By Owen Stevens

Although undeniably high quality and engaging, The Queen’s Gambit lacks any sort of character-based story arc that spans across the entirety of the show. While the show does follow Beth’s rise to fame in the chess world, the social drama aspect is but a random composition of unrelated events. Beth stumbles in and out of alcoholism and addiction throughout the show, as well as losing at chess and winning. However, each event is overcome in the episode it belongs in and rarely determines the outcome of another. Directors Trey Parker and Matt Stone, have said that you know a story is going somewhere if you can employ transition words such as ”therefore and but,” rather than “and then.” Episodes of the Queen’s Gambit are only connected to each other in how they play consecutively in a certain order. In other words, “this” happens and then “that” happens and then something else happens.

If this is true, then it certainly raises the question, why is The Queen’s Gambit so engaging? Besides the good acting and directing, the simple answer is that it follows a format that triggers addiction and suspense, regardless of the show’s writing. The episode format of TV shows naturally builds unpredictability and expectation. If one episode is lacking, then the next might redeem it. If an episode ends on a cliff-hanger, the next one will tie the loose ends. There’s always incentive to keep watching. This is certainly not “unpredictable” though, which is how shows like this are often mistakenly described. Unpredictability is a result that comes from a solid plot with more layers than are originally visible. TV shows such as The Queen’s Gambit, are not employing this, they are just churning out random cliffhangers and dramatic end of episode scenes. Something new happens in every episode because the plot is severed into several pieces, rather than being a continuous string. 

In the past, TV was always a separate entity from film. It was just cheap entertainment that could never live up to the standards of movies. This was mostly due to it not being given enough time or money to challenge the world of film. However, with the rise of huge streaming studios, TV is slowly crossing over the line dividing it from its formerly superior counterpart. This gives us shows like The Queen’s Gambit, that are well directed and feature high quality actors, but lacking in the area of solid story writing. TV is still the lesser format, less focused on completion and perfection than being very expensive, but cheap entertainment. 


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