Thursday, October 29, 2020

The Queen's Gambit - Openings

I was intrigued by the trailer for Netflix's new show The Queen's Gambit. I'm a little less so after the first episode. Don't get me wrong, "Openings" is well made. It is however largely an origin story absent of what I was sold on. Series star Anya Taylor-Joy gets only a cameo here on an opening scene teasing where the series will eventually lead. The rest of the episode takes place years earlier with Isla Johnston playing the 9 year-old version of Beth Harmon who is sent to an orphanage after the death of her mother where she discovers her two great loves: chess and drugs. Based on Walter Tevis's 1983 novel of the same name, the mini-series will follow Beth's rise from the orphanage to unexpected heights in chess while struggling with the addictions which begin here.

One episode in, the character of Beth Harmon is more interesting than the story we've gotten so far. We get the basic lonely orphan tale here without much of interest other than her addiction to the tranquilizers the orphanage gives to the kids to keep them docile and her encounter with the janitor Mr. Shaibel (Bill Camp) and his chess board which, along with the drugs, opens up her quick mind to an entirely new world. As the first episode comes to a close, Beth has reached a mastery of chess far superior to teenagers twice her age (although to be fair, it's hard to gauge exactly how long she's been in the orphanage) earning her some notoriety although her other addiction creates some complications.

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