Get ready for an unusual, unnerving tale about the true cost of genius from Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit. This limited series, starring Anya Taylor-Joy, will debut in October and bases itself upon the 1950s-set Walter Tevis novel of the same name. It’s not only a coming-of-age story but also a meditation on addiction and danger, given that Taylor-Joy’s Beth (a orphan/prodigy, not quite a prodigal orphan) becomes dependent upon tranquilizers while battling towards a chess championship title. It’s not exactly the underdog story that we’re all accustomed to seeing onscreen, which should give it an edge with those who don’t favor the frequent action-movie approach to such a story.
The series hails from Godless director Scott Frank. He’s pulling quintuple duty as co-creator, showrunner, director, writer, and executive producer. In two additional executive producing seats are WIlliam Horberg (Talented Mr. Ripley) and Allan Scott (Don’t Look Now), whose combined presence add to the thriller component. From the synopsis:
Abandoned and entrusted to a Kentucky orphanage in the late 1950s, a young Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy) discovers an astonishing talent for chess while developing an addiction to tranquilizers provided by the state as a sedative for the children. Haunted by her personal demons and fueled by a cocktail of narcotics and obsession, Beth transforms into an impressively skilled and glamorous outcast while determined to conquer the traditional boundaries established in the male-dominated world of competitive chess.
The Queen’s Gambit (which also stars Marielle Heller, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Moses Ingram, Harry Melling, and Bill Camp) streams on October 23.