Lewis Pullman and Brie Larson in Lessons in Chemistry from Apple TV+

Apple TV+ Has a Perfect Show to Make You Fall In Love With Brie Larson and Lewis Pullman

4.5/5 chemistry labs

You know what’s harder than falling in love yourself? Watching someone fall in love on television. No really, trust me. I’m an expert in watching fictional characters fall in love, I’ve done it my entire life. That’s why I cannot stop thinking about the chemistry that Brie Larson and Lewis Pullman share, and how it ropes you into Lessons in Chemistry and keeps you hooked there.

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In the Apple TV+ series, Larson plays Elizabeth Zott, a woman who we learn at the start has used her background in chemistry to launch a cooking show. The show builds Zott’s relationship with Calvin Evans (Pullman) slowly, flashing back to her time as a lab tech at Hastings Research Institute. Set in the 1950s, the show really succeeds in bringing to life the struggles of being a woman at a time when your worth was limited by your gender.

The show doesn’t just highlight the issues within Zott’s white world though. We get to see how Harriet (Aja Naomi King) has to consistently put her career on hold for her husband and children, how she pushes back at what limitations society puts on her, and while the show begins as an exploration of the time period and a woman’s world, it is more about the inner personal relationships between those in Elizabeth Zott’s life.

We’ve all heard the idiom that behind every great man is a great woman but this show really highlights that sometimes, that great man is just the side character in a greater woman’s story. Pullman and Larson’s chemistry here is fantastic but what really makes the series soar is Larson’s ability to carry it on her shoulders.

A perfect balance

Brie Larson in Lessons in Chemistry from Apple TV+
(Apple TV+)

For a romance story, the show really does give Larson a lot to do outside of a love story. Elizabeth never feels like someone who is lost in her own love story; that’s not who Elizabeth Zott is. She makes that clear from the start. In the first episode, she doesn’t want to play the part of one of the girls at Hastings. It’s what gets Calvin’s attention in the first place but consistently she has pushed back against what people expect her to do versus what she wants.

In the midst of Elizabeth thinking she has to act a certain way because of society, she has to come to terms with wanting things like love and happiness, even if those things fall in line with societal norms. Everything about her is pushing boundaries and she does it not just to do so. She does so because that’s what makes Elizabeth Zott comfortable.

Period shows like this, set around women who pushed the envelope, can often feel heavy-handed in their approach. But where Lessons in Chemistry shines is in how the series lets Elizabeth make mistakes, embracing her imperfections and her difficulty in reconciling her desires with society’s expectations of her. Meanwhile, characters like Harriet are making waves for the betterment of society and her family. Elizabeth leverages her race to help Harriet when needed but doesn’t overstep unless asked, and the show really does find a balance there in their friendship.

What really makes this show work as a whole is that it doesn’t make Elizabeth as a character too much of one thing. She’s complicated and weird and a scientist and a woman all rolled into one which is why her relationship with Calvin works so well.

Love in the chemistry lab sounds perfect

Lewis Pullman and Brie Larson in Lessons in Chemistry from Apple TV+
(Apple TV+)

The show thrives on small relationships between characters, little cameos like Beau Bridges later in the season (to make me emotional), and appearances from beloved character actors like Marc Evan Jackson. Really, though, the heart of the show is Calvin and Elizabeth. Calvin is a fascinating man who dances like a fool and helps to take care of Harriet’s two kids with her since her husband is off fighting in the war. He’s weird and nerdy, a perfect match for Elizabeth because she is equally weird and nerdy in her own ways.

There are so many moments in the show that wouldn’t work if Larson and Pullman didn’t have this connection that works so incredibly well. Lessons in Chemistry premieres on Apple TV+ on October 13th and will air weekly through November.

This piece was written during the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strike. Without the labor of the actors currently on strike, the work being covered here wouldn’t exist.

(featured image: Apple TV+)


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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.