Photo courtesy of Netflix.
The Queen’s Gambit debuted on Netflix on October 23, 2020. The period drama miniseries include 7 episodes. The show’s premise follows an orphan named Beth Harmon who becomes a chess prodigy. We watch her go to the top of the chess world while she is struggling with drug and alcohol dependency.
In 2019, Netflix ordered 6 episodes of the miniseries. The series was written and directed by Scott Frank and is adapted from the 1983 novel of the same name written by Walter Tevis. Frank has been trying to adapt the book to the screen since 1992 when he got the screenplay rights from Tevis’ widow.
The series was released with 7 episodes instead of the original 6 that were ordered by Netflix.
Former world champion Garry Kasparov and Chess Coach Bruce Pandolfini acted as consultants for the show.
The series stars Anya Taylor-Joy as Beth Harmon, Thomas-Brodie Sangster as Benny Watts, Marielle Heller as Alma Wheatley, Harry Melling as Harry Beltik, Moses Ingram as Jolene, Bill Camp as Mr. Shaibel, and Jacob Fortune-Loyd as Townes.
Beth Harmon is an orphan who grows up at the Methuen Home for Girls. She stops at nothing to get what she wants. She is incredibly persistent and competitive when it comes to chess. She goes through a lot throughout the miniseries’ run. While she is concerned with becoming the best chess player in the world, she also begins to have issues with alcohol and drugs that is continually addressed in the limited series.
Benny Watts is the United States Chess Champion. When we first meet him, he comes off as cocky and too sure of himself. At first, Beth sees him as an opponent but the two eventually become friends.
Alma Wheatley is Beth’s adoptive mother. She adopts Beth due to her daughter passing away. She loves playing the piano. She is an alcoholic which heavily influences Beth.
Harry Melling is a state champion that plays against Beth in her first tournament. They become friends later in the series.
Jolene becomes Beth’s best friend while she is at the orphanage. She keeps Beth grounded and has a rebellious but calm demeanor.
Mr. Shaibel is the custodian at the orphanage. He is an experiences chess player who teaches Beth how to play the game in the basement.
Townes is a chess player who Beth becomes close with. He is supportive of her and a good person.
Production designer Uli Hanisch wanted to mimic the aesthetic of the 1950s and 1960s with the sets that were created.
The majority of the series was filmed in Germany because of how the interiors were able to appear as those that could be in Las Vegas, Mexico City, Cincinnati, Moscow, and Paris. There were some scenes that were filmed in Canada. Principal photography began in August of 2019.
Costume designer Gabriele Binder designed 80% of the costumes created for the series along with her team. In the beginning, the inspiration for Beth’s costumes drew from Audrey Hepburn and Jane Seberg. Beth’s costumes tell a story of her life. Her costumes become more feminine and glamorous when she continues to grow up.
The cinematography played a key role in creating the sophisticated feel that viewers see as they watch each episode. Cinematographer Steven Meizler has worked with Scott Frank on a previous project. Meizler’s visual eye aligns with Frank’s. The camera crew used Red Ranger cameras and Zeiss Supreme lenses for the majority of the shots in the show. In ‘The Queen’s Gambit,’ the shots honor Beth’s point of view. The editing for the show ranges from quick-paced shots to long shots that have the viewers feel as if they are in the show. The cinematography from the very first episode creates an immersive experience for the viewer.
The Queen’s Gambit became a huge success for Netflix. The streaming service announced in November of 2020 that the miniseries was watched by 62 million households. It has become Netflix’s biggest scripted limited series so far.
Critics were awed by Taylor-Joy’s performance as Beth Harmon. Many of who said that her performance was magnetic as well as the production design and costume design.
The show received numerous nominations for the 2021 award season. Taylor-Joy won a Golden Globe award, Critics Choice award, and a S.A.G. award. The series won big at the Golden Globes, Critics Choice awards, and Screen Actors Guild awards.
The show also sparked a chess boom. Many fans and viewers bought chess sets because of the show.
Should this even be a question?
This is one of the best limited series and television shows I’ve ever watched. Everything about it was so interesting from the visuals to the storytelling.
If you haven’t watched it, what were you doing in 2020? Please give it a watch. I promise that you won’t be disappointed.
The Queen’s Gambit is exclusively streaming on Netflix.
Director: Scott Frank
Cast: Anya Taylor-Joy, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Harry Melling, Moses Ingram
Producers: Scott Frank, Allan Scott