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Photo of laptop screen showing Brie Larson as her character Zott in the Apple TV+ show "Lessons in Chemistry."

Review of ‘Lessons in Chemistry’

If anyone wants another show that will rip their heart out and put it on a plate, Apple TV’s production of “Lessons in Chemistry” is just the show for you. 

Based on the book by Bonnie Garmus, the story follows chemist Elizabeth Zott as she navigates being a working woman and mother in the 1960s. The show tackles sexism in the workplace and the role of women in a society in which gender roles were extremely defined. Zott begins to inform the women around her of the endless possibilities women can have regardless of what the men around them think.

Garmus got the idea for the book from her own experience in a male dominated workplace and a particular idea being stolen by a male co-worker. 

The show begins with Zott working as a lab technician at Hastings Research Institute where the women at the institute either work as secretaries or lab technicians. We learn that Zott was on her way to earn her Ph.D. in Chemistry, but after being sexually assaulted by her advisor, she was expelled from the program and is extremely cautious about being alone with men behind closed doors due to the trauma of her experience. 

Zott has a particular love for cooking, often trying a variety of different variables and trials to create delicious and healthy recipes. She is asked to unwillingly participate in the institute’s pageant as the rest of the women at the institute are dismayed by the way Zott holds herself. However, Zott attracts young successful chemist Calvin Evans. The two begin working with each other on the science of DNA and eventually become romantically involved. 

Zott has made it very clear at this point that she does not want to get married because she wants her work to be her own and recognized for it, not for her husband to be the one who would receive the credit. 

After a traumatic loss, Zott falls into a deep period of grief and is particularly hit hard with denial. Amongst her denial, she finds that she is pregnant. Due to the nature of workplaces in the 60s, she is fired from her job and begins to raise her child, Mad (named for the mental state in which she was feeling when Mad was born). Zott raises Mad alone, with support from her attorney neighbor Harriet Sloane, who is fighting for the end of the construction of the highway through their backyards. She earns money by quietly doing the math work of Hasting employees.

Zott learns that one of the scientists at Hastings plagiarized her work and claimed all the credit for her research on amino acids. 

Several years later, Mad, who, like her mother, is incredibly bright, befriends a lonely girl in elementary school. Mad begins giving the girl her lunch. Zott finds out and approaches the girl’s father at his work, a television station, and he offers her a cooking television show. She accepts the job and is quickly popular among housewives for her empowering words and blunt persona. 

Meanwhile, Mad’s character arc extends as she begins a search for who her father was and unlocks the secrets of who the recluse Calvin Evans was. 

Award-winning actress Brie Larson portrays Zott and brings the bluntness and brilliance of the troubled woman into her character quite well. She manages to capture Zotts phase of grief with fervor and creates a sense of anxiety and uneasiness with the audience as we navigate her loss with her. 

Lewis Pullman portrays Evans rather well. He manages to capture the awkward and “too intelligent” for his own good man. Kevin Sussman, known as his character Stuart in “The Big Bang Theory,” has a nice change from the comic book loving geek to a stressed out television executive, Walter Pine, who is also a single parent. 


Aja Naomi King plays Sloane with strength and dedication radiating as the woman who has no time for nonsense but all the time in the world to support those she loves. Rainn Wilson guest stars as a big time TV executive (and plays a dick personality rather well) alongside Marc Evan Jackson as Dr. Leland Mason, who, in my opinion, does not act and plays the same character in everything he does. 

The show manages to encompass the 60s and gender roles a little too well, as well as racism during the Civil Rights movement. It also tackles the religion v. science argument, as many characters either struggle with their faith or are willing to accept differing beliefs all together. 

The heartwarming show is no stranger to the ability to tug on heartstrings, of course, after the rather energetic and happy opening song of “Wham Bam Rebop Doo.” 

Beautiful lake scenes and the ability to make Los Angeles look better than it actually is make the show picturesque and cinematically pretty. The show leads the audience through a variety of stories that intertwine creating the story of Zott. Since the show does kind of mess with the audience’s trust issues early on, it keeps the audience guessing and on their toes. However, it maintains their presence as it makes up for its actions by the end. 

You can find the limited series of “Lessons in Chemistry” on Apple TV+.

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