Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Round Two: The Queen’s Gambit

The Queen’s Gambit: Season 1, Episode 2 “Exchanges” (B+)

I was very impressed by the first hour of this limited series and only took this long to continue with it because of other television episodes and film festival fare on my plate. This second installment took a bit of a different turn with Beth’s departure from the orphanage but maintained its pacing and intriguing content. It was jarring to see Beth so easily lifted out from her banal existence to an equally mediocre one, with a miserable mother and entirely absent father whose rare presence didn’t make things any better. Now that Anya Taylor-Joy has taken over the role of Beth, I want to take a moment to praise the performance of Isla Johnston, who made her very interesting as a young child. I’m also mesmerized by Marielle Heller as her adoptive mother Alma. I didn’t realize that she was played by Marielle Heller, best known as director of the Oscar-nominated films “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” and “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” Though she was bullied frequently at school, in part because of her clothing, it was good to see Beth find a way to get into the chess scene, smartly making a deal with Mr. Shaibel to sponsor her first tournament entry because he was just as confident as she was that she would win. I immediately pegged her yawn-prone, obnoxious opponent Beltik from actor Harry Melling’s role as Sergeant Smythe in the recent film release “The Keeper” (he also apparently played Dudley Dursley in the Harry Potter series). The excitement that Alma has now found for Beth’s abilities is great, but the lie they are perpetuating and Beth’s use of her medication are concerning elements that will surely come up again soon.

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