Bingeability: High – 7 x 45-60 min eps.
Short Version: If you scrolled past because ‘chess is boring’, scroll back. Click. Consume all of it.
Suitable for Kids: Not unless your kids love chess….which they probably don’t. Even then…..No.
Given movies don’t exist anymore apart from B Grade Christmas Netflix trash, when a good quality series comes along (not looking at you Tiger King…you only got us because we were weak and quarantined) it really stands out. Sometimes it will be in a genre that you least expect. I can’t remember the last time I watched a great mini-series about an orphaned 1960s Chess Grandmaster/fashion icon, but this is certainly the best one I have seen.
“But I hate chess, its boring and I don’t understand it anyway, surely I can just watch the new season of Below Deck instead?” Well internet friend, yes, yes you can watch Captain Lee and his impeccably manicured beard, but I have to keep you informed on what you are missing out here. This isn’t really about chess. Sure it is a central plot point, but Anya Taylor-Joy is simply sensational in this and whether it be chess, lawn bowls or competitive knitting, you will just get hooked in by the fantastic performances and very well written characters. But I like chess so that was cool to watch too.
So what is it actually about? Taylor-Joy stars as Beth Harmon, an orphaned chess child prodigy who fights her way through a male dominated world to try and dominate her state, then the country and onto the world. But it is mainly about the relationships she builds from her time in the orphanage, right through her life. The performance is so good, that you actually get excited when she wins chess matches. Crazy hey. Not sure if that is the quarantine talking but watch it and see if you agree.
The supporting cast is top notch, with a large group filtering in and out to support Taylor-Joy, but the biggest shock was to see good old Dudley Dursley all grown up and moved on from annoying Harry Potter all day. Bit of a glow-up too, perhaps not on the Neville Longbottom level, but he would be in the top 3 former HP stars. Also keep a look out for one of the wildlings from Game of Thrones…he wears a funny hat so isn’t hard to spot!
This is the sort of show that has you crying out for a season 2, but the story is so beautifully finished and tied up in a nice little bow by the end of the series, that it just wouldn’t do it justice. So set aside about 7 hours of your life, put on your comfy pants and just know that by the end of hour 7 you will have downloaded ‘chess with friends’ onto your phone.
5 out of 5 pawns – Just brilliant. If you love Anya Taylor-Joy go watch her in Emma. We reviewed that here