Quick Hits: The Queen’s Gambit, Industry, A Teacher

The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix)

It’s always nice when I love the first show of Quick Hits. I had no idea this wasn’t a show about 1) being in England or 2) the Royal Family. As it happens, The Queen’s Gambit is a chess movie. More to the point this is a show about a young girl facing impossible odds to become the best. I learned about chess and so did the nearly 62 million people who watched during its first month of release.

Anya Taylor-Joy is remarkable as Beth Harmon (don’t search Beth Harmon on Wikipedia, she isn’t real in our world). Her performance is really breathtaking in some parts without being obvious or obtuse.

I completely appreciate that as a limited series of 7 episodes it tells a complete and satisfying story. This is a completely enjoyable use of your time to appreciate – suitable for binge-watching. Grade: A (95)

Industry (HBO MAX)

Not sure if you’ve noticed a trend with projects from the big streamers like I have but it boils down to a simple formula:

1 Recognizable Name + 1 Cast of Unknowns + 1 Familiar Story = Low Budget Success

It’s not a horrible proposition, especially when you’re spending billions trying to bulk up your nascent streaming service with engaging content. Industry falls into that category and in this case I am ok with being introduced to new people. The recognizable name that I hit on first was Lena Dunham who directed the first episode (do we even say Pilot anymore?). It was slightly heartening to see it’s a straight up BBC production so I will congratulate Lena on directing the pilot as pilot directors usually participate in profits while helping set the tone for a show.

The other recognizable name I picked up on is Ken Leung. Ken is a working actor who is usually posted up in some rather stereotypical roles. I don’t say this often but his role here as middle manager Eric Tao is tour-de-force – he owns the scene.

There are a few breakout stars but to keep things brief I wanted to mention Myha’la Herrold as Harper Stern. She’s basically the rising star in this ensemble, using every opportunity to flex into different character levels. It may take a seven full seasons to clearly see her range.

Great writing, casting and storylines help Industry keep a steady pace. It’s one of the better new shows to come from the HBO group in a long time. Grade So Far: A (94)

A Teacher (FX)

And now, our final entry in this week’s Quick Hits. Halfway through A Teacher, I can safely say that it is in fact garbage. It’s a time-honored story older gal/younger guy, taboo subject matter – teacher-student, “but he’s 18” and so on. It should be so easy to take two bona-fide stars and craft a compelling new take on an old cliché.

We love Kate Mara. She was Zoe Barnes from season 1 of House of Cards. No spoilers, she should’ve hailed a cab that night. Nick Robinson is a true up-and-comer. I noticed him first on Melissa and Joey but he’s put together a nice little run with an appearance in Jurassic World and star turns in Rob Reiner’s Being Charlie and Greg Berlanti’s Love, Simon.

It’s just so predictable. I get the firm impression the writer sat down and cranked out all the scripts in one evening. The writing is that stilted and encumbered – you can easily anticipate next moves. Nothing is a surprise to the point where near the end of the most recent episode, Episode 5, I said to myself “yep, here it comes” and she said the thing. There are five more episodes – maybe this coming-of-age story makes a resounding comeback and I will be happy to return to this post and add a postcript. For now, Grade So Far: D+ (67)

Check out my previous edition of Quick Hits where I review Defending Jacob, Love Life and Shameless: Season 10!

One thought on “Quick Hits: The Queen’s Gambit, Industry, A Teacher

  1. Glad to hear you like Industry — I agree with everything you said! I hope it builds some more buzz so we can get a second season. It definitely warrants more attention and more episodes. I have yet to watch The Queen’s Gambit, but I’ve heard nothing but amazing things. I’ll have to check it out eventually.

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