On paper, “The Queen’s Gambit” may not sound like a convincing drama: Based on a novel by Walter Tevis, the Netflix The series tells the story of Beth Harmon, who rose through the world of competitive chess and eventually took over the world champion from the Soviet Union.
In the latest installment of the Original Content Podcast, your hosts agree on their love for the series. We talk a little about some of the shortcomings (a setup-heavy first episode, the unsatisfactory treatment of Beth's girlfriend Jolene), but for the most part we're happy to spend our time praising the show.
Some of this has to do with timing – “The Queen's Gambit” traces Beth's life in the 1950s and 1960s, with some adorable retro sets and costumes, as well as a clean approach to the condescension and sexism with which Beth is facing her early games.
At the same time, it's Beth (played by Anya Taylor-Joy) who pulls you through all eight episodes in which she reveals her complex relationship with her foster mother, her struggles with substance abuse, and her friendships with other chess players. While Beth has a handful of traits that you'll recognize from other difficult geniuses portrayed on screen, she is ultimately too complex to be limited to a single idea or logline.
And while you don't need to know much about chess to enjoy "The Queen's Gambit," the show's focus on character and personality enables it to portray competitive chess in ways that are indeed exciting.
You can listen to our review in the player below, subscribe to Apple Podcasts, or find us on a podcast player of your choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You can also follow us on Twitter or send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)
If you want to move on, the episode is broken down as follows:
4:28 Review of "The Queen’s Gambit"
34:11 "The Queen’s Gambit" spoiler discussion