Lessons in Chemistry Season 1 Review – Brie Larson shines as brilliant chemist Elizabeth Zott

Season 1



Episode Guide

Little Miss Hastings -|Review Score – 4.5/5
Her and Him -|Review Score – 4.5/5
Living Dead Things -|Review Score – 4/5
Primitive Instinct -|Review Score – 3/5
CH3COOH -|Review Score – 4/5
Poirot -|Review Score – 4.5/5
Book of Calvin -|Review Score – 3/5
Introduction to Chemistry -|Review Score – 3.5/5

In Apple TV’s Lessons in Chemistry, based on the novel by Bonnie Garmus, Brie Larson flawlessly embodies the role of Elizabeth Zott, a shrewd, exacting, and endearing chemist who knows just what she wants in life–until unforeseen circumstances throw some curveballs her way.

Developed by Lee Eisenberg, the 1950s-set series follows Elizabeth as she pursues a career in science at Hastings, where she meets and falls in love with the famed chemist Calvin Evans (portrayed by Lewis Pullman, who makes for a perfectly swoony romantic lead). Eventually, she lands her own cooking show, called Supper at Six, which puts her in a unique position to speak feminist messages to her viewers.

Lessons in Chemistry is a show that holds that a woman can be doing everything in her power to be strong, to have it all, to take care of a child, pursue a career–and it’s still not enough. It pokes some much-needed holes in the “women-can-have-it-all” vein of feminism and instead looks at what it is that keeps women from having it all–a refreshing angle for a 50s-set feminist drama to take, as we tend to have our blinders on when we look to the past, portraying the goals of feminism only as gaining the right for women to work.

One of the things I like in this show’s focus on women’s suffrage is that it doesn’t downplay the different things women are fighting for in any way, and one woman’s triumphs are as important as another’s. But it does put things into perspective. In one scene, Elizabeth’s wearing pants on live television is a great success, but the show does contextualize her victories, acknowledging how they are more easily won than the victories of her neighbor Harriet (Aja Naomi King), a Black woman who has to work all the more tirelessly to fight for her underprivileged community and make her voice heard.

On the whole, I think, Lessons in Chemistry navigates these scenarios thoughtfully, even if it does leave Harriet’s incredible journey sorely unresolved. The series ends in an odd, tonally dissonant place, leaving several other important storylines dangling as well in favor of a (mostly) unnecessary foray into Calvin’s past. The Supper at Six drama is not quite as fleshed out as I hoped it would be either, especially given its importance as a framing device for Elizabeth’s life (and the fact that it’s a selling point for the show).

However, it’s not Supper at Six that makes the show worth watching. It’s Elizabeth Zott. She is a force to be reckoned with, but she’s also a woman struggling to stay afloat in a male-dominated field that’s riddled with discrimination. It’s a joy and an inspiration to witness her find her voice and her rightful place in that world.

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  • Verdict - 8/10

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