Netflix’s miniseries The Queen’s Gambit was a huge hit for the streaming service, leading to a chessboard sale boom. But which was the best episode?
Miniseries The Queen’s Gambit has taken Netflix by storm, even becoming one of Obama’s favorite shows from 2020. Emotionally intriguing and full of complex conflict, a show about chess really shouldn’t be this exciting, yet the streaming service has managed to find a way to make this one of their most compelling series yet.
Every episode of The Queen’s Gambit ranks above 8.4 on IMDb, which is incredibly impressive. The show certainly gained plenty of critical attention and as awards season starts to build up, no doubt it will be in contention for several top accolades. For audiences, the story of Beth Harmon’s rise in the chess community has proven to be a popular one.
“Fork” (Episode 5) – 8.4
Despite being the lowest-rated episode of the whole series, “Fork” still manages to deliver and demonstrates why The Queen’s Gambit has been in awards contention. In many ways, the episode takes a break from a lot of the action of the series.
With Beth returning back home, she reconnects with old foes and allies as she tries to sharpen her chess game. She also begins to take stock of her own emotional needs, forming a sort of relationship, leading into her success in the US Championships. This episode may be the weakest but it’s still above many other Netflix shows currently streaming.
“Adjournment” (Episode 6) – 8.5
“Adjournment” is really where Beth’s life goes off the rails. She starts to rely heavily on drugs and alcohol once more, completely losing her sense of self hours before a bit match. She even starts a brief fling with a French model who proves to be a bad influence on her.
Beth has to focus in order to really do the best work of her career, but her defeat at the hands of the Russian is only more telling that she has to have a sober lifestyle if she is ever to make it to the top. The show started by teasing this time in Paris and the episode pays off that foreshadowing.
“Openings” (Episode 1) – 8.5
The show gets a lot of things right and wrong about playing chess, but a lot of Beth’s early knowledge is given to her during her time at the foster home by Mr. Shaibel, the janitor. The pilot episode introduces a lot of big ideas very quickly.
It helps audiences to grasp the rules and play of chess, as well as understanding that Beth isn’t a normal child. It also sets up her drug addiction, her past home life, and the trauma that permeates throughout her existence. “Openings” is an incredibly important episode and perhaps deserves a higher ranking.
“Doubled Pawns” (Episode 3) – 8.5
“Doubled Pawns” is when the show really starts to pick up on Beth’s journey, seeing her start to gain success as her trip across the country with her mother snowballs. A lot has changed in her life and audiences see the heroine start to grow up.
This is a formative period of time in Beth’s life and it’s a significant piece of the puzzle that builds up her relationship with her mother. The episode also shows audiences that Beth’s talent isn’t just a fluke — she is genuinely talented — as the series walks viewers through her increasingly complex manoeuvres.
“Middle Game” (Episode 4) – 8.5
Beth’s trip to Mexico sets up her rivalry with the Russian Borgov, while also creating a huge change in her life. The death of her mother is a powerful moment and one that is accentuated by the fact that she had just started to live her life with her pen pal.
“Middle Game” is an important episode in the show overall and is really the start of the second act as the tension continues to grow. It seems like Beth’s life is on the verge of crumbling, but she could indeed still rise like some kind of phoenix. This time in Mexico also sets the stage for the blossoming international scene of chess players whom Beth will encounter on her travels. The show really taught audiences to enjoy every moment.
“Exchanges” (Episode 2) – 8.8
The second episode of The Queen’s Gambit really brought its A-game as it turned Beth’s life upside-down once again, taking her from the foster home into a brand new environment. Here, the true essence of her greatness started to become unveiled.
While some say that she rose through the ranks of the chess community far too fast, this episode manages to balance that to make it truly believable. It also humanizes Beth further, showing her in her new environment and struggling to come to grips with her place in it.
“End Game” (Episode 7) – 9.3
“End Game” is exactly what it suggests it is; it’s the final episode of the show and demonstrates Beth’s final confrontation with the Russian player she has come to fear over her career. The series has built to her time in Moscow and the challenges she might face.
Considering it is the final episode, it is also fitting that this really is the high point of the season. Creating a satisfying conclusion as well as a nod to the future, the incredibly successful Queen’s Gambit certainly has a fitting end as it looks to cement its legacy as a miniseries. There may be no second season, but the show stands as a triumph for Netflix.
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