Check(mate)-ing out –
November 3, 2020 – Even when she wakes up severely hungover in Paris, she whips her head forward and instantly collects herself, looking like a veritable siren doll with sinuously reflective red curls magically restored to bouncing perfection — just minutes after emerging from a bathtub with pitch-black mascara bleeding down her cheeks. Every man that has been in her life saves her more than once; the show is a fairy tale without Brothers Grimm body horror or any horror to speak of aside from its tragic opening scene.
But let’s rewind a bit more, to the moment when Harmon first visualizes an upside-down game of chess on the orphanage ceiling. There is a particularly dangerous form of causality being drawn here between Harmon’s blossoming intellect — her precocity — and not just her tendency toward addictive behaviors, but her addiction to pills as well. It’s important to note the difference: It’s perfectly fine to acknowledge that sometimes yes, there is a link between an individual who harbors some kind of genetic predisposition toward addiction and their potential for greatness. But linking Harmon’s intellectual development to the tranquilizers themselves at least somewhat implies that without them, she would have never realized her talents.
Today, addiction specialists use the term “medical model” to summarize their understanding as opposed to attributing addiction to moral shortcomings. But cue Harmon downing entire bottles of red wine at an astonishing pace with a pensive, sultry gaze. Her ensuing spiral into substance abuse has a cinematic, nearly iconic look to it. We might want to step away from imagery depicting someone’s bottom as a well-choreographed music video with only one scene of projectile vomiting, where she somehow never manages to lose the house.
She simultaneously takes incredibly strong tranquilizers, but even at the end of the series, anyone who has been in or has known someone in the throes of addiction cannot watch the final scene unfold without wondering how Taylor-Joy’s complexion has remained so lovely throughout. Dare I say, her complexion improves significantly and becomes miraculously more radiant, with not a trace of dehydration aside from the one time she downs glasses of water during her “hangover match” with the Russian.