The Queen's Gambit spoilers follow.
Netflix's The Queen's Gambit is the story of Beth (Anya Taylor-Joy) and her journey to become the first female chess champion, whilst overcoming her problems with drug and alcohol addiction.
The series has been well received by critics and audiences. But it has one fairly major plot hole. The whole show culminates with many of the key characters rallying around to help Beth in the chess match that will make her world champion. However, throughout the series, she's been cold, awkward and standoffish. She shows many of the characters little appreciation or friendship. The series doesn't explain how such an unlikeable character receives such devotion and loyalty – it's only in going back to Walter Tevis' novel that we get an answer.
In the show, Townes (Jacob Fortune-Lloyd), a journalist at a small-time newspaper, flies all the way to Moscow so that Beth will have someone to support her. What's strange is that he's only met Beth on a few occasions. Before Moscow, he made an error in judgement leading to Beth becoming incredibly cold to him and refusing to listen to his explanations. Beth never tried to contact him. He's the person making a huge effort in their relationship.
He's not the only one. Fellow chess player Harry (Harry Melling) spends weeks teaching Beth tactics to defeat the Russians. She only thanks him when he announces he's moving closer to the university. He keeps trying to convince her to stop drinking and taking pills but she ignores almost all his calls.
He finally tells her how scared he is for her and even opens up about his own father's alcoholism in a desperate attempt to get through to her. All she does is insult him for giving up chess and working in a supermarket. Yet, in the end, he's still part of the team in America trying to help Beth with a strategy to win.
As for US Chess Champion Benny (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), he's the one that organises the team to help Beth despite Beth never coming back to be with him in New York. She only contacts him when she needs help and doesn't even say anything when he talks about how much he's missing her.
For one person to look past her cold behaviour is one thing but it becomes increasingly implausible when they all do it.
Turns out, it's quite different in the book. Walter Tevis' novel explains the series' biggest plot hole by showing Beth's relationships developing more organically. Her lack of affection and awkwardness means that both Harry and Townes soon leave her behind and never come back. The two people who stay devoted to her are her childhood friend Jolene and on-off lover Benny, who she has a deeper connection with than in the show.
Beth takes an interest in Benny's life and the poker games he plays to fund his lifestyle. They bond over their difficulties in maintaining a relationship with other people and each other. Each of them confesses that they deliberately push people away.
In Moscow, Beth admits to herself that she misses Benny more than Townes or anyone else – a confession she never makes in the show. At the end of the novel, Benny's the one who organises a team of his friends to devise a strategy to help Beth. There isn't a group of people rallying around to help Beth no matter what she does.
As for her friendship with Jolene in the show, it makes a lot more sense than her relationships with the men in her life and is similar to the connection they share in the book. However, in the novel, their relationship is less passive and Jolene isn't the one who contacts Beth. It's Beth, in an emotionally vulnerable state, who calls Jolene and asks for her help acknowledging that Jolene is the only person who can help her with her addictions. This enables us to see a more vulnerable side to her character.
In general, the show sticks to the events of the book. But it goes too far in trying to underline the book's key message that Beth isn't as alone as she feels, that there are people who support her.
It's the series' exaggerated idea that almost everyone supports her in the end that makes us question the way Beth's relationships work, especially considering the way she treats others. The book answers this question by showing her relationships in a more realistic way.
The Queen's Gambit is available on Netflix.
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