Episode 5 of Lessons in Chemistry continues to amaze as the focus switches from the world of science and lab coats to that of TV sets and cameras.
This review contains spoilers for episode 5 of Apple TV+’s Lessons in Chemistry.
“TV can make you feel like a part of something,” says one of the characters in episode 5 of Lessons in Chemistry. While he may be talking about the protagonist’s show, “Supper at Six”, this statement is also simultaneously true for the show we are watching on our screen. As we follow Elizabeth’s journey week by week, the audience truly feels like a part of her life and her struggles as a single mother and as a scientist. As the AppleTV+ show moves on to its fifth episode, it becomes incredibly clear that this is its biggest strength: involving its audience emotionally in the lives of the characters we see on screen.
Episode 5 of Lessons in Chemistry is now entirely set in the “future” timeline that has been teased and suggested since the very first episode of the AppleTV+ show. In the newest episode, we see Elizabeth (Brie Larson) creating a routine for herself and her daughter Mad (Alise Helsey) with the constant support of Harriet (Aja Naomi King) and her family. While she has no option but to use her kitchen to conduct her science experiments, the men who stole her research get publicly praised for the work that she had done with Calvin (Lewis Pullman) before his death. That is, until Elizabeth takes up the offer to work in television on her very own cooking show, “Supper at Six.” Despite the initial struggles, she is determined to exercise her creative control over the show and her public persona.
This episode, much like the rest of Lessons in Chemistry, shows how Elizabeth – or any woman for that matter- is bound to face gender-based discrimination and stereotypes as she furthers her career in any industry. From being relegated to second author in a paper on her own scientific research to having to wear tight outfits on television, episode 5 proves how hard women had – and still have – to fight to have control over their own lives and careers. In fact, the portrayal of the condition of women is one of the things this show does best. While it is enraging to see every single time, it rings very true both to the historical reality of the time and to the present we live in as well.
Maybe “Supper at Six” is not what Elizabeth envisioned for herself as a chemist but that does not mean that it is not worthwhile or meaningful. At the end of episode 5 of Lessons in Chemistry, we can see how her recipes and her lessons on scientific topics have inspired countless women who look up to her. This also suggests an interesting analysis of the TV industry itself: much of the conflict of this episode is centred around the fact that the studio owner does not believe that a show aimed at housewives like “Supper at Six” could work but, as Elizabeth proves, he fails to consider that women too can be a target audience, one that in the 1960s was majorly overlooked and unseen in television.
I loved seeing more of Elizabeth’s relationships in this episode. A lot of the episodes after the series premiere of Lessons in Chemistry focused on her loneliness after Calvin’s death, but in episode 5 we get to see the family that Elizabeth has created for herself, which is composed not only of her daughter, but also of Harriet and her family. While it may be unconventional, especially as a woman who never married in the 1960s, Elizabeth now knows she has a support system and that, as she tells her daughter, they are “the opposite of alone.”
It is also extremely refreshing to see a TV series with a female protagonist that does not solely focus on her romantic status or finding her a partner: Elizabeth is a character in her own right without needing someone else for her story and plot to move forward. This is part of what makes the writing of Lessons in Chemistry so well done: from creating such a fierce and likeable protagonist to making the entire world around her come to life, everything in the show seems natural. Despite knowing very well where episode 5 is going to go plot-wise, it still feels very organic and authentic in the way the story moves forward.
This episode delves deeper into Elizabeth’s love for cooking. While this is a key element of the very premise of Lessons in Chemistry and one that has been present throughout the whole show, it is only in episode 5 that the audience gets to see more of it as Elizabeth explains to the audience that “cooking is chemistry and chemistry is life. Your ability to change everything, including yourself, starts here.” Therefore, with her show “Supper at Six”, Elizabeth is living proof that cooking is much more than just fun or a hobby, it is vital and necessary work.
With only three episodes left of Lessons in Chemistry, I can’t help but wonder what direction the show will take now. For the first half of the season, it was clear that the AppleTV+ series was heading towards this moment, Elizabeth having her own TV show, but what challenges will she face now that she got here? The final scene of episode 5 suggests that we may see more of her relationship with her daughter and how this is affected by Elizabeth’s job in TV and newfound fame and popularity. With a whole array of fascinating supporting characters and much still to learn about Elizabeth’s backstory, there is still a lot to discover before the show’s season finale.
Episode 5 of Lessons in Chemistry is now available to watch on Apple TV+.