‘Lessons in Chemistry’ Creative Team Explains Episode 7’s ‘Dip Back Into Calvin’s Childhood’

Showrunner Lee Eisenberg says his wife was particularly “smitten” with Lewis Pullman’s take on the character

Lewis Pullman in "Lessons in Chemistry" (Credit: Apple TV+)
Lewis Pullman in "Lessons in Chemistry" (Credit: Apple TV+)

Warning, this piece contains spoilers for “Lessons in Chemistry” Episode 7.

“Lessons in Chemistry” showrunner Lee Eisenberg said that we in part have his wife’s “smitten” response to Calvin Harris to thank for Episode’s flashback “dip” into his childhood. As portrayed by Lewis Pullman, audiences get to learn a bit more about the chemist who won the heart of protagonist Elizabeth Zott (Brie Larson).

The penultimate episode of the series, directed by Tara Miele and titled “Book of Calvin,” took viewers into Calvin’s backstory and offered a final glimpse of his meeting and courting Elizabeth before he tragically died at the end of Episode 2. 

“We talked about maybe seeing him in a flashback. And we wanted to have the option,” Eisenberg told TheWrap, noting that they’d contracted Pullman for three episodes but still “didn’t even know exactly what that third episode would be.”

“As I started writing, and seeing the dailies in the earliest cuts of Episodes 1 and 2 — also really seeing my wife’s reaction to Lewis Pullman — I was like, ‘OK, I think that this is going to be a thing.’ I was really mesmerized by him. And my wife was, I would say, smitten.” 

In the episode, it’s revealed that Calvin grew up in St. Luke’s, a Catholic boy’s home, where his interest in science became evident early on.

“The series as a whole is really about how our connections with other people open up our worlds and open up our hearts and bring us experiences and love and joy that we wouldn’t otherwise have. Getting to dip back into Calvin’s childhood, which was quite difficult for him [before] he connected with Wakely, underlines that theme of connectivity,” Miele told TheWrap. “This rare connection between a priest and a chemist that then leads to the chemist’s daughter having a better understanding of her dead father is just another example of connections with other people opening us up and allowing us to have deeper love.”

Reverend Wakely (Patrick Walker) came into the picture after observing Calvin lecture at Harvard, which inspired him to write the chemist a letter to ask about the conflict between religion and faith. The two men struck up a correspondence that lasted through Calvin’s death, without ever having met.

“[It’s] one of the most lovely things to hold different perspectives and to not feel like we have to pick one. That’s what I loved about the conversation between Wakely and Calvin, that it was a respectful dialogue between two opposing views, where they learn to appreciate each other’s point of view,” Miele added. “That’s what happens when you open yourself up and connect with people. It might not be what you expect, it might not be what you agree on, but you might learn something about yourself, if you actually let yourself open up.”

In a way, someone like Calvin, who has every reason to dislike religion and want nothing to do with it, finds a way to respect it despite all he has been through at the hands of the priests at St. Luke’s.

“We’re all trying to figure out what we’re meant to do here and what it’s all about. And whatever you call it — science or God or the experiment or the Bible, however you’re trying to do it, you’re still trying to figure out what it’s about,” the directed concluded. “That was the thing that I felt really was a unifying theme again, that underlines Elizabeth’s journey of: How am I supposed to do this?”

The first seven episodes of “Lessons in Chemistry” are now available to stream on Apple TV+.


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