumes and acting are a joy.  

Most of all, chess becomes a magical journey filled with excitement. I watched each game or simultaneous match play out, fascinated by Beth's style and strategy. 



Alison DeLuca is the author of several steampunk and urban fantasy books.  She was born in Arizona and has also lived in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Mexico, Ireland, and Spain.


Currently she wrestles words and laundry in New Jersey. You can find her at http://bit.ly/ADeLucaAC 



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