Lessons in Chemistry – Episode 3 “Living Dead Things” Recap & Review

Living Dead Things

In Lessons in Chemistry Episode 3, Elizabeth isn’t the only one grieving Calvin’s death. Six Thirty’s thoughts, voiced by B.J. Novak, are consumed with guilt over what he’s done.

The dog tells us of his background. He was a military dog, but being too scared, he ran away from his military base before meeting Elizabeth. Now, he watches on as Elizabeth goes through the motions following the loss of her only loved one, thinking she must blame him.

Elizabeth and Six Thirty are the only ones in the front row at Calvin’s funeral. A reporter named Ralph mistakes her for family and bugs her for some quotes for an article he’s writing about Calvin. Of course, Elizabeth isn’t in the mood to talk to him. In the article, he ends up misquoting her and painting Calvin in a harsh light.

When Harriet sees the article, she’s incensed that the journalist would misrepresent her friend like that. She later brings it to Elizabeth’s attention, but she’s still not much up to talking.

When Elizabeth returns to Hastings, Calvin’s personal items and their research have been boxed up and put away. Elizabeth can’t collect them until enough time has passed for a potential relative to come get them. Elizabeth is out of a job too, but Fran is able to find her an admin job, at least.

Apparently, change isn’t done upsetting Elizabeth’s ordered world. She finds out she’s pregnant. She doesn’t do anything about it, except take a sledgehammer to her kitchen to start making an industrial-grade laboratory.

And then, when Dr. Donatti (who has already stolen Elizabeth’s research and put Al to work on replicating it) finds out about her pregnancy, he has the audacity to fire her. Women simply don’t continue to work after they’ve had children, and that’s that. Nothing Elizabeth says can change his mind.

Meanwhile, Harriet speaks to Ralph about his terrible article. Unfortunately, he can’t do anything about changing something that’s already gone to print. But Harriet thinks of another story for him, telling him about the freeway that will ruin her neighborhood.

Ralph ends up showing up to the next council meeting about the freeway, and he writes about Harriet’s cause. An excited Harriet shows the article to Elizabeth. The women seem to be developing a tentative friendship. At one point, Elizabeth gives Harriet a record Calvin wanted her to have, with a note from him promising he’d be there next time. It warms Harriet to know that he was with her in spirit at the council meeting. The women then happily reminisce about Calvin’s terrible dancing skills.

When Elizabeth finally goes to the OBGYN, she’s in her third trimester. Her doctor is a kind man who notices how alone she is. He writes her a prescription to join him at a boathouse in one year. She’s been erging at home and should be ready to start rowing by then.

At home, Elizabeth goes through some of Calvin’s old things. She’s been bottling up her emotions for so long, but when she finds an engagement ring, it all comes loose.

She then goes running with Six Thirty, who muses that grieving is a lot like running. It’s hard, but you just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other. And eventually, you’ll be home.


The Episode Review

Well, I expected to be heart-broken on Elizabeth’s behalf, but I certainly wasn’t prepared for Six Thirty’s sad tale. Framing the episode with the dog’s narration is an odd choice that’s inspired by the book. It worked for me, however, not only because Six Thirty is sweet and charming. But also because it created some distance from Elizabeth during her mourning. Just as she’s drawing away from the world, she’s drawing away from us, the viewers. It’s heart-wrenching, but effective.

I found it even odder that the show obviously didn’t want to reckon with even the possibility of her having an abortion. You’d think someone as progressive and as unwilling to be a mother as Elizabeth would consider the option, however impossible it may have seemed at the time. But of course, she is grieving, and I do buy Larson’s portrayal of a woman so blinded by sadness that she simply ignored her pregnancy.

Even coming down from the tragedy of Calvin’s death, this was a strong episode. I think that’s largely due to Harriet’s comforting presence, and the promise of a developing friendship between her and Elizabeth. And of course, Brie Larson’s performance is as strong as ever.

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