THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT. Creators: Scott Frank and Allan Scott. With Anya Taylor-Joy, Chloe Pirrie and Bill Camp. Netflix.
MEGAN FURNISS reviews
I think Covid has changed me without having contracted the virus. My DNA seems to have been changed. I can’t watch (and love) the same things I did BL (before lockdown), and DL (during lockdown) my tastes and desires have been strange and unsettling. I have to confess to watching mindless (and hideous) food competitions and also going down the dark rabbit hole of gloomy Scandinavian murder series, at the same time.
I didn’t share in the rapture that most of my friends (and the world) felt for My Octopus Teacher and I loved Glen Biederman-Pam’s parody with the creepy-crawly more. My artistic tastebuds have been altered.
My friends on social media were going nuts …
I did sit down to watch The Queen’s Gambit with an open mind. My friends on social media were going nuts. Beautiful, mesmerising, addictive watching, brilliant etc.
So, up front I need to confess that I do not know how to play chess. My father tried to teach me, but I showed as much interest in it as I did to netball. Zero. Still, I am a sucker for a good story regardless of the subject matter, I adore the period of the piece and the opening was dramatic, eerie and very captivating.
The Queen’s Gambit is about a young girl, Beth Harmon, who learns to play chess from a janitor in the orphanage she is sent to, and the short seven-part series tracks her trials and tribulations as a woman in the man’s world of chess, as well as her personal demons.
What I loved about the series was the styling. The set and costuming are magnificent. I was nostalgic for the colours, the wallpaper, the indoor smoking, the black eyeliner, the music, the roomy airplane seats, the massive cars. I loved the velvet couches, the wood panelling, the tiled floors, the hairdos. I enjoyed the unfolding of the story, with the personal and political running in parallel. I enjoyed most of the performances, in particular Marielle Heller, who plays Alma Wheatley, Beth’s adoptive mother with a subtlety and complexity that is horrifying and alluring.
Seriously tough going
But honestly, this is the slowest burner of anything I have seen. There are episodes filled with long starings into nothing. There are repeats of long starings into different nothings. Sometimes I was confused about whether I had seen a particular episode before because it felt like a repeat of the one before. I found binge watching it hard because of the slowness, the repetitiveness. A scene would be redeemed by the gorgeous setting, only to be a repeat of another scene in a different place. Maybe I needed to know chess. Maybe I needed to care about people more than furniture. I tried. But it was seriously tough going.
What: The Queen’s Gambit