Netflix Review: The Queen’s Gambit

Sometimes it feels like I’m always last to the table when it comes to reviewing different series on streaming. Then again, whenever I actually write the review, I’m surprised to see many people often haven’t even heard about what I’m reviewing. It’s hard to remember sometimes that just because I keep an ear to the ground on new series doesn’t mean everyone does.

That said, The Queen’s Gambit has been all over the place recently, so maybe this is an instance where everyone really has already heard about it. Still, it’s rated TVMA, and that’s often a deal breaker for some, unless there are extenuating circumstances. This is an instance where I would go ahead and recommend Queen’s Gambit to just about anyone mature enough to think a series about a young female chess prodigy sounds remotely interesting. (It has no nudity, but the main thing getting that TVMA rating is extensive drug use (though it’s very much presented in a non-glorified fashion) and a fair peppering of bad language.)

So why should you give a shot to yet another Netflix show? The Queen’s Gambit stood out to me in a number of ways, and I ultimately gave it a 10/10. It’s a rare show that starts strong and maintains that strength from start to finish. But if my recommendation alone isn’t enough (why not?), here are some specifics:

  • It’s about chess. How many other shows do you have on that subject? Better yet, it makes chess look exciting. It helps to know a bit about chess, but you don’t need to know anything about it to enjoy it.
  • It’s a limited run. No cliff hanger at the end of the series. Seven episodes depict the story from start to finish. There are a number of shows that I enjoy for the first bit, but then they turn their focus to lengthening the show instead of telling the story they set out to tell. This one doesn’t do that.
  • The acting is very strong. I found the characters engaging and surprising, but not in a gimmicky sort of way. You really grow to understand them and see why they make the decisions they do, even if you might wish from time to time that they’d just wise up.
  • The finale is a really great piece of television. It’s the strongest episode of the series, building on all the pieces that were strewn throughout the earlier episodes into a climax that really packs an emotional punch.
  • It has, at its heart, a very encouraging theme. I found it ultimately uplifting, and I really need more of that now.
  • It’s also a fascinating period piece, with great attention to scene design and costuming. Even in the lulls, it’s just a pleasure to see what’s on the screen.

All told, it’s one of my favorite things I’ve seen this year. Give it a shot.


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