Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine American culture. What’s new and old in books, film, and entertainment.
I will likely not be the first person to recommend you watch The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix. The streaming giant reported the show was watched by 62 million households in its first 28 days, and it is already popping up on many best-of-2020 lists. Still, I’m going to add my voice to the chorus because it truly is a remarkable series.
It tells the story of a chess prodigy and yes, there are several chess montages and tense chess scenes, but the miracle of it all is that you don’t actually need to understand chess to enjoy the show. I don’t know much about chess, and yet I was riveted.
Part of what makes the show excel is its outstanding lead actress, Anya Taylor-Joy, who you may know from The Witch or Peaky Blinders. Taylor-Joy really carries the show, demanding your attention, breaking your heart and lifting your spirit in equal parts.
But another thing that stood out to me is the kindness in its storytelling. There are rivalries, but they never get vicious. There is tragedy, but it’s never exploitative. There are bad people, but they aren’t the focus. For the most part, The Queen’s Gambit is a story about not bad sports, but good sports, not a cutthroat group of bitter foes, but a group of competitors who slowly form a community that uplifts each other. In the end, you want them all to be happy, which is a nice change from the more typical “love to hate them” type characters.
This holiday season, people will be looking for something to make them feel a little better, and I can’t think of a better series to fit that bill than The Queen’s Gambit.
The Queen’s Gambit is now streaming on Netflix.
I’m Evan Rook.