‘Lessons In Chemistry’ Ending Explained & Finale Recap: Why Did Elizabeth Quit The Show?


Lessons in Chemistry was a masterpiece through and through, and there is nothing but regret in our hearts that this wasn’t a longer show. The writing, the intention, the emotion, and the actors all came together to give us something so perfect that anything that follows it will be judged according to this standard. Elizabeth, Madeline, and Calvin have become such memorable characters, and it cannot be argued that beyond all the chemistry and tragedy lies a love story for the ages. It is possible to go on and on about the show for days, but let us look at its recap for now.

Spoiler Alert

What Is Elizabeth And Calvin’s story?

Calvin grew up in a boy’s home after being abandoned by his parents, and due to the manipulations of the Father of the home, he grew up believing that there was something wrong with him. Calvin dedicated himself to science, and with time, he became one of the most popular people in his field. And he was the star chemist of Hastings, who always brought the grant for the institute. Elizabeth Zott, on the other hand, abandoned her family due to their extreme religious views, which ended up costing her brother his life. She was unable to become a chemist and was simply working as a lab tech because Elizabeth hadn’t completed her PhD. Her professor had tried to sexually assault her, and her retaliation and subsequent refusal to apologize had cut her dreams short. But Elizabeth never let that get in her way and was relentless with her work. In Hastings, she and Calvin fall in love, and they start working together, which actually furthers their research to a good extent. Both of them even adopt a dog and start living together, though Elizabeth is clear that she doesn’t want to get married at any cost.

When it comes to presenting their research, Hastings doesn’t want to give Elizabeth any credit; therefore, the couple decides to work independently. It is only during this time that Calvin has an accident and passes away. Elizabeth discovers that she is pregnant, and she is trying to hold everything together. But Hastings wants to let her go, primarily because of the bias against pregnant women and more so because they want to take credit for Calvin’s work. Elizabeth ends up leaving, and for a while, she struggles to find a proper footing. However, she starts making money by giving out scientific advice and also by selling Tupperware. Elizabeth has also found friends in her neighbors, Harriet and Charlie.

How does Elizabeth start working on the cooking show?

Seven years later, Elizabeth is living a decent life with her daughter, and she is doing well for herself when she gets the offer to star in her own cooking show. Elizabeth hates the idea since she still wants to be a chemist, but when she realizes that she needs financial security for her future, she agrees. There are a few hitches along the way like her not liking the sponsors or speaking in extremely scientific terms on the show, which don’t cater to the ‘ male gaze.’ But Elizabeth perseveres, and her show ends up becoming a countrywide hit.

During this time, her daughter, Madeline, has started an investigation of her own to find out more about her father. As she goes through some old papers, she ends up finding out where he went and also tracing one of his old friends. The mother and daughter go to Calvin’s old school, only to be told that all the records are destroyed. But they refuse to give up so soon, which yields results, and they discover that Calvin was more closely linked to the Remsen Foundation than they had initially thought. This was the final piece of the puzzle that brought together Elizabeth and Madeline’s story.

Why does Elizabeth quit the show?

The lead in the book takes the mother and daughter to a lawyer, who is stunned to hear that Madeline is Calvin’s daughter. This was the same man who had gone looking for Calvin in the boys’ home all those years ago. He puts Elizabeth in touch with Avery Parker, who happened to be Calvin’s biological mother. The story comes tumbling out that Avery had become pregnant at sixteen years of age, and she had been forced to give up Calvin. Nine years later, when she had tried to look for him, she had been told the lie that he was dead. Years later, she saw his photograph on a magazine cover and had tried to get in touch with him ever since, but Calvin had never believed that her letters were real. Therefore, she was not able to reconcile with her son. Now, she has an opportunity to get to know Madeline instead, and it is nothing short of a miracle. 

Elsewhere, Elizabeth’s show is in danger because of the stand she openly took against racism, which caused the sponsors to drop out. Elizabeth is threatened that unless she can get new sponsors, she will lose her job. The sad part is that Elizabeth may have already lost her home. The freeway that Harriet had been protesting against is being built, and that would mean demolishing all their homes. Elizabeth knows that she has to raise her voice now and not give in to structural bullying. Therefore, she gets a sponsor for the show, which is a brand of sanitary napkins, and she openly speaks about it on national television, which is definitely a revolutionary moment. Elizabeth also announces that she will be stepping down from the show as she wants to continue being a chemist. She has spoken to the studio head and demanded that Walter be made the Chief Producer instead. Elizabeth had joined the show to be able to do something on her own terms, and she was quitting for precisely that reason. When she meets Avery later, she brings up how there is no provision for women to submit to the Remsen Foundation, and Avery promises to rectify that. This means that Elizabeth would be able to get back to her research and be able to fulfill her and Calvin’s dream of taking their research to new heights.

The ending of Lessons in Chemistry takes place three years later, when we find out that Elizabeth is living a happy life with her friends and family, and she is well on her way to completing her PhD. Calvin is still her soulmate, and with his memories, Elizabeth has made a full life for herself.

Final Thoughts

It would be wonderful to have Lessons in Chemistry season 2. Many questions have not been given a clear ending in the show, and perhaps that ambiguity is for the best. But the story is just so good that we can’t help wanting more. Hope the studio gods hear this plea and help out.

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Divya Malladi
Divya Malladi
Divya spends way more time on Netflix and regrets most of what she watches. Hence she has too many opinions that she tries to put to productive spin through her writings. Her New Year resolution is to know that her opinions are validated.

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