With only a week to go, episode 7 of Lessons in Chemistry delivers a beautiful and heartfelt episode as it sets up for the season finale.
This review contains spoilers for episode 7 of Apple TV+’s Lessons in Chemistry.
Episode 7 of Lessons in Chemistry very much parallels last week’s episode: if episode 6 showed us Elizabeth (Brie Larson) as a kid, this week the Apple TV+ show focuses on Calvin’s (Lewis Pullman) childhood. As the series is about to come to an end, we get to explore his character with even more depth, thus creating a bittersweet episode that makes the audience fall in love with Calvin, and his love story with Elizabeth, all over again. Similarly to previous episodes, this week’s one – titled “The Book of Calvin” – proves that although the character died earlier this season, he is still a key player in Elizabeth’s life and the events that unfold in the show.
Episode 7 of Lessons in Chemistry starts in 1930 at St. Luke’s boys’ home, where a young Calvin’s fascination with science as finds out he has been abandoned by his parents. Soon after, the episode jumps to a more familiar timeframe with Calvin working at Hastings in 1948 as he starts his research and, in 1951, meets Elizabeth. While the audience has already seen some of this plotline at the beginning of the show, it is told from an entirely new perspective. Not only do we see their relationship from Calvin’s point of view, but much of the story is narrated through letters exchanged between Calvin and Reverend Curtis Wakely (Patrick Walker).
During the past few episodes, Reverend Wakely became more and more prominent as he helped Mad (Alice Halsey) with her research about her father, but it is in episode 7 that he gets to truly shine. His friendship with Calvin may only be revealed now, but it feels extremely natural and, now that we have seen it flourish, essential to Calvin’s character development during the early episodes of the show. Similarly, this week’s episode of Lessons in Chemistry has allowed the audience to also gain an insight into Reverend Wakely himself, a fascinating character that we knew very little about until now.
I have always hoped Lessons in Chemistry would expand on the debate between two opposites, science and religion, that has been hinted at ever since Reverend Wakely was first introduced in the show, but this was even better than what I could have envisioned. Episode 7 finally expands upon this as the very foundation of the friendship between Calvin and Reverend Wakely: an atheist scientist and a religious man who believes “science is the how and religion is the why.” It is a debate that does not necessarily find a resolution in the episode itself but it is fascinating to address in a show that focuses so heavily on science.
I also have to praise the editing and pacing of the episode. For an episode that focused on a character that is already dead during the main plotline of the show and that covered so many years, starting in 1930 and ending in 1958, episode 7 of Lessons of Chemistry truly flew by. A lot of this is thanks to the structure of the episode itself: the voiceover letters exchanged between Calvin and Reverend Wakely carry us through this episode swiftly. As time goes on, the relationship deepens into a beautiful friendship, no matter how far away they might be from each other. The use of voiceover is brilliant and unique with two distinctive voices bringing the audience – and each other – along on their respective personal journeys.
Seeing Calvin again and his relationship with Elizabeth from his point of view was something I did not know I needed until episode 7 of Lessons in Chemistry showed me how beautiful and heartbreaking it could be. It also adds another layer to the series and allows the audience to gain an insight into one of the most interesting characters of the show as we retrace his relationship with Elizabeth, gaining an insight into Calvin’s own insecurities. At the same time, it is also a brilliant way of keeping his presence alive throughout the show despite the death of the character after the season premiere.
Similarly to how episode 6 highlighted Elizabeth’s flaws, episode 7 shows Calvin’s, but that does not make us love him any less, despite his concerns over losing the people he loves when they see the real him. If anything, it makes him an even better character thanks to his backstory and complexities portrayed in this episode of Lessons in Chemistry, especially as his fears can resonate deeply with the audience. I also thought it was really important to show such insecurities and such an emotional portrayal in a leading male character, particularly in a time when mental health is still very much a taboo, especially amongst men.
As with other episodes, I loved Lessons in Chemistry’s attention to detail: for example, Calvin is seen reading “Great Expectations,” which is the same book Elizabeth and Mad read together in a previous episode, thus adding a nice touch to the entire series. Episode 7 grants us more time with Elizabeth and Calvin as we get to see key moments in this relationship we had previously missed, they are heartfelt and beautiful moments but there is also a hint of sadness throughout the episode as we know how it is going to end. This makes Elizabeth’s loss even more painful as we revisit all these moments that are now forever gone.
And yet, once again, Lessons in Chemistry reminds us that Calvin is not truly gone. At the end of this episode, we get to see Calvin’s impact on the lives of those around him: Mad is still looking to find more clues on her father and Elizabeth can share her memories of the man she loved with Reverend Wakely who, despite having never met Calvin, can now spend time with his family. As we wait for the season finale of Lessons in Chemistry, I have a feeling that Calvin’s story is not over yet as he might play a significant role in the next episode.
Episode 7 of Lessons in Chemistry is now available to watch on Apple TV+.