Brie Larson returns to television with Lessons in Chemistry, AppleTV’s latest miniseries based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Bonnie Garmus. It is developed by Lee Eisenberg, who also wrote 4 out of the 8 episodes. Eisenberg, who is known for writing comedies and generally works with Gene Stupnitsky, tried his hand at a different genre this time and decided to tell this heartwarming story about a single mother. The cast also includes Lewis Pullman, Aja Naomi King, Stephanie Koenig, and Kevin Sussman apart from Larson.
“Children set the table. Your mother needs a moment to herself” is the catchphrase that our protagonist Elizabeth Zott ends all her shows with, which feels like a signal to all the viewers to just let their guards down and take a moment for themselves. Lessons in Chemistry may not be a completely feminism-focused show, but it is almost as much about overlooked housewives as it is about chemistry. Brie Larson plays Elizabeth Zott, a young woman in the 1950s who struggles to pursue a career as a chemist in a patriarchal society and later becomes the host of a popular afternoon cooking show, called ‘Supper at Six’.
The show follows multiple timelines simultaneously and takes multiple time jumps back and forth to fully flush out the narrative and complete the character arcs. Our main timeline is the present day in the early 1950s when Elizabeth is working as a lab tech at Hastings Research Institute. She is extremely blunt and direct with people and does not have any friends or family. There she meets Dr. Calvin Evans (Lewis Pullman), the star Chemist of Hastings. They start working together and very soon, sparks start to fly between the pair and both of them find comfort and happiness with one another.
The first 2 episodes mostly focus on their love story and establishing their character traits, and the two of them share electric chemistry on screen. But there’s a shocking and unexpected twist at the end of episode 2, which flips the narrative on its head. Somehow, the narrative gets back on track as it uses that event to invoke more emotions out of the characters which leads to a more heartwarming and compelling arc. Brie Larson’s character ends up in a very different space at the end of the show compared to where she began and you can truly feel the development in her character after all she goes through and her conclusion feels totally earned.
The show is strongest when it comes to its dialogue and how it’s used to narrate the story. Some of the conversations were incredibly meaningful and tried to help you discover yourself through their messages. The performances were also really good with Larson thoroughly inducing herself in our protagonist and delivering an authentic and powerful performance. But Lewis Pullman is the heart of the show. Every time he is on screen, you just can’t help but smile and enjoy him. It also helps that his character is so innocent and likable. Some of the tonal changes did not work for me and the pacing was definitely inconsistent. Some of the supporting characters were also disappointingly underused and some subplots had unsatisfactory conclusions.
Lessons In Chemistry is a gratifying tale that teaches you to embrace change and unpredictability in life and make the most of the unexpected meaningful connections that we make along the way. Brie Larson is at the top of her game while Lewis Pullman delivers the charm throughout the story. This miniseries does not deliver anything groundbreaking, but it is filled with moments that will tug at your heartstrings. It is definitely worth a watch.
Lessons In Chemistry premieres on AppleTV+ on October 13 with its first 2 episodes, with episodes releasing weekly.