Monday, October 26, 2020

REVIEW: 'The Queen's Gambit' - Beth Receives National Attention as She Faces Increasingly Difficult Competition in 'Doubled Pawns'

Netflix's The Queen's Gambit - Episode 1.03 "Doubled Pawns"

The trip to Cincinnati launches Beth and her mother into a whirlwind of travel and press coverage. Beth sets her sights on the U.S. Open in Las Vegas.

In 2019, the television industry aired 532 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of Netflix's The Queen's Gambit.

"Doubled Pawns" was written by Scott Frank and directed by Scott Frank

Beth Harmon has been on an upward trajectory in her chess career. She hasn't found a player who could beat her. She starts traveling the country competing in various tournaments. Part of it is for the financial security of her family. That may be the only reason why Alma encourages all of this. Beth still provides for her. She gives back. And yet, it's with the understanding that this has become a vital part of their lives. Sure, Beth will still decline appearing at the U.S. Open in order to care for her mother after she falls ill. That is significant. It proves that there are things in her life that are more important than this sport. However, it also highlights just how codependent the two of them have become. Beth didn't believe she could travel to Las Vegas without her mother. She is becoming a national figure. She is interviewed for Life Magazine. She needs her mother to step in and intervene when it's clear the writer doesn't care about Beth's story. Alma is still proud when the article eventually comes out. Beth is the one frustrated about how it is framed through her being a young girl making all of these waves. That's the only thing of value in her story that the world is seemingly willing to grab ahold of. They don't want to analyze the trauma she endured being an orphan and finding refuge in chess. Instead, people try to assume that the game is a metaphor for her life or a part of some mental condition. That's how people are willing to define her without caring to get to know her. Yes, she is a young girl who is making quite an impact on the world of chess. Her ambitions are far-reaching. She wants to be the best in the world. She has that confidence because no one has defeated her so far. She wins all of these competitions. She even manages to break through as a celebrity at her school. Her classmates want her autograph. The popular girls feel pressured into accepting her into their social clubs. Beth is still alienated in those environments. She doesn't perceive the world in the same way that her peers do. She doesn't see any of the guys in her tournaments in a sexual light. Of course, that sets off the nerves of the viewer. She is a young and innocent mind who may easily find herself in a position where others take advantage of her. She is incredibly capable of seeing the chess game play out many moves in advance. However, it's terrifying to see her coerced into returning to Townes' hotel room. That action is the introduction of Beth at a slightly older age. A year transpires in this episode. Townes is writing about chess instead of playing it competitively. And yet, it seems as if Beth goes to his room hoping for a sexual encounter only to feel betrayed once she learns that he's gay. The story teases all of that as well. It's a concerning action. One where Townes is taking pictures of her when she isn't exactly ready. He marvels at her beauty and wants her to be perfectly imperfect. And then, Roger comes into the room. Beth sees that as a personally destructive moment because it destroys the narrative she may have wanted. Of course, the audience has to infer a lot of this. It's unclear what exactly Beth wants in this moment. Plus, her self-destructive actions are a point of the story. She is someone who steals drugs and alcohol. Alma believes in the innocence of offering her daughter her first sips of alcohol. Beth has been doing that for years though. She still needs pills in order to thrive in this environment. More importantly though, she lashes out when she suffers her first loss. She wants to believe that she is better than everyone. She is superior to any man who has previously captured the attention of the public as a potential prodigy. She is taken aback by the suggestion that there are flaws in her game. That's all that Benny notices about her. He knows her by reputation only. He sees the talent. He respects it. He still knows that she isn't going to beat him. He will still be the best in the country. That certainty is apparent for him while it takes a long section of the game before it dawns on Beth. She is no longer undefeated. It's a difficult match. One that she can dissect and surmise for as long as she wants. She lashes out at her mother for not getting it solely for expressing empathy for knowing what it means to lose. Beth can be a destructive person. Her skill masks that for the most part. But she is obsessed with winning. This loss may inspire her to perfect her game even further. She can still grow. She welcomes her mother's support eventually. She has these outlets to provide support for her. They aren't all healthy though. She is in an environment where they are encouraged. She knows when to accept an outcome that isn't what she wanted. It's still difficult for her which may also make her double down on the behavior that has gotten her to this point. She is growing up and impressing the world. This match makes a statement. It's personally destructive for Beth. One that disrupts the trajectory she set out for herself. She doesn't have to be defeated by it. The pacing of the series suggests she won't be. The audience just remains concerned because of all the pieces that we get to see that make up her world.