“Courage is the root of change, and change is what we are chemically designed for.”

Lessons in Chemistry tells the story of Elizabeth Zott, a brilliant chemist struggling to be taken seriously as a scientist amid the sexism of the 1950s and 60s.

However, Elizabeth’s carefully constructed plan for her life derails when she suddenly finds herself pregnant, removed from her experiments, and fired from her lab. She winds up hosting a cooking show, Supper at Six, where she uses her scientific mind to make delicious food while encouraging her viewers to embrace change and live the life they deserve.

Lessons in Chemistry stars Brie Larson as Elizabeth Zott. The cast also includes Lewis Pullman, Aja Naomi King, Stephanie Koenig, Kevin Sussman, Alice Halsey, and Rainn Wilson.

The Apple TV+ series adapts the bestselling book by Bonnie Garmus.

‘Lessons In Chemistry’ Absolutely Nails Acting Chemistry

The performances in Lessons in Chemistry are great. Brie Larson really draws you in with her portrayal of Elizabeth Zott. She gives the character a lot of inner warmth, balancing Elizabeth’s tendency to speak so matter-of-factly that it could come across as rude or uncaring. Larson makes Elizabeth feel accessible and understandable, even if her staunchly scientific mind and approach to life doesn’t feel relatable to viewers. Ultimately, the more she seems like a misfit in the world around her, the more you can’t help but root for her.

Similarly, Lewis Pullman gives us just what we need from Calvin Evans. He matches Larson in creating a character who feels like he’s on the outside looking in. This plays nicely into their romance. Also, Pullman has really mastered the besotted gaze; whether they’re in the lab or having dinner, Calvin looks at Elizabeth like he can’t believe she really exists. It’s charming to see how the ways in which Elizabeth and Calvin struggle to fit in with others actually make them the perfect match for one another.

Throughout the season, Aja Naomi King commands the screen as Harriet Sloan. She has a very sweet friendship first with Calvin and later with Elizabeth. Plus, her story frequently runs parallel to Elizabeth’s, showing another way in which women at the time struggled to be heard and respected in their given field – except Harriet is also facing racism as well as sexism.

Science isn’t all about successes…

Like a scientific experiment, not everything Lessons in Chemistry does works. (Perhaps most glaringly, one episode is framed from the perspective of Elizabeth’s dog, complete with a weirdly saccharine voiceover narration that doesn’t seem to match the rest of the show.)

The latter half of the season dedicates a significant portion of time to unveiling aspects of Calvin’s backstory. I didn’t necessarily dislike these moments; they definitely led to some nice emotional moments and bonding between Elizabeth and her daughter.

However, I think the time could have been better spent expanding on Harriet’s story instead. Lessons in Chemistry could have easily played out as more of a dual-protagonist series, with both Elizabeth and Harriet’s narratives explored. As is, the show does use Harriet’s fight against the city’s attempt to build a freeway through her predominantly Black neighborhood as a much-needed opportunity to call out white feminism. Still, I thought Harriet’s character was definitely one of the more interesting aspects of the series, and I wouldn’t have minded seeing even more of her.

‘Lessons in Chemistry’ Is Simple & Sweet

Lessons in Chemistry can be a little slow moving and even bland at times. It’s a drama, but not the kind with edge-of-your-seat stakes or intense twists. It’s more of a slice-of-life period piece, which probably won’t appeal to everyone.

Still, at its heart, this is undeniably a feel-good story. Larson easily draws you in and makes you want the best for Elizabeth Zott. And then the character makes you want the best for yourself in turn. When Elizabeth gives her Supper at Six audience members advice, it’s a little like you’re getting your own pep talk (or mini therapy session). Change is natural. Unknown variables don’t have to derail everything. If at first you don’t succeed, try again. If you need someone to believe in you – Elizabeth Zott does. And it’s hard to find fault in that.

Lessons in Chemistry premieres on Apple TV+ October 13.