A TV show about chess doesn’t seem like the kind of thing that would dominate the conversation for weeks on end and quickly gain a reputation as one of the year’s undoubted small screen highlights, but people can’t stop talking about The Queen’s Gambit. The seven-episode adaptation of Walter Tevis’ 1983 novel was brought to Netflix by two-time Academy Award nominated writer Scott Frank, who also created the streaming service’s acclaimed Western miniseries Godless.
Led by a phenomenal performance from rising star Anya Taylor-Joy, The Queen’s Gambit tells the story of orphaned chess prodigy Beth Harmon, who grapples with alcohol and drug problems during her rise to the pinnacle of a male-dominated world and attempts to cement herself as the greatest chess player ever, provided her personal demons don’t win in the end.
Frank wrote and directed every episode of the series himself, and based on the fact that The Queen’s Gambit still holds a perfect Rotten Tomatoes score of 100% and the filmmaker’s Godless scooped three Emmys from twelve nominations, his latest project is also destined for awards season glory. Not only that, but it’s officially become one of Netflix’s biggest original shows ever, too.
The Queen’s Gambit drew in a massive 62 million viewers in the first four weeks it was available, making it the most popular limited scripted miniseries in the company’s history after reaching first position on the Top 10 most-watched list in 63 countries and causing a renewed interest in chess all over the world. In terms of overall viewership, that’s the fifth largest television debut of all-time behind only The Witcher, season 4 of Money Heist, Tiger King and the third run of Stranger Things, reinforcing just how big of a success it’s been for Netflix.