1. So What Is ‘The Queen's Gambit’ About?
We're introduced to a late 1960s-era young woman as she's being roused out of a bathtub in a hungover state, who rushes to make her way downstairs in a luxe hotel where, after a phalanx of Beyoncé-level paparazzi snap pictures of her, she sits nervously in front of a chess board across from her opponent, a middle-aged, stern-looking man. What will happen to our boozy protagonist? How did she get here? The first answer takes hours to get to (each episode is a meaty 60 minutes of drama), but viewers are immediately thrust into the the woman's backstory. Her name is Beth Harmon, and we flash back to her as a nine-year-old standing unharmed next to a car accident that has claimed her mother and destined her to live at an orphanage. There, the poor little girl experiences confusion—some of it caused by little green pills doled out by the school pharmacist—and makes two friends: a fellow resident girl and the school janitor, who she pesters into teaching her to play chess in a dingy basement. Turns out, the girl has an almost spooky talent for the game and develops a secret habit of hoarding the little green pills she's given to take them before bed; the relaxed state she enters allows her to hallucinate chess pieces flying around an imaginary board on the ceiling. Beth's skill level and addiction chug right along until the state of Kentucky outlaws giving children addictive tranquilizers, and she is caught breaking into the medical station and gobbling all the pills. Oh, and then falling off a chair in an overdose.
That's just episode one. Successive installments see our underdog girl grandmaster-in-waiting experience adoption, high school b*tches, being the only female at almost every chess competition, cadged liquor, pills and chess periodicals, PTSD from her early childhood with an unstable mom and eventually travel to New York, Paris and Moscow. Oh, and since this is the ’60s in Middle America, she also experiences about 75 unique wallpapers, most in her own home.
TLDR: Think A Beautiful Mind meets Girl Interrupted meets Rocky.