The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix, 2020)

The Queen’s Gambit is an American drama television mini-series based on Walter Tevis’s novel of the same name, starring Anya Taylor-Joy. It was created by Scott Frank and Allan Scott and premiered internationally on Netflix in October, 2020.

Let’s do things differently this time. Let’s start with the ending.

What I liked especially about the Moscow chapter is that it puts Beth’s relationships with the men, with the chess players in her life, into perspective. The show is very good at putting almost everything into perspective, through the flashbacks when her mum tells her,

Men will come into your life, and they will think that they can teach you something; and, well, maybe they can, but it doesn’t mean they’re smarter than you. It just makes them feel bigger than you. And they will come and they will go, and you will move on, and you will do whatever the hell you like.

And that’s really… the show is quite good at lampshading these things, so just when first there’s Harry and then there’s Benny, and you start to worry about the show miscasting its own heroine, it then becomes clear that that is the motivator for why Beth lets them in. The thing that her mother told her, that in the end you’re your own master. What it really means, however, is that Beth still needs a support system. Those flashbacks explain her motivations, but they also lay the groundwork for her realisation that what her mother taught her isn’t sustainable. Not because these other people are men, but because they’re her friends. (Plus, with Beth being bisexual, that burden of proof, that male-female dynamic is displaced, anyhow. Men were just around more; relationships are what’s difficult for Beth. Another facet that her mother couldn’t have predicted.)

They’re trying to pull the same trick with Jolene, but it doesn’t actually work: because it’s quite hamfisted, because Beth never looked her up, and because they foisted on Jolene a responsibility that shouldn’t have gone to a Black woman in that moment. Because it just throws her squarely into the Mammy trope and calls it done. Suddenly, she reappears to essentially save Beth, but they attempt to subvert it, unsuccessfully, when Beth tells her she’s her guardian angel and Jolene denies it — ostensibly subverting the trope, but not really — and says, “We’re family.” Okay, but…

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Rebecca (Netflix, 2020)


First published on Patreon early access.

It’s been a while since I last read Rebecca, and it’s been even longer since I last watched the Hitchcock adaptation. So I went into this movie still knowing the plot, but having quite forgotten some of the more unsettling details. Or, rather, some of the small, seemingly inconsequential bits and pieces that, seeing it brought to the screen once again, really make this story sing.

Mrs de Winter steps from a fairy tale right into a ghost story, but if you were expecting actual ghosts, you will be disappointed this time. The horror aspect of this story — and the way it’s adapted here, visually — is firmly rooted in playing with Mrs de Winter’s naiveté, her anxieties and innocence. Danvers (a marvellous turn in the role by Kristin Scott Thomas) is a master at gaslighting; and Rebecca shows that there is no lie too small or too blatant to make someone doubt their own mind. Or, more importantly, to make everyone else doubt her.

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Black Spot | Zone Blanche & Twin Peaks: A (Purely Speculative) Play on Intertextuality

How the French crime/horror drama series gleefully subverts key moments & concepts from the 90s cult show as it flirts with the genre and parallels.

Warning: contains major spoilers for Season 1, minor spoilers for Season 2, of Black Spot; as well as for Twin Peaks.


1. The new district attorney, Siriani arriving in town — tall trees, fog, grey skies. For a moment, it could be déjà vu. It’s could be Agent Cooper’s arrival in Twin Peaks. But where Coop’s first appearance and entrance into that small Washington town, extended and filmed from the passenger seat, was by far the most peaceful of his experience, the DA’s car stops without warning before we ever meet him. He has to get out. He has no reception, but there is a telephone pole just down the road, vandalised. A thing fallen out of time, just like so much in Twin Peaks — like so much in Villefranche; like the town entry sign that is as quaint as can be.

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Doctor Who: Knock Knock + Oxygen (S10E04+05)

Doctor Who Series 10 is shaping up to be a true mystery series — rather than the only challenge being to outsmart an obvious villain, a lot of work is being done by Bill and the Doctor to figure out what they’re even fighting and/or running away from. In these two episodes from early May, that set of challenges comes in the shape of a haunted house and murderous capitalist spacesuits, respectively. Continue reading →

elisabeth-moss-handmaids-tale-teaser

“Faith is only a word, embroidered.” — A Primer on The Handmaid’s Tale, coming to Hulu

On April 26th, Hulu is premiering the first episode of its TV adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s prize-winning novel, The Handmaid’s Tale. Frankly, an extensive adaptation of that work couldn’t have come at a better time, and while it’s horrifying that it’s necessary, I’m nonetheless looking forward to it. The Handmaid’s Tale is an excellent novel telling a compelling story; and there’s a reason why now’s the time to tell it. Continue reading →

Emerald City and White Male Villainy: How the Wizard Destroyed Oz

I’ve recently finished the first season of Emerald City, the NBC TV adaptation of Frank L. Baum’s children’s novel The Wizard of Oz. The show takes many artistic liberties with the text, transforming it into something new, but this meta won’t be a comparison piece between the novel and the show (not least because it’s been ages since I read it). What the many transformations amount to, however, is the fundamental narrative of a man finding fault with his lot in life and taking the opportunity in a new world to reinvent himself — by subjugating others. Continue reading →