The Queen's Gambit Ending Explained, Spoiler Alert
An Exposé On American Individualism In The Face Of Trauma
Anyone else watching The Queen's Gambit on Netflix?
Comment if you are with your own opinion!
Less of a story (no it is not a true story but based on Walter Tevis's 1983 Queen's Gambit fictional novel, available for sale on Amazon) about chess (which I find interesting) and more about how childhood trauma isolates a bright young woman (Elizabeth "Beth" Harmon) who finds a sense of control and safety within the confines of 64 squares. It's interesting to consider how this sense of isolation is also embraced as an American value of extreme self reliance, but at the expense of gaining community support that helps chess players succeed in other countries who don't have as much of a go it along approach.
Well, this is just what the ending of Queen's Gambit highlights, careening into the stark conclusion that being alone and finding yourself deep in the obsessions of a mono-focused mania isn't the way to heal childhood trauma, although that laser focus does at first create such a terrific distraction and ego boost that it's easy to forget the pain.
As a summary into what The Queen's Gambit series is about: a little girl (Beth Harmon) who was raised in an orphanage after her mother was killed in a car crash. She quickly becomes an addict when the orphanage distributes tranquilizers to the kids along with another daily vitamin - which is not revealed. She learns to save them up and get higher when she takes a number of them at once. After learning chess from the maintenance man, she combines the drugs with the game of chess and becomes a savant who grows up to take on the chess world. Meanwhile she is adopted and that family falls apart, leaving her with her adopted mother who takes her around to compete in chess tournaments around the world, until she ends up dying on a trip in Mexico. It is no irony that Beth becomes an alcoholic herself. And, by the last episode she is deep in the throws of the addiction, becoming isolated and outwardly angry.
End game is the last episode of a seven episode series in this Netflix special series film. It begins after the previous episode, Adjournment concludes after Beth comes in to play a final world tournament hungover and is beaten by the Russian grandmaster Borgov as she looks over to see his loving family, a tear falls, and she resigns. Once back in Kentucky, Beth is struggling with severe alcoholism when Jolene drops by Harmon's house unexpectantly, and when faced with a rough looking Beth shouting at her (thinking it is someone else at the door) is like "who the hell are you" to Harmon's astonishment to see her standing there on her porch after so many years.
Harmon goes to Moscow on Jolene's 3k worth of savings, and accompanied by a State Dept agent she stays in a hotel, winning round after round (and not drinking or partying like she had in the past).
In the final match with Borgov, she walks down the long room with spectator filled bleachers on each side, sits at the chess table, shakes hands with the chess master Borgov and opens with white queen's pawn to d4, and Borgov plays pawn to queen 4. Best follows with pawn to queen bishop four. Borgov pawn to king four. Here we have 22 minutes left in the episode. A child runs outside to tell a crowd of fans, knight to G6. They play for a while longer, and then Borgov adjourns.
Townes (Beth's first crush on the chess circuit) reenters the scene as a reporter from Kentucky and they room together and talk strategy (as friends). Benny calls too after telling her not to call again and gives her tips on what to do. So, now it is clear she has a support team behind her. Beltic joins the conversation, so all of her chess friends are materializing to help. Crowd is chanting Harmon and the scene shifts back to the game.
Eventually Borgov offers a draw and Beth doesn't accept it but goes on to push him into picking his piece off of the table and shaking hands saying, it's your game. Hugging her, the crowd then cheers. Beth Harmon is now the world chess champion.
On the way to the airport, she stops the car and gets out, leaving her State Dept chaperone / security guard walking over to the park where there are chess games happening, and a man calls out, Harmon, and everyone surrounds her until she sits with one older gentleman to play a game and says, "let's play" in Russian. To explain this ending, we can see clearly that she values the Russian sense of community and chess playing comradery and wants to partake in it after being denied the chance by her State Dept. minder. The ending is the grand finale to this series that began with chess being the one thing to distract Harmon from the pain, the one thing that sends her deep into her mind and into isolation, to coming around full circle to helping her connect to a culture that embraces a sense of community. Now Harmon is fully integrated with herself and her community, there ironically in Russia. In beating Russia's champion, she is embraced not as dominant or superior, but as collective part of a socialist nation that so dearly loves the game. No subtle jabs here about the failings of American self reliance, Christianity, her adopted parents.
Does Harmon decide to live in Russia now? - yes, she does. Instead of Borgov defecting to the USA, ironically, it is Elizabeth Harmon who defects to Russia, in a flip of the old Cold War game where America was the bastion of hope to which every citizen of socialist regimes wanted to escape.