The Queen's Gambit: Series recap and reactions
The Queen's Gambit is a beautifully produced, fictionalized story about a genius female chess player named Beth Harmon in the 1960s. We follow her from her troubled childhood at an orphanage to her eventual rise as a world-renowned chess champion. The series is an easily bingeable 7-episodes (the standard for Netflix limited series) and is worth a watch even on the basis of its high production value alone. That said, I personally had a number of qualms with its story and this won't be going into any of my favorites lists (although I found myself fully engaged while watching).
Series recap (contains spoilers)
The story opens with an 8-year-old Beth, who has been left an orphan following her mother's death in a car accident. As we quickly learn, it's clear this was no accident but rather the purposeful action of her mentally ill mother (we never quite figure out if her mother intended to kill them both or just herself). Either way, she ends up surviving and is shipped off to a religious orphanage called Methuen.
It's here that Beth starts to learn chess, playing with a cantankerous but ultimately good-hearted custodian in the basement named Mr. Shaidel. It's also unfortunately where her substance-abuse takes a foothold, as she learns to rely on the tranquilizers the orphanage doles out to its youth in order to enter a trance that allows her to play chess in her mind.
- She never paid back or so much as thanked Mr. Shaidel for his help in training her and giving her the initial $5. It isn't until his death that she seems to even remember his existence in her life and the $10 promise (which she tells Jolene she owes him at his funeral). Meanwhile, we're shown that Mr. Shaidel closely tracked her career with a love and care that certainly warranted more than the casual disinterest Beth showed him back.
- She treats Harry Beltik's interest in her with this cavalier disinterest, and spurns his (many) outreaches to her later on. The guy freaking redid all of his teeth for her, come on!! The scene that sticks out to me is when they are both on her bed and he asks her if she would like him to leave or stay. Without even giving him the courtesy of eye contact, she stays glued to her chess book and gives a disheartened "whatever you prefer." There if ever is the sign of someone who doesn't give a crap about the other person - if you ever enter a relationship where the other party treats you like that after intimacy, run as fast as you can
- She never expresses much concern for any of her chess colleagues, through the entire series' run. Never once does she show more than casual interest in them. They end up banding together to help her, but frankly I find it very doubtful that she would have ever on her own accord done something like that for them. I'd like to think so based on the show's warm conclusion, but based on everything we saw in the story, I am highly skeptical.