Warning: MAJOR SPOILERS ahead for The Queen’s Gambit.
How Did Alma Die?
One question that’s never answered in The Queen’s Gambit is exactly how Beth’s adoptive mother, Alma Wheatley (Marielle Heller), died. The last time we see her alive, she is contemplating herself in the mirror. She misses Beth’s match against Borgov in Mexico City, and when Beth goes back to the hotel room she finds Alma dead in the bed. The doctor’s initial guess is that she died of hepatitis, but an autopsy is required to know for certain. The results of the autopsy are never revealed, and the circumstances of Alma’s death are left ambiguous – though the hotel manager insinuates that she may have drank herself to death. She may have died from a toxic combination of the green tranquilizers and alcohol, or she may have succumbed to alcoholic hepatitis, an inflammation of the liver caused by excessive, long-term alcohol consumption. It’s also possible that she may have deliberately taken her own life, like Beth’s biological mother did.
Where Will Beth’s Romantic Life Lead?
Over the course of The Queen’s Gambit, Beth has a number of romantic entanglements. Her deepest infatuation is with her first crush, Townes (Jacob Fortune-Lloyd), but it’s strongly implied that Townes is actually gay, and his interest in her was simply a deep fascination with her talent that he briefly mistook for romantic feelings. “I will admit, I was a little confused,” he tells Beth in the final episode. “You really are something. But what I really wanted was for us to be friends.” They end the series having formed a stronger, platonic bond.
Beth’s relationship with Harry Beltik (Harry Melling) was rather one-sided, with him having stronger feelings for her than she had for him. She had a great deal of chemistry with Benny Watts (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), and it’s Benny who leads her team of strategists in the final push against Borgov, indicating that he’s forgiven her for shutting him out after the botched match in Paris. Since Beth is interested in both men and women, her deep relationship with Jolene (Moses Ingram) also has the potential to blossom into something more – though their love for one another is more akin to a sisterly bond. Perhaps it’s for the best that The Queen’s Gambit leaves Beth unattached at the end, having rediscovered the true love of her life: chess.
Was Cleo Working For The Soviets?
Though it’s never confirmed in The Queen’s Gambit, free-spirited French model Cleo (Millie Brady) appears to have been working for the Soviet government to infiltrate and sabotage the United States’ best chess players. She claims that she met Hilton Wexler (Ryan Wichert) and Arthur Levertov (Max Krause) when she was walking through le Jardin de Luxembourg, and became fascinated by their passionate argument over a chess board. However, it’s likely that Cleo knew exactly who the two elite chess players were, and had instructions to target them and, through them, get close to other high-ranking players like Benny and Beth.
Again, this is never made explicit in the series, but all the pieces fit together. Beth overhears a conversation between the Soviets in an elevator in which they discuss rumors that she is an alcoholic. Cleo just happens to show up at Benny’s apartment when Beth is preparing for her match against Borgov, and just happens to show up again at Beth’s hotel the night before the match. She calls up to Beth’s room and pressures her to come down to the bar for a drink, and makes it clear she will be staying at the bar when Beth refuses. After Beth joins her, one drink turns into many and Beth oversleeps and wakes up in the bathtub – whether purely because of the alcohol, or perhaps because of something extra that Cleo slipped into her drink. It may be circumstantial, but a lot of the evidence points to Beth being the victim of a honey trap.
More: The Queen’s Gambit Ending Explained: What Happened To Beth?