In what could have easily been a filler episode, episode 3 of Lessons in Chemistry brings a new level of emotions to the series.
This review contains spoilers for episode 3 of Apple TV+’s Lessons in Chemistry.
“When you are sad about your yesterdays or not sure what is going to happen tomorrow, your purpose is just being there, put one foot in front of the other […] it is all you have to think about, and then, sure enough, you will be home” can easily sum up episode 3 of Lessons in Chemistry. The newest episode of the AppleTV+ show ventures into uncharted territory with its exploration of new and touched-upon themes as Elizabeth (Brie Larson) deals with one of the biggest challenges life will ask her to face. If the season premiere was focused on love, episode 3 shows us another side of love, a much sombre one, as it portrays grief and loss.
Episode 3 of Lessons in Chemistry begins exactly where the season premiere left us last week, with a cliffhanger I did not want to come true. And yet, when the episode opens, it is clear that Calvin (Lewis Pullman) is dead. This episode moves through Elizabeth’s grief as she learns to live with the fact that she lost the man she loved, with Six-Thirty (voiced by DJ Novak) and Harriet (Aja Naomi King), her neighbour and Calvin’s friend, as her only companions. Or, at least, that is what she thinks, before discovering that she is pregnant. While this unborn baby and the engagement ring Elizabeth finds in Calvin’s personal effects give us a glimpse of the life they could have had, the protagonist has to accept that that life is now forever gone.
Once again, episode 3 of Lessons in Chemistry tackles the topic of gender discrimination. Despite having touched on this element in the season premiere, now we get to see a different side of it as this episode asks us: what can a woman, even as brilliant as Elizabeth, do without a man’s aid in this field? The answer is: very little. Without Calvin, Elizabeth is not even permitted to work as a lab technician. As her research is taken away from her, I could not help but think about how often this must have happened in real life at the time: just to name one, we know that Rosalind Franklin’s central contribution to understanding the DNA structure was not recognized at the time.
In episode 3, we get little to no introspection from Elizabeth’s point of view: although we still follow her story, it is in this case narrated by somebody else as she moves through the motions of each day trying to go on as best as she can. Despite the little dialogue during the whole runtime of this episode of Lessons in Chemistry, Elizabeth’s emotional state is as clear as day as Brie Larson delivers a masterful performance as Elizabeth, embodying her grief in every movement and facial expression. Lewis Pullman as Calvin Evans has, however, left a void on the screen that at the moment cannot be replaced, but maybe that is the point of the whole episode as we witness the characters having to adapt to a world without him in it.
Lessons in Chemistry episode 3 also shows us the beginning of a promising friendship. As Elizabeth loses everything, we can see she still has someone in her corner, other than her faithful and lovable dog: Harriet. Although the two have barely met, Harriet and Elizabeth bond over the loss they have both experienced. With episode 3 of the show, Lessons in Chemistry shows us what was missing from the season premiere: an example of female solidary and a positive friendship between women, one that I hope we will see more of in the coming episodes as Elizabeth and Harriet do have a lot in common as two forces of change, despite being active in different fields.
This episode also manages to keep things interesting with an unlikely narrator we have not seen before. Introducing a new narrating voice in episode 3 of a show is a risky move but one that Lessons in Chemistry manages to pull off successfully. Not only does this allow us to gain an insight into the dog’s thoughts and love for his owner, but it also helps us move through an episode that might have otherwise felt slow. With his narration, episode 3 gains new meaning as the audience sees Elizabeth and the exploration of her grief through the dog’s eyes in a heartwarming and touching way.
Lessons in Chemistry episode 3 ran the risk of being nothing more than a filler episode to move the plot along before the next twist or development in Elizabeth’s character arc but it is elevated by Larson’s masterful performance as Elizabeth and the show’s touching portrayal of grief, with a unique and interesting narrator that keeps the rhythm of the episode going. This episode is a testament to the fact that life does not always – if ever – go according to plan and while that may be painful and hard to accept, Lessons in Chemistry episode 3 shows us that, eventually, it will be okay.
Episode 3 of Lessons in Chemistry is now available to watch on Apple TV+.