Lessons in Chemistry review | Agents of Fandom

‘Lessons in Chemistry’ is Equal Parts Empowering and Devastating

Science may be exact, but there are some things in life you just can’t predict.

The following review of Lessons in Chemistry was made possible by advance screeners of episodes 1-8, provided to Agents of Fandom by Apple TV+ for review purposes.

This piece was written during the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strike. Without the labor of the actors currently on strike, the series being covered here wouldn’t exist.

2023 is the year of Brie Larson. After making an appearance in the franchise blockbuster Fast X earlier this year, and ahead of her fourth appearance in the MCU with The Marvels, Larson stars in the newest series from Apple TV+, Lessons in Chemistry. Based on the novel of the same name by Bonnie Garmus, the series follows Elizabeth Zott (Larson) through her heart-wrenching journey as a chemist, TV host, mother, and more.

Lessons in Chemistry is the latest examples of Apple TV+’s aptitude to create quality TV shows. From the first episode, the series is unafraid to tackle important topics, such as how a patriarchal society often treats women with extreme prejudice. Elizabeth faces constant setbacks despite always being the smartest person in the room, yet she remains steadfast through her life’s most agonizing moments; an empowering reminder that no matter how bad things get, there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.

‘Lessons in Chemistry’ Review: Brie Larson Brings the Character of Elizabeth Zott to Life Magnificently

Lewis Pullman as Calvin Evans and Brie Larson as Elizabeth Zott in Lessons in Chemistry on AppleTV+ | Agents of Fandom
Calvin Evans (Lewis Pullman) and Elizabeth Zott (Brie Larson) give lessons in chemistry anytime they share the screen. Image Credit: Apple TV+.

The most prevalent theme at the center of this story is the power of perspective. Confident solutions have a way of bringing about uncertain problems, just as exciting new change often requires you to discard old comforts. One person’s joy is another person’s anxiety. The only way to fully account for every possible outcome is by having all the variables, but in life, these variables are ever-changing and thus impossible to completely contextualize. Lessons in Chemistry constantly challenges the audience’s way of thinking, which is a stimulating parallel to the way Elizabeth carries herself within the series.

It’s a common, and arguably necessary, storytelling device to have multiple plots happening at the same time. It’s often understood when you sign on to watch any show or movie that you’re going to have an exciting A plot, and a slightly less engaging B plot. Lessons in Chemistry excels in delivering two stories alongside one another that are equally compelling, despite the ebbs and flows in the continuity of the narrative. Writers Lee Eisenberg, Elissa Karasik, and Emily Fox do an exquisite job interweaving the story at different points, while also giving each plot enough power to stand proudly on its own.

The series does have a few drawbacks, none of which take away from the powerful message and delightful charm enough to lower the value. The directing feels largely uninspired, but the cast injects the inspiration that the direction lacks. It drags a bit at times, with some scenes adding little to no context to the narrative or characters, and the episodes are structured in a way that isn’t always best suited for the story. There is also an increased level of predictability as the show progresses, which lessens the blow of the emotional climax a touch. Overall, these are very minor bumps in an otherwise consistently enjoyable road.

The ‘Lessons in Chemistry’ Cast is What Ties The Story Together

Brie Larson as Elizabeth Zott and Aja Naomi King as Harriet Sloan in Lessons in Chemistry | Agents of Fandom
Watching Elizabeth Zott and Harriet Sloane’s (Aja Naomi King) relationship develop over eight episodes is a joy. Image Credit: Apple TV+.

The cast of Lessons in Chemistry is, simply put, without flaw. The story relies on its talented actors heavily in the show’s most tense and dramatic moments, and they pull through to amplify the emotion every time. Larson adds yet another strong performance to an already impressive résumé, showcasing the touching highs and withering lows of motherhood with grace. She rises to the challenge multiple times in this series, reminding everyone why she already has an Oscar to her name. Don’t be surprised if she’s in the Emmy conversation for her performance as the brilliant and enduring scientist, Elizabeth Zott.

Other notable standouts include, but are not limited to, Aja Naomi King as Harriet Sloane and Lewis Pullman (Top Gun: Maverick) as Calvin Evans. Pullman and Larson are perfect scene partners, forming a genuine bond in a world surrounded by people who simultaneously despise and are jealous of them both. They get each other, and that chemistry plays so authentically. As for King, her performance as Sloane fits into the story opposite Elizabeth seamlessly. King brings an impressive range of emotion to her role, and establishes herself as a force in unpacking the immense challenge of being a Black woman in America, one traumatic experience at the time.

Brie Larson and Co. Will Ensure ‘Lessons in Chemistry’ is another hit for Apple TV+

Lewis Pullman as Calvin Evans and Brie Larson as Elizabeth Zott in Lessons in Chemistry | Agents of Fandom
Sometimes to fully understand the context of the problem, you have to step back and look at it from a different perspective. Image Credit: Apple TV+.

The lesser of two evils is still evil. At a certain point in life, everyone has to make a choice about whom they want to be, with little to no outlook on the potential consequences of that choice. We can only do the best with what’s laid out in front of us, and you’d be amazed at what you can accomplish with a firm desire to do the right thing.

Lessons in Chemistry will surely resonate for anyone who struggles with identity or believes they function better alone. The series makes a conscious effort throughout the emotional roller coaster it invites you on to remind you that you’re not alone, and that we all operate better with help. Love your neighbors, use your voice for the right things, and never be afraid to take the step that could change your life.

Lessons in Chemistry premieres on Apple TV+ October 13. Follow the Agents of Fandom socials to stay up to date with all the latest entertainment news.

'Lessons in Chemistry' Review

'Lessons in Chemistry' Review
4 5 0 1
4.0 rating
Total Score

The Good

  • Brie Larson is phenomenal
  • Well-crafted narrative threads
  • Strong supporting cast
  • Evokes constant emotion

The Bad

  • Moves a bit slow at times
  • Gets a touch predictable
  • Some weird episodic and narrative structure
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