I’ve asked more than once whether Beth cares for anything beyond chess as I worked my way through this fantastic mini-series.
I think a better question might be to ask what happens when she comes down.
See, Beth has spent so much of this story high on one substance or another that at some point there would have to be consequences. I’ve wondered what made Beth so angry, something every serious opponent she’s met has remarked on. No answer to that though we did see a flashback where Beth’s biological mother, a character I do not recall ever having a line before, told her that the true strength of a woman is to live without a man and be her own person.
Arguably, being able to live without a man is a good thing, but I think part of the point of this series has been to suggest Beth took that advice way too far.
However, with Alma’s death, it does seem as if this episode is there to show Beth reach rock bottom. Sure, beating Benny and two of his chess prodigy friends at simultaneous speed chess is a good thing, but then things go downhill fast. Sleeping with Benny seems like the best sex she’s had so far, but Benny’s idea of post-coital talk is chatting up chess moves, and for the first time, Beth isn’t interested in that. And while Benny doesn’t want her drinking, he has a French fashion model friend, and she didn’t get that memo.
So, Beth goes on a bender in Paris, loses to Borgov again, and then goes back to Kentucky where her adoptive father (who never wanted her) wants the house back despite saying she could have it if she kept up the mortgage payments.
Dude, we all saw that episode. That’s exactly what he said.
As it is, Beth has enough money to buy the house outright, but then she slinks further into alcoholism. Benny’s concerned. Harry is really concerned. She’s not interested in help, and there’s some irony in taking money from a Christian group to pay her way everywhere. But really, this is Beth at her lowest. This is Beth getting looks from neighbors when she carts trash cans full of empty bottles to the curb for garbage day. This is a Beth who looks like a mess. She needs help and doesn’t want it, possibly because only men are offering it. She’s headed off for a third match with Borgov in the Soviet Union next, and she is an absolute mess.
So, perhaps that is why it is a good thing that Jolene, her only friend from the orphanage, shows up on Beth’s doorstep.