Beth Harmon and Morality Tales
I'm at a remote, undisclosed location in the Frank Church Wilderness, where I can access the internet (read takes) but not stream video (form my own opinion on media), so I appreciate this thoughtful contribution to the Discourse. I have a soft spot for chess stories, especially on film or television where they occupy a sweet spot within the tendency of American mass media to turn stories about Creative or Intellectual Genius into stories about sports - chess is already a sport! So I'm glad to see further affirmation that this one is worth checking out; I'll try to remember to do so when I can in a few months.
Just to carry on a bit from your first paragraph (and not at all as a criticism of this post, which is good): it's always mystifying to me that discourse about film and TV always seems to be boiled down to its narrative aspects. It was probably inevitable that narrative cinema would be its triumphant mode - we like to tell, and be told, stories - but it's not the only thing you can do with film, and even when it's what you end up doing there are non-narrative features, such as costuming and set design, or acting, or cinematography, that either support or undercut that narrative and deserve attention, discussion, and praise, or criticism. It's best when everything is done well and all works together, but if there wasn't much more to a show than great art design it could still be enough.
Happy Anniversary to the final Calvin and Hobbes strip. 25 years! Makes me feel old, being able to remember it.
Agree with you on most everything, especially that it's nice to look at nice things. My one "hot take" is that the lack of narrative tension you mention hurts it as a 7 hour series and it would have been much better as a 2 hour movie.
Great read! I thought the characterization about the Soviet masters as dudes who just love good chess and want to help their fellow dude be better at chess vs. the psychotically individualist Americans was another nice inversion of Cold War tropes.
This show is a sports anime about chess down to the end when all the homies come out of the woodwork to cheer her on for the Big Game. It's way more interested in the "feelin' good" part of being a hot misunderstood genius but spends so much more time on feelin' bad. I wish they had just made it fun and done a "Yuri on Ice!" instead of trying and failing to say... something (?) about addiction. Still a good time though and the production design rocked.
I don't see Beth as overcoming addiction through her own gumption as much as through her connection with another human who is also a functional, positive force for good (Jolene, if that wasn't obvious). Connection with others can be a very powerful weapon in fighting addiction. It's not the only thing, but I've seen it in action myself so I know it can be effective. It fits in with the series' overarching theme that we aren't alone and we're better when we help each other.