TV in review: “The Queen’s Gambit”


The Winonan’s film reporter rates “The Queen’s Gambit” 3/5 stars.

Noah Mruz, Film Reviewer

The show “The Queen’s Gambit” takes the viewer through the life of orphan Elizabeth Hammond in the 1950s and 60s, through her rise as a chess protégé through international tournaments, her struggles with addiction and the grief she has faced in her short time on earth. “The Queen’s Gambit” showcases the beauty of being a genius juxtaposed with the vicious cycle of addiction that can drag someone down.
Starring Anya Taylor Joy, the show takes the viewer through the story of a young girl with an amazing intuition for the game of chess. Joy does a wonderful job in her role, and most of the supporting cast does the same. However, the pacing of the show sometimes feels slow and gives an overabundance of information that you would have already learned by watching the series. If the repetition was eliminated, the show could be boiled down to 30 minutes an episode instead of 50. Although the story itself is compelling, I found myself bored at some points. In later episodes, my attention was mostly on the story unfolding on screen, but some characters and moments still felt so unimportant to the story that my focus fell elsewhere.
Hammond also struggled with addiction to painkillers and alcohol. You see her truly struggle with trying to break this, but never being able to be free from her addiction. However, when it is important to the plot, Hammond will stop struggling, then suddenly relapse without a sign of struggle. There are so many other compelling and interesting moments in the show, making the addiction narrative feel lazy.
There are moments where Hammond talks about how she would not be getting so much media attention if she was a boy. This was such an interesting plot point that gets thrown away when writers feel the story does not need to talk about sexism as much.
Hammond has a handful of relationships in the show, but is constantly infatuated with a man she met once when she was 15, despite them only meeting at random points in a seven-year period. If they put more time into why she cares about this man rather than just having him show up randomly when she’s feeling down, then it would be more meaningful when he popped up out of the blue. In short, the messages they decided to focus on are not properly showcased, and the points they quickly feature deserve more attention.
I really enjoyed this show. The cast is great, the story is interesting and chess is a whole world most of us have no context of. But I am just disappointed at the points where the show decides getting from point A to B is just too darn hard. Life is hard, addiction is not dropped at a whim, meeting someone at 15 once doesn’t mean you will be in love with them forever and biases based on gender are prevalent and should not be brought up just to be forgotten.
Overall, I would give the series a 3 out of 5 stars. I recommend this series, but do not expect it to be as profound as you may believe.