Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit has completely captivated the world since premiering on October 23rd. According to the preeminent streamer, 62 million households watched the show over the first 28-days of the show being available. In addition to earning rave reviews for show-runners Scott Frank and Allan Scott, star Anya Taylor-Joy is also garnering massive buzz for her performance as Beth Harmon, the drug-addled orphan who rises to international stardom as one of the world’s top chess players.
Currently Ranked #67 on IMDB’s Top TV Shows of all-time, the seven-part miniseries did an admirable job of tying up loose ends, outstanding questions, and general inconsistencies with the story. With that said, there are still a few things that don’t quite add up.
10 Jolene’s Advice
In the opening episode of the series, nine-year-old orphan Beth Harmon (Isla Johnston) is sent to live at the Methuen Home for Girls. Once she arrives, Beth is immediately befriended by Jolene, who is somehow played by Moses Ingram as a child and an adult.
While that hardly makes sense, Jolene urging Beth to become a de fact drug addict makes even less sense. Knowing how addictive the drugs are, Jolene would likely ask Beth for her ration of pills to keep for herself, rather than explain the best way to take the pills en masse as a way to hallucinate. Despite how boring the orphanage is, hooking your so-called new friend on drugs makes no sense.
9 Cullen’s Draw
Knowledgeable chess fans are sure to pull their hair out watching a scene in episode two between Cullen (Steffen Mennekes) and Harry Beltik (Harry Melling), in which the former declares a move no player in their right mind would ever consider.
During Exchanges, Cullen self-destroys his Queen and instantly asks Beltik for a draw. It’s the ultimate sign of disrespect and flies in the face of the etiquette Mr. Shaibel taught Beth in the first episode. Moreover, Beltik is an aspiring Grandmaster who knows to never accept a draw offer, especially when beating an opponent as badly as he did Cullen.
8 Beth’s Sudden Aversion To Studying
One motif in the show that underscores Beth’s all-consuming dedication to the game of chess is her voracious studying. She pours through the book Mr. Shaibel gives her, buys another edition of it later, and is seen purchasing Chess Review several times.
Yet, for whatever reason, when Beltik arrives at Beth’s house in Kentucky following Alma’s death, Beth suddenly has zero interest in the pile of books Beltik offers her. Perhaps she’s grieving Alma’s death, or maybe she’s just become overconfident and full of herself. Still, given her studious history, it makes little sense that she’d be so dismissive of advancing her chess education.
7 Long Stretches Without Pills
While it tends to make sense in retrospect after the series finale, the long stretches of time Beth spends without tranquilizers in her system seems wildly inconsistent given her dominating chess results.
While Beth is seen smoking marijuana and imbibing alcohol while continuing to climb the ranks of international chess competition, the glaring absence of her performance-enhancing green pills as she improves her game does not make sense at all. Only in the end does her perceived dependence on illicit substances become clear.
6 D.L. Townes’ Sexual Ambiguity
One characterization that makes little sense in The Queen’s Gambit is that of photojournalist D.L. Townes (Jacob Fortune-Lloyd). Townes meets Beth in Lexington when she’s still a young girl, only to seem romantically interested in her when she becomes a teenager years later.
However, just as Beth and Townes flirt in his hotel room, his apparent boyfriend interrupts the two without a worry in the world. Townes’ sexual ambiguity is never explicitly addressed by anyone in the show. Moreover, the plotline is scrapped until the finale when Townes arrives in Moscow as Beth’s emotional support.
5 Hilton’s Error
Despite the technical mastery of chess-play overseen by consultants Gary Kasparov and Bruce Pandolfini in the series, at least one glaring inconsistency comes when Beth is challenged by “problem-freak” Hilton in New York.
While Beth meets Hilton, she admits to disliking theoretical chess problems because the finds them “irrelevant.” Still, she indulges Hilton’s challenge of solving a mate-in 3-moves chess arrangement. Hilton asks permission to rearrange the pieces to set up his problem, but before he even sits and touches the board, four of the five pieces are magically positioned in the proper place already.
4 Jolene’s Disappearance
Another aspect of The Queen’s Gambit that makes little to no sense is the protracted absence of Jolene (Moses Ingram), who not only got Beth hooked on drugs, but somehow returns to atone her character by becoming Beth’s guardian angel.
Despite being Beth’s only true friend since childhood, as soon as she’s adopted by Alma, she severs ties with Jolene immediately and never once tries to look her up. On the contrary, Jolene follows Beth’s entire career, ultimately paying $3,000 to pay for Beth’s plane ticket to Moscow. That Jolene is so kind to Beth, who has made no effort to communicate in years, makes almost no sense.
3 Moscow Commentator
Perhaps his play-by-play commentary was lost in translation, but the man announcing the match between Beth and Borgov in Moscow features exposititional dialogue that makes no sense.
During the match, the commentator mentions that Beth always plays the Sicilian Defense against the opening movie of pawn to e4, and that Borgov is the Master of the Sicilian. However, when Beth uses the Sicilian Defense with the c5 move, the announcer says she’s “hoping to play him on ground that is fresh for both of them” and that won’t give Borgov “an advantage.” This makes no sense, as it’s already established that Borgov is the Master of the Sicilian.
2 Beth’s Friendly Help
Throughout the series, Beth isn’t particularly warm to the men she meets in her life. More often than not she’s cold, dismissive, and even a bit awkward.
While the novel does a better job of establishing these relationships, it makes very little sense that Harry she dissed in her life come back to help her defeat Borgov in the end. Beth lashes out at Harry when he tries to help her with her drug and alcohol addiction, and Benny had just refused to travel with Beth to help her in Moscow. Yet in the end, despite her lack of affection towards them, they all chip in and nonsensically assist Beth in the biggest match of her life.
1 The Ending
At first blush, the ending of The Queen’s Gambit makes almost zero sense. Despite her system lacking tranquilizers for some time, Beth is still able to hallucinate a giant chessboard on the ceiling while wide awake, a method she’s used throughout to master her game.
All along however, the pills were just a placebo that Beth thought she needed to become a chess wizard. She didn’t need them because of her innate talent, which comes to the fore when facing Borgov in the biggest match of her life.