Jacob’s review published on Letterboxd:
I had a funny review planned but by episode 3 I knew I had to scrap it because this show was turning out to be one of the greatest thing I’d ever seen. I’ll start with the only reason I would ever watch seven hours of a Netflix show about chess, Anya Taylor-Joy. To say that she’s incredible in this would be an understatement. Even calling her performance perfect doesn’t really do justice to all the imperfections that she layers into this very imperfect character. I’m obsessed with Beth Harmon because she’s the most believable fictional character you could ever hope to see. I actually had to look her up afterwords to see if she was real, because every move she makes in this series feels real and even her most melodramatic moments feel justified because Anya simply brings her to life. I know that’s such a common thing to say, that an actor brings a role to life, but it has never been truer than it is here and Anya should every award that this performance qualifies her for.
The other reason that her character is so real is because of the outstanding writing. There’s just so much flavor and character and color in every single scene. I wasn't bored for a single minute, which is remarkable considering that there are 420 minutes in this show and that a lot of those minutes are just people playing chess. But somehow even the chess is exciting!! It sort of reminded me of Moneyball, a movie with a script so good that both baseball and math are genuinely exciting. Both that movie and this show are able to pull that off because they get you to invest so much in these characters. Their interest become your interests. You care about chess because Beth. Cares. About. Chess. And it's just such a testament to the genius of this script.
I also don’t want to forget to mention just how beautiful this series is to look at. The chess scenes are captivating because you’re invested in the story, but also because of the way they're shot and directed. Even if you don’t understand what’s happening (I clearly didn’t) you can feel the pulse of the game and the rhythm of the moves and with just a few music cues and nervous glances and shots of hands you know who’s winning and who’s losing. A few other quick things I don’t want to forget to mention: This series just feels like the sixties in the best way possible. From the clothes to the sets to the absolutely inspired color palettes, every scene gives you mid-century modern and it was hypnotizing to me. The same goes for the music. The soundtrack is filled with the best mix of zeitgeisty pop and electric jazz. I think I saved every song to my Spotify, and somehow the score might even be better.
As you can see from my three paragraph ramble, I think this is one of the best shows of the year, maybe even the last few years, and I cannot tell you how low my expectations were going into it. So, if you are in the same position I was, i.e. considering a seven hour thirst watch about a hot girl who plays chess, be prepared to get all that and so, so much more.