Episode 7 of Queen’s Gambit begins with our usual foray into the past again as Alice finds Paul at his new house. He’s less than pleased to see her though and tells the woman to leave. This catches us up to the moments of Alice driving along the road with her daughter.
Back in the present, Jolene reveals why she’s really there. Mr Shaibel has passed away and there’s a funeral upcoming. She wants Beth to attend but can’t help but look at the state of her house. Jolene is a paralegal now too, having fixed herself up from the orphanage days, and clearly turned her life around. Beth meanwhile realizes she needs to do the same with hers.
Before that though, the pair head on a road trip to visit Beth’s old hangout spots. The first is her old trailer she shared with Alice. It’s pretty run-down and this inevitably leads them on to the orphanage.
Flashes from the past are too much though, and Beth decides not to head in. Instead, she goes to Mr Shaibel’s funeral where she feels bad for owing him 10 dollars.
After the service, Beth changes her mind and heads back to the place she spent most of her childhood. Miss Deardoff tells her to get back to the chapel while Beth politely agrees and heads down to the basement.
There, she finds a big pin-up board with all of her newspaper clippings, pictures and moments through her young life. It’s a touching tribute but one that sees the picture of Mr Shaibel and Beth together as the highlight of this collage.
It’s all too much for her to bear and Beth breaks down crying in the car with Jolene. Back home, the Christian Crusade ladies head over but Beth shuns their beliefs and decides to give back what they’ve spent on her so far.
With nowhere else to turn, Beth rings Benny and asks for money. He’s having none of it though, especially after she ditched him in New York, and eventually tells her not to ring again.
Beth manages to hustle up enough funds to get across to Russia though, and just before she goes receives some words of wisdom from Jolene.
Russia is very different from what Beth has experienced previously. She’s told to stay in her hotel and forbidden from speaking to anyone else. Beth wins her first game and sticks to the rules – for the most part anyway. She signs autographs on her way out and does her best to fit in alongside the other players.
Her isolation there doesn’t affect her too much though – after all this is something she’s experienced all her life. She remains in-form and beats her competitors one by one.
Back at the hotel she notices that her opponent is liaising with Borgov – hinting back at that comment Benny made about the Russians playing together. Beth does her best to study just as hard and it pays off too. She beats him the next day as the man marvels at her talent, going on to call her the best chess player he’s ever played against. Taking a bow, she beats her second opponent too but it all builds up to exhaustingly long, mentally-taxing games.
Finally the big day arrives and all eyes are on Borgov and Harmon as they fight it out on the chess board. Wooden clacks echo across the walls as the crowd remain captivated by the game played out before them. Midway through though, Borgov decides to adjourn.
With the world watching on, Beth tries to remain modest despite her agent’s insistence to talk to the press. On the way out she mentions Shaibel and what an influence he’s been on her and implores them to print the story.
Just before she leaves though, a familiar face from the past shows up. It’s Townes! He asks whether she’s there alone and she throws her arms around him. Together they discuss their differing fates in life. Beth mentions her pills and worries that she won’t be able to without them.
Thankfully Townes convinces her that she doesn’t need them. After all, she’s getting along fine without them right now. needed to survive.
As another sign of good news, Harry, Benny and all the boys phone through from New York to give her tips and strategies on how to beat Borgov. With all the brilliant minds collected together, Beth uses all this knowledge as she prepares to go in for her big night.
Borgov goes completely off-script but Beth finally understands she doesn’t need the pills anymore to harness her power. She sees the board on the ceiling without the pills for the first time.
As they keep playing, Borgov asks for a draw. The commentator believes she should settle but Beth solemnly shakes her head.
Despite Borgov’s amazing run in the end-game, she refuses to go down. A smile crosses Borgov’s face as he looks her in the eye. “The game is yours,” He proclaims, beaming as Beth sends the crowd into rapturous applause.
In the wake of this, the win brings back a wave of publicity to America where Beth is invited along to play chess with the President. Instead, Beth stops the car and decides against going back to America for now.
She instead walks among the various chess players in the park and revels in the sudden acclaim she receives from the men and women there. Sitting at the table, she’s encouraged to play chess, which she agrees to do.
The Episode Review
What a wonderful ending. Everything comes full circle as all the people Beth’s known and met along the way team up to help her against Borgov. For all the talk of Beth being alone and not having anyone by her side, it turns out this lone wolf has her own pack tailing along for support.
It’s a triumphant return to form for her and one that interestingly uses that rule of 3 to beat Borgov on the third attempt. It’s a common motif found in dramas like this and it plays out beautifully across the season.
This episode also sees the breakthrough as Beth realizes her true potential and talent is not wrapped up in those pills. Those “clouded” her mind and seemingly took away from the troublesome moments plaguing her upbringing.
Now that she’s shaken off her demons, Beth has come out stronger the other side. Seeing Beth back to her roots – playing old men in mundane settings – perfectly encapsulates what this game means for this young woman.
It really is a wonderful way to end the series and gives a rare definite ending to a Netflix Original, which is certainly welcome.
Overall, The Queen’s Gambit has been an absolute delight and this final episode perfectly rounds out every character’s arc without unnecessary melodrama and soapy romance thrown in. This is an empowering, well-written sports drama that’s easily up there with the best shows of 2020.