It is undeniable that Lessons in Chemistry is a well-written show. Admittedly, we had expected something else from it, and while a love story seems to be tiredly inevitable as the start of most feminist tales on screen, we did not expect it to be given this much screen time and what we suspect is a narrative-shaping importance. These are only speculations so far, so let us just look at the recap of Lessons in Chemistry Episode 2 until then.
How do Elizabeth Zott and Calvin Evans make up?
The answer to the question is some good old-fashioned politics and sexism. Elizabeth distances herself from Calvin after the incident, and Calvin is clueless as to what he could have done to warrant this coldness from her. When he sees that she has divided the lab into two separate workspaces, he decides to give her the space she needs and stops coming to work for a while. This, in turn, annoys the board of Hastings, who threaten Donatti to bring Calvin with his proposal for Remsen or risk getting fired. Having no other way, Robert tells Elizabeth that if she cannot bring back Calvin, he will be forced to fire all the female staff in the organization, and he will tell them that it is Elizabeth’s fault for distracting Calvin that lost them their grants and their jobs. It is unfair, but Elizabeth knows she has no options. The people at the workplace already think that she and Calvin are working together because they are having an affair, and if Robert made good on his threat, Elizabeth would have no recourse to protect herself. Therefore, she goes to Calvin’s house and finally admits that her behavior has nothing to do with him. She hints at a traumatic past, and while preferring to keep it private, she wants Calvin to come back to work. He agrees, but he wants to go rowing with her first.
How does Calvin and Elizabeth’s story develop?
Calvin and Elizabeth spend a blissful few days together, and in their little paradise, Calvin forgets a commitment he made to his neighbor. Their neighborhood is going to be bulldozed to the ground for the construction of a freeway, and while Harriet Sloane is presenting their case to the committee, she wants Calvin to be by her side so that she has a card to combat the racism of the committee. Calvin forgets about the meeting, and to Harriet’s disappointment, the judgment is not in their favor. This is something that will affect Elizabeth’s life going forward.
Right now, the lovebirds go rowing, and they fall into the water because Elizabeth treats it with panic, and she also doesn’t know how to swim. They confess their love for each other, and there is no separating them from then on. Both of them also celebrate Christmas together, and they continue to discover what they have in common. Elizabeth is estranged from her family and hasn’t spoken to them since she was 17 years old. Meanwhile, Calvin doesn’t have any family in the world, and he mostly spends his holidays alone. For the first time, these two are enjoying a festival, and it is in each other’s company. Calvin asks Elizabeth to move in with him, and she agrees to cook three dinners and a lunch every week as her way of chipping in. Elizabeth has also adopted a dog and named him Six Thirty because he wakes her up at that time every morning, like clockwork. Elizabeth and Calvin start living together and start their new lives.
Is Calvin Evans Dead?
Now that the two have merged their personal lives, they also need to bring together their professional lives. At the hearing for the Remsen grant, Elizabeth presents their idea since she is the lead scientist on it. To the committee’s credit, this time, it is Elizabeth’s qualification that hinders their judgment more than their bias towards her gender, though it is not completely absent. They don’t like the fact that she is just a lab technician and doesn’t have a Ph.D., and they are willing to reject the grant altogether rather than have her name on the publication. Calvin stands up for her, but Elizabeth is ready to forego credit for the sake of their work. Her past experiences have taught her that when a woman is in an all-or-nothing scenario, she usually loses. If it were different, then she wouldn’t have had to discontinue her PhD in the middle of her work. But Calvin is not ready to let her take a backseat, and they decide that if Hastings won’t let them present together, then they will do it without the help of the organization. It hasn’t been done before, but there is a first for everything.
When the two start living together, Calvin hints that he wants to get married in the future, and Elizabeth tells him right away that she is against the idea. As a scientist, it is a commitment she is unwilling to make if she ever wants to make a name for herself. If she got married, her husband’s name would constantly overshadow hers, and she would always be judged by her relationship with her family instead of as an independent scientist. Therefore, while she wants to be with Calvin Evans for the rest of her life, it is without marriage and children, and he agrees to that. Calvin Evans only wants to have Elizabeth in his life, and if it is with these conditions, then they satisfy him just fine. At long last, they are truly ready to be a couple, with all their secrets and boundaries out in the open. Perhaps this is what makes the next step of Elizabeth’s journey so tragic. She had never imagined that there would be someone who would not only understand her but also stand by her for the rest of her life. And when she found that, it was taken away from her.
During Lessons in Chemistry Episode 2’s ending, when Calvin goes out for his customary jog with Six Thirty, the dog doesn’t allow him to cross the street. Maybe he should have judged the scope of danger better, as dogs are prone to do, and the truck wouldn’t have hit Calvin the way it did. As the screen turns black, we hear people talking about how Calvin is not moving. An ambulance will be called, but we know that Calvin has passed away.
As much as we loved the love story, we don’t like that it was the starting point of Elizabeth’s journey. It gives the impression of her life being defined by her relationship with a man, even though it is in his absence. Nevertheless, we like Lessons in Chemistry, and for all intents and purposes, the story has just started, and there is a lot more that must happen.