Lessons In Chemistry Season 1 Ending Explained

WARNING! This article contains SPOILERS for Lessons in Chemistry episode 8.


  • The first season of Lessons in Chemistry has concluded, with the finale wrapping up the story, which is unlikely to have a second season.
  • The finale revealed shocking moments, including Elizabeth stepping down from her hosting job on Supper at Six and the true backstory of Calvin being built on lies.
  • The show tackled important themes such as civil rights and feminism, with Elizabeth’s Tampax sponsorship being a game-changer for television. The title of the show reflected Elizabeth’s journey and the various meanings of chemistry explored.

The Apple TV+ miniseries, Lessons in Chemistry, ended its first season after 8 episodes, wrapping up the story of Elizabeth Zott and the family she’d found and created. The Brie Larson-led miniseries is based on the best-selling book Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus, making it unlikely that it will receive a second season. Still, it was a success for Apple TV+, marking Brie Larson’s big return to television alongside a strong supporting cast of characters in Lessons in Chemistry.

After Lessons in Chemistry episode 7 ended on yet another cliffhanger, the season finale neatly resolved all the questions the previous episodes had raised. Despite all that needed to be addressed, The Lessons in Chemistry finale was actually the shortest of all 8 episodes, swiftly moving the story along to reach its ending. Though the Lessons in Chemistry finale didn’t leave much room for the possibility of a season 2, viewers can hope it won’t mean another decade-long disappearance of Brie Larson from the silver screen.

Why Elizabeth Stepped Down From Supper At Six

She quit her job in the finale

Perhaps the most shocking moment in the Lessons in Chemistry finale came when Elizabeth announced live on-air without any warning that she’d be stepping down from her hosting job on Supper at Six. After Elizabeth started her new job in Lessons in Chemistry episode 4, it became a smash hit, making her famous and garnering a large fanbase composed mainly of housewives. Though Elizabeth had never intended to become the host of a famous cooking show, it appeared that she had finally settled into the role, only for her to leave it in the finale.

This decision was largely inspired by Mad, who reminded her mother that a chemist does chemistry. While Elizabeth practiced chemistry in her own way through Supper at Six, her busy hosting job required her to leave her lab work behind. Stepping down in the Lessons in Chemistry finale allowed her to focus on science again and give someone else the opportunity to take on the important role. Elizabeth felt as though she’d accomplished what she’d set out to do with Supper at Six, and it was time for her to move on and let the show and its audience grow beyond her.

How Calvin’s Real Backstory Proved His Life Was Built On Lies

His true backstory was revealed

Calvin Giving A Lecture In Lessons In Chemistry Episode 7.jpg

Lessons in Chemistry episode 7, “Book of Calvin,” seemed to provide answers about Calvin’s backstory, but the finale proved that they were all lies and revealed the actual truth. While Calvin had grown up in a boys’ home, it wasn’t because his biological parents didn’t want him or were dead. Instead, the Lessons in Chemistry finale introduced his mother, Avery Parker, whom he had spent his entire life believing was dead. Avery had Calvin when she was just 16, and after his adoptive parents died, he was eventually sent to the boys’ home where he grew up.

Yet, Avery didn’t give up on finding and hopefully reuniting with her son. When she turned 25, she gained access to her trust fund, created The Remsen Foundation, and looked for Calvin with the help of her lawyer, Wilson. When he arrived at the boys’ home, the bishop lied and said that young Calvin had died of tuberculosis in order to get Wilson to donate money to the home in Calvin’s memory. When Avery discovered Calvin was alive through the profile on him, she sent him letters but received a cease-and-desist notice from Harriet.

Sadly, they never got to know each other, but because of Mad’s investigation, Avery was able to meet her granddaughter and Elizabeth. Through them, she was able to learn about her son, and they were able to finally find out the truth about Calvin’s life. This provided a bittersweet ending to Calvin’s story in Lessons in Chemistry that, at the very least, provided some closure.

Who Calvin Was Named After

He was ironically named after a theologian

Calvin Frustrated In Lab In Lessons In Chemistry Episode 7.jpg

By meeting Avery in Lessons in Chemistry, Elizabeth and Mad were also able to discover something about Calvin they had never known before. While Avery wasn’t able to keep her son when she gave birth, her request to name him Calvin was honored. She shared that he was named after John Calvin, a famous 16th-century French theologian who believed in predestination, which is the belief that people have no control over events because everything has already been decided by a power such as God or fate.

