Lessons in Chemistry – Episode 8 Recap, Review & Ending Explained

Introduction to Chemistry

Who is Avery Parker?

In Lessons in Chemistry Episode 8, Mad and Elizabeth’s discovery of Calvin’s name in a copy of Great Expectations leads them to Wilson of the Remsen Foundation. He’s the man who tried to find Calvin as a boy, only to be told by the St. Luke’s head priest that the boy had died of tuberculosis.

Wilson is delighted to see Mad and Elizabeth, but leads them to the person they really should be talking to: Avery Parker, Calvin’s mother. When Mad asks why Avery abandoned Calvin, she tells them about how her parents took him away from her after she delivered him at 16 years old. She had been looking for him ever since.

While her search was halted for a while, as she thought him dead, it began anew after Calvin became a famous scientist. But Calvin was wary of anyone claiming to be family, so Harriet sent her a cease and desist on his behalf. Now, Avery wants to be part of Mad’s life, but Elizabeth asks her to give them time.

Does Elizabeth leave Supper at Six?

Meanwhile, at work, Phil has threatened to fire Elizabeth if she doesn’t find them a new sponsor, as she’s driven away all the previous ones.

Elizabeth finds clarity when Mad helps her realize she shouldn’t be on the show anymore; she should be in a lab. Although, she has made a difference she’s proud of. During one show, one woman shares how Elizabeth inspired her to pursue an education to become a heart surgeon.

On the next show, Elizabeth announces their new sponsor, one she can finally support in good conscious: Tampax. She then announces something even more shocking. She’s leaving Supper at Six, and one of her viewers will be replacing her.

She had already called the head of the network and struck a deal with him to announce her departure on live TV (to bring in extra viewership over the next few weeks). Part of that deal was the sponsor, but also that he fire Phil and give his position to Walter.

Does Harriet secure the vote to stop the freeway?

After seven years of fighting, Harriet calls all the councilmen and secures just enough of their votes to stop the freeway. She’s absolutely elated, until the vote takes place and one of the councilmen goes back on his word.

Crushed, she later tells Elizabeth all she wants to do right now is cry. But she’s Harriet; she’s not going to stop fighting for her family and her community.

How does Lessons in Chemistry end?

With Harriet’s encouragement, Elizabeth does allow Avery into their lives. Being founder of the Remsen Foundation, she offers to help Elizabeth’s pursuits in chemistry.

But it’s not a lab where Elizabeth ends up, at least, not that we see. Elizabeth both pursues her PhD and becomes a professor. We see her teaching her students about chemistry and the inevitability of change.

She seems happy, later celebrating with Mad and many friends who make up her found family. And she imagines that Calvin is watching them, happy for her, for the life she’s made, and for how she’s adapted to the many changes in her life.


The Episode Review

I think my favorite performance from Brie Larson in this show comes in this episode, in her expression of utter delight at Fran’s crush on Walter. Surely she was channeling all of us. I giggled! 

That’s just one of many sweet moments of this finale, which wraps things up pretty conclusively, if at times clumsily, for the limited series. I loved the tie-in to Calvin’s love of Great Expectations at the end. I’m glad Elizabeth gets to carry that with her; what a beautiful journey for Elizabeth Zott.

Of course, not everything is sunshine and daisies, and I kind of hate where the show left Harriet. I understand the message we’re left with–progress and equality are ongoing battles, especially for marginalized Black communities like Harriet’s. I guess Harriet’s inability to secure the vote justified for the writers everything working out a tad too perfectly for Elizabeth. But the contrast in their outcomes is tonally jarring for the episode. And where does Harriet even go from here? I needed more from her character! (We can only hope for another limited series.)

There were a few other storylines that didn’t get their due, namely: What happened to the head priest at St. Luke’s? Did he really just get away with lying about the life of a little boy? Did nobody go pick a fight with him? Sue him? Anything? We really didn’t get closure with that.

But ultimately, this was a fine conclusion, especially for the way Elizabeth’s departure from Supper at Six was handled. It’s nice to clearly be able to see the difference she was able to make. It’s inspiring, as Lessons in Chemistry shows, the amazing things women can accomplish when given opportunity.

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