This TV miniseries tells the story of Elizabeth Harmon(Anya Taylor-Joy), a girl living in the 1960’s with an unusual gift that catapults her into stardom while at the same starving her from real human connection. I liked the way in which gifted people and their social network are portrayed. It ultimately tells a story about the hidden wealth that lies within deep connections. While gifted people struggle with their own demons and think that they are unworthy of relationships, people around them tend to see their gift as something desirable, without realizing that giftedness can be very isolating. Some try to exploit the gift for their benefit and others turn green with envy for something that they can never have, barely understanding that having a peculiar mind also means seeing the world through a different lens, and thus living a very lonely existence.
The theme advocates for feminist views that are peppered throughout the episodes. Beth finds herself succeeding in a world dominated by men, who both fear her and admire her, although, she seems to remain oblivious to the fact that she is breaking a lot of cultural stereotypes. She becomes the breadwinner of her adopted household while still a teenager. She is mentored and surrounded by men who want to woo her, yet she has so little sex through out the show. Beth is by many standards such a good girl, and such a badass, while also needing to be rescued from herself. It definitely makes for a very interesting mix showing how some skills can present an advantage in certain situations and unleash complete chaos in others.
I love Beth’s calm demeanor while under pressure. She knows she is good at what she does and enjoys looking at her opponent in the face when she throws some drama into the game. Mr. Shaibel makes a short appearance in the show but he proves to be a very insightful character who leaves a deep mark in Beth’s life. He wisely points how out how her anger will eat at her if she does not learn how to control it. He also teaches her that every gift has a cost and that she should be aware of that. Some insights that serve as the perfect Segway for the addiction theme that is introduced early in the series; Showing how chance and environmental factors play a role in perpetuating substance dependency. It is unclear if Beth would have gotten addicted to pills if she was not given any at the orphanage. However, she seemed to be surrounded by addiction all her life, normalizing a behavior that should have been rejected in an emotionally stable environment. Her mother was emotionally unavailable and her adoptive parents were as well, both relying on addiction as a crutch.
Elizabeth’s birth parents were really smart and they came from money but that did not necessarily make things easier for her. The story of her infancy is told in bits and pieces through flashbacks. It seems like daily life with mom was very stressful as her behavior was unpredictable. Perhaps that is why Elizabeth looked for comfort on the familiarity of the chess board. Everything within the 64 squares was predictable and perfectly under control. She liked it that way, as her mother warned her that she would find herself completely alone, and therefore, she had to learn to fend for herself. Beth learned to control her environment, reluctantly letting anyone in. Except through the game. Chess is her only way of connecting with the outside world, curiously enough it is also the same thing isolating her from it all.
While neurotypicals may enjoy a variety of group activities and partaking on light conversation about movies or what you had for lunch, gifted people connect through solving problems. People and life are puzzles to be solved. They do have feelings but they are expressed in a different way. The intensity of the focus on solving puzzles together goes hand and hand with the intensity of the feelings experienced towards the person whom they are communicating with. The higher the engagement level towards discussing the topic, the higher the attraction or connection that they feel towards that person. This is of course not a healthy way of communicating needs and feelings. However, for some people that is the only way that they know. I think that the show touches lightly upon the challenges of being in the autism spectrum. While solitude is not only welcomed but also sought after by people in the spectrum, decoding their language can be a puzzle on itself. Their obsession with a particular topic can be a way of expressing their deep desire to stay alive while also contributing something positive in a world coated by confusing and non sensical rituals where nothing else makes sense.
The director said that they wanted to make a story not at all about chess but about the cost of genius. What did you think of this show? leave your comments below.