Patrick Walker as Reverend Wakely and Alice Halsey as Mad Zott in Lessons in Chemistry

How ‘Lessons in Chemistry’ Shows What True Friendship Looks Like

Lessons in Chemistry episode 6, “The Book of Calvin,” delves into the friendship between Calvin Evans (Lewis Pullman) and Reverend Wakely (Patrick Walker). The pair become close pen pals despite their differences, showing viewers what a genuine friendship should look like.

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This episode of Apple TV+’s Lessons in Chemistry backtracks a bit to delve further into Calvin’s story. Despite his intellectual gifts, viewers learn that he had quite a tragic past. As a child, he grew up in a boys home, believing his parents had abandoned him. Meanwhile, as an adult, he realized that not everyone appreciated his genius and introverted ways, and he thought he would be alone forever before he met Elizabeth Zott (Brie Larson). Fortunately, he was able to relieve some of that loneliness through an unexpected friendship with Wakely.

After listening to one of Calvin’s Harvard lectures, Wakely, a soon-to-be reverend, writes him a letter questioning if maybe the existence of a divine power could be the catalyst for Calvin’s theory about the origin of life. Calvin, an atheist, responds and confirms that he’s not going to be swayed to accept religion but that he’s open to “friendly debate.” The pair go back and forth about the arguments for and against religion and evolution, but things eventually become more personal as the friendly debate gives way to trust and respect.

We could all learn something from Calvin’s and Wakely’s friendship

Lewis Pullman as Calvin Evans in Lessons in Chemistry
(Apple TV+)

It’s delightful to watch the friendship blossom between Calvin and Wakely in Lessons in Chemistry. The pair never officially meet in person, but their bond is so strong they can’t hide the smiles on their faces when they receive letters from each other. Meanwhile, they even manage to help each other through their unique perspectives. Wakely convinces Calvin not to give up on finding love in his life and helps him navigate his new relationship, while Calvin helps Wakely convince his father to get cancer treatment.

What’s also so appealing about their friendship is that it illustrates that friendships can work between atheists and believers. At the onset, Calvin and Wakely’s friendship seems very unlikely because it’s well known that science and religion don’t always mix. However, Lessons in Chemistry captures why their friendship works, and it’s actually fairly simple. The pair agree to disagree, refrain from judging one another, and value that they have different perspectives. They’re both surprised to realize that they learn things from one another. However, their beliefs give each of them a unique perspective on the world, so of course they can learn from one another when they consider topics from each other’s lenses.

Unfortunately, most friendships between atheists and religious individuals don’t go so smoothly. A lot of religions foster mistrust of non-believers. There’s this notion that an atheist will cause a believer to stumble or lose their faith, as well as that it’s the duty of believers to convert as many people as possible to their beliefs. Then, there’s no bigger turn-off for friendship than when a believer starts the conversation by telling an atheist they’re a sinner and will burn in hell unless they repent.

However, there are times when atheists can scare away potential friendships with believers, too, by scoffing at or belittling someone’s religious beliefs. It’s also hard not to be judgmental and suspicious of believers, given all the horrific religious cults and church abuse that have been uncovered. Still, deeming all religious people bad is just as wrong as deeming all non-believers evil sinners.

True friendship isn’t trying to convert or change someone. It’s about knowing that you’re not going to change each other but also acknowledging and respecting the beliefs that are important to one another. Calvin’s and Wakely’s friendship shows how simple it really is for people with opposing views to get along. So long as one’s beliefs aren’t hateful or hurting anyone, there might be something you could stand to learn from their perspective.

(featured image: Apple TV+)

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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.