The Netflix miniseries The Queen's Gambit has become and remained one of the platform's most popular and talked about shows this year, and for good reason. The seven-part story about chess prodigy Beth Harmon pushing through obstacle after obstacle to become the greatest living player is a fascinating, inspiring, and oftentimes maddening look into the psyche of a bonafide genius with a mountain of personal demons to overcome. But how Beth, played masterfully by Anya Taylor-Joy, reaches the pinnacle of the chess world in The Queen's Gambit ending is one of the most interesting aspects of the entire show.
SPOILER alert: Hopefully you've completed The Queen's Gambit by now (surely that's why you're reading this) and want to know exactly how the show's main story and various subplots wrapped up before what will surely go down as one of the most fulfilling endings of any show this year. So, if you want to hear our thoughts on how Beth was able to do what she did in the final match, what the old men playing chess in the park mean, and how the young chess prodigy came to terms with everything else that happened in her life, this is the place. Otherwise, make sure to finish the show and come back later because there are going to be some major spoilers ahead.
How Beth Was Finally Able To Defeat Vasily Borgov
Throughout the entire series, Vasily Borgov (Marcin Dorocinski) is built up as the major opponent and and obstacle that Beth Harmon will have to overcome before she becomes the best chess player in the world, but the first two times she faces him — first in Mexico City and then again in Paris — she fails. During these first two attempts, Beth still depends on those little green pills and bottles of booze to prepare for her matches and allow her to play chess in her brain to visualize the moves. And while it seems at first that this method of filling her body and mind with substances to give her tunnel vision, so to speak, they ultimately impair her concentration and hold her back.
Prior to her final match with Vasily Borgov in the The Queen's Gambit finale, Beth Harmon undergoes some serious soul searching (which we will address later on), learns to rely on others (which we will also get into), and decides to do away with the last of the pills in her possession and take on her opponent with a clear mind. But still, the final match against Borgov is anything but easy or predictable as the Russian chess great shows throughout the two-day affair. Despite the final game being the toughest of her career, Beth is able to clear her mind and free herself from the emotional baggage that was holding her back and find a way to victory.
The Meaning Behind The Final Chess Game In The Park
Shortly after Beth Harmon arrives in Russia for the Moscow Invitational, she walks by a random park in the Soviet capital and comes across dozens of old Russian men playing chess; not for prestige, not for prize, and not for pride, but instead for the love of the game, much in the same way Mr. Shaibel (Bill Camp) played at the Methuen Home for Girls. Beth is intrigued by what she sees in the park and has a look of pure joy as she takes it all in. And then her tournament begins.
In the final moments of The Queen's Gambit, Beth is riding with her State Department handler who is telling her about all the events that are planned for her back in Washington, D.C. Only half paying attention to what the man is saying, Beth loses what attention she has left when she sees that same group of old men playing chess in the park. She has the driver stop and she walks upon the group, who quickly realize who she is and invite her to play a game. For the first time since learning to play chess in the basement of the orphanage, Beth plays a round of chess not for ranking, not for a prize, and not for pride, but the fun and pure joy of the game. Having accomplished everything she set out to do, Beth is free to enjoy and love chess.
How Beth Came To Terms With Her Mom's Suicide
The final episode of The Queen's Gambit opens with another flashback to the day Beth's mom (Chloe Pirrie) commits suicide. Unlike previous glimpses at the fateful day, this time we see what led to the events of her tragic death, including Beth's mom confronting the man who is clearly the father of the young girl in the backseat of the car. We cut back to the flashback once again on the eve of Beth's final match against Vasily Borgov, this time showing the final seconds before the head-on collision on the bridge. The episode then cuts to Beth lying on her hotel bed, staring at the container of pills on the nightstand.
In this moment, Beth comes to terms with the events that led to her mother's suicide and the identity of her father, which is shown by her decision to not take the pills that have allowed her to grow numb to the world and hide in an imaginary game of chess as an escape, and instead face the music. By understanding and overcoming the trauma of her mother's death, Beth is freed from the loss and pain and is no longer held down by the chains of her past. By accepting the past, Beth can look toward the future.
How Beth Discovered She Is Not Alone
Chess is a solitary game, but that doesn't mean the lives of the chess greats have to be spent all alone. That's very much the case for Beth in the final episode of The Queen's Gambit as she realizes that she is not alone in the world even if both mother figures in her life are dead and her father didn't want anything to do with her. This is seen throughout the episode through interactions with Jolene (Moses Ingram), who gives Beth the money to get to Russia, Townes (Jacob Fortune-Lloyd), who surprises her at the tournament, and Benny (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and Harry (Harry Melling), who assemble a team to help her prepare for the final match. No matter what she did to these people and how poorly she may have treated them, they all show what it means to be family.
But before Townes surprises her, and before she gets the call from Benny and Harry, Beth shows the world that despite her shortcomings, she genuinely cares about those in her life. When she's being interviewed ahead of the final match, Beth makes it a point to mention Mr. Shaibel and makes the reporters promise they will print his name so that everyone knows that she is where she is in life because of the generosity of a relative stranger.
Through it all, every good thing and bad, every success and defeat helps Beth Harmon grow as a chess player, but more importantly as a person.
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Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop yelling at the mailman, or yelling about professional wrestling to his wife. If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.
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