There is some irony in the meaning behind Calvin’s name, as he was a staunch atheist, but he did find religion and fate to be interesting. The meaning also relates to how he felt about Elizabeth, as he had believed they were fated to be together. Just like Six-Thirty and Mad had unique meanings behind their names in Lessons in Chemistry, Calvin did as well, providing another parallel between the father and daughter.

How Harriet’s Freeway Problem Represented The Struggle For Civil Rights

Lessons in Chemistry tackled racism

Throughout Lessons in Chemistry, Harriet was fighting against a freeway that the city was planning to build in the heart of her predominantly Black neighborhood. The time jump meant that Harriet had been tirelessly leading the movement against the freeway for seven years. In Lessons in Chemistry episode 6, it looked like she’d made some progress when she was able to get Elizabeth to join her at her sit-in protest. However, just when she thought she had the votes to stop the freeway from being built, the motion passed anyway in the Lessons in Chemistry finale.

Sadly, it would’ve been seen as unrealistic for Harriet to win this battle, as the struggle for civil rights continued on in the early 1960s and many are still fighting similar battles to this day. In changing Harriet’s character in Lessons in Chemistry from the way she was portrayed in the book, the miniseries was able to tackle racism and include aspects of the civil rights movement missing from the source material. Elizabeth winning her battles while Harriet lost hers also highlighted the different ways they were viewed and treated because of their races.

Related: Lessons In Chemistry Interview: Director Millicent On Elizabeth & Harriet’s Parallel Journeys

Supper at Six was a game-changer for television

Elizabeth Zott Hosting Supper At Six In The Lessons In Chemistry Finale Episode 8.jpg

Another change Lessons in Chemistry made from the book was the sponsorship Elizabeth announced during her last show of Supper at Six. After she attended Harriet’s protest and refused to support the sponsorship for shortening Phil had secured, he told her she had to find her own sponsor, or she’d be fired. This allowed Elizabeth the creative freedom to take the show in a progressive feminist direction rather than conform to Phil’s vision, as well as leave Supper at Six on her own terms. In announcing the Tampax sponsorship, Elizabeth didn’t just shock viewers, but she educated many in the process.

After announcing the sponsorship, Elizabeth explained menstruation to those watching, which was very taboo during Lessons in Chemistry’s time period. In reality, an ad for Tampax hadn’t been shown on television until 1972, years after the Lessons in Chemistry finale was set. In doing this, Elizabeth ensured that the landscape of television would be forever changed even after she left Supper at Six, which also cemented her own legacy.

The Real Meaning Behind Lessons In Chemistry’s Title

The title appears in the season finale

Brie Larson as Elizabeth Zott doing work in the chemistry lab in Lessons in Chemistry

The title of Lessons in Chemistry was never said in the miniseries, but it did appear written on a chalkboard in the season’s final scene. After Elizabeth quit Supper at Six, the story flashed forward three years into the future, where Elizabeth was teaching Introduction to Chemistry, which also happened to be the name of the Lessons in Chemistry finale. The most obvious explanation for the title is that Lessons in Chemistry was Elizabeth’s journey to becoming a chemistry teacher, but the meaning was shown throughout all 8 episodes.

All of Elizabeth’s experiences could be called “lessons in chemistry,” from the moment that her brother taught her about how he created his spontaneous fires to her teaching others herself at the end. The Lessons in Chemistry title doesn’t just refer to the branch of science. Most notably, Elizabeth learns about the romantic kind of chemistry through her relationship with Calvin. She also viewed cooking as chemistry, with Supper at Six providing her the opportunity to teach people more than just how to make dishes. The title appearance was a fun little Easter egg in the Lessons in Chemistry finale, but the meaning was sprinkled throughout the miniseries.

Where To Watch Lessons In Chemistry

  • Lessons in Chemistry AppleTV+ poster

    Lessons In Chemistry

    Release Date:

    Brie Larson, Lewis Pullman, Aja Naomi King, Stephanie Koenig, Patrick Walker, Thomas Mann, Kevin Sussman, Beau Bridges





    Based on the novel by Bonnie Garmus, Lessons in Chemistry is set in the 1960s and follows Elizabeth Zott, whose dream of being a scientist because society demands a woman remain at home and not work. When Elizabeth finds herself pregnant, alone, and fired from her lab, she accepts a job as a host on a TV cooking show. She sets out to teach a nation of overlooked homemakers — and the men suddenly listening — about food and chemistry. 

    Story By:
    Bonnie Garmus

    Lee Eisenberg, Susannah Grant

    Streaming Service(s):
    Apple TV+

    Sarah Adina Smith

    Lee Eisenberg

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