Episode 4 of Lessons in Chemistry proves that the AppleTV+ series can successfully pass the mid-season test as we get to know Elizabeth better.
This review contains spoilers for episode 4 of Apple TV+’s Lessons in Chemistry.
With Episode 4 of Lessons in Chemistry, we are now already halfway through the series. I always thought that the mid-season episode was one of the hardest tests for TV shows to face, making them a hit or miss. On one hand, the world into which the characters move has already been established but on the other, we know that the most thrilling plot points are probably going to unfold only in later episodes as the season finale approaches. All of this is true for AppleTV+’s newest show but it can pass the mid-point of the season with flying colours.
If the previous episode focused on Elizabeth’s pregnancy, episode 4 of Lessons in Chemistry starts her journey into motherhood. The latest episode of the AppleTV+ series begins with Elizabeth (Brie Larson) in a poignant scene that shows us how the men are loudly complaining about their discomfort when their wives are giving birth in the room next door. As she struggles with adjusting to motherhood, Elizabeth finds comfort in imagining Calvin (Lewis Pullman) by her side and in the reassurance of her neighbour Harriet (Aja Naomi King). At the same time, episode 4 cuts between this plot and one set seven years later, when we see Elizabeth’s daughter Mad (Alise Helsey) go to school as Elizabeth is offered to have her own television show.
The main theme of Lessons in Chemistry’s episode 4 is undoubtedly that of motherhood. We have seen Elizabeth struggling in last week’s episode, but this is perhaps the first time that her scientific method cannot help her as she starts her life as a single mother. This episode shines a light on the loneliness of single parenting as well as the struggles of motherhood when Elizabeth finds out that not everything comes easy or natural after giving birth. This delicate topic is treated with tenderness and care, showing that it is okay to face some difficulties as much as it is okay to ask for help to get back on your feet, something that is still not talked about enough in today’s society or portrayed in media.
One of the best parts of episode 4 of Lessons in Chemistry is its portrayal of the harsh reality of being a mother and a woman at the time. Not only do we see this with Elizabeth who has to do everything by herself, working multiple jobs and caring for her daughter, but also through Harriet who embodies a different and yet still heartbreaking reality of a woman who placed her life on hold to dedicate herself to her family while her husband was advancing his career. This is just an example of how the newest episode of the show manages to cleverly expand on the recurring characters and their background, allowing us to gain an insight into their lives and backgrounds as well as Elizabeth’s.
Episode 4 of Lessons in Chemistry also gives us more details about Elizabeth’s family and background. While it never felt like something was missing in the previous episodes, the audience had little context of Elizabeth’s life before the show started, so it is nice to finally get an insight – albeit a little one so far – into her family life as Elizabeth mentions her brother and her father in this episode. As the show will go on to explore Elizabeth’s character even more, I can only hope we get to hear more about her background and her family. Similarly, this episode introduced a fascinating debate between science, represented by Elizabeth, and faith, which would be interesting to explore in the future of the show.
Episode 4 of Lessons in Chemistry brings back one of the most successful elements from its season premiere, the intercutting of different timelines. While for the majority of the episode, we see the events in the current present timeline, the AppleTV+ show soon jumps to a 7-year later scene and cuts back and forth between Elizabeth in the present as she adjusts to life with a newborn and her life in the future. This is not only a clever way to keep things interesting while still exploring the theme of motherhood, but it is also an interesting introduction to the future timeline we will presumably see more and more of in the coming episodes, rather than just cut to the future once and for all in a more traditional way.
Similarly, this allows episode 4 of Lessons in Chemistry to bring back the theme of the television show that introduced the series at its very beginning in the season premiere. Therefore, the AppleTV+ show uses this episode to remind us of the very premise of the show, Elizabeth’s cooking show, in order to keep its audience hooked for the rest of the season, as the show within the show will most likely play a bigger part in the future. Although we have not yet seen much of it, the latest episode of this series also allows for a reflection on the television industry, one that still rings true to this day.
Despite his death in episode 2 of Lessons in Chemistry, Calvin is still an evergreen presence in episode 4 of the AppleTV+ series. Much like in Elizabeth’s life, Calvin has never really left the show: when she is struggling, the thought of Calvin is there to reassure her and allow her to keep going, even when everything seems impossible and unbearable. Calvin’s presence is bittersweet as it reminds us of the fact that Elizabeth never got to see him as a father, but it also somehow comforting: their time together may have been limited, but their love seems to live on.
Once again, episode 4 delivers on the show’s premise, centring a fierce and resilient main character who continues to develop and amaze us week after week. Once again, Lessons in Chemistry leaves us wanting more at the end of its fourth episode, as it is soon becoming a show I cannot get enough of.
Episode 4 of Lessons in Chemistry is now available to watch on Apple TV+.