In a moment of change, Elizabeth Zott advocates for herself on Lessons In Chemistry Season 1 Episode 5, “CH₃COOH”.
While Elizabeth embraces it, her daughter Madeline has more difficulty accepting change as their dynamic shifts suddenly.
Elizabeth Zott’s life has changed more than once throughout Lessons In Chemistry Season 1.
From the painful end of her PhD program to the blissful start of her relationship with Calvin Evans, Elizabeth’s life has been defined by her relationships with others.
After Calvin’s death, Elizabeth’s life quickly shrank down to a party of one, but her pregnancy shocked her back into the world.
Elizabeth and Madeline, who typically goes by Mad, are a sweet duo and allow viewers to see a whole new side to Elizabeth.
Still unabashedly herself, Elizabeth’s on full display as a mother with Mad at her side, refusing to diminish her intelligence just because she’s dealing with a child.
Madeline Zott is an interesting child, which was to be expected considering her parents. Still, seeing Mad function in the world is fascinating.
While she was featured in the last few episodes of Lessons In Chemistry season 1, this is the first time we see her wholly alone.
Although she’s brighter than most of her peers and seems to get many of her ideas from Elizabeth, Mad has her own sense of self.
From her disdain at the idea of switching schools to her sleuthing around Calvin’s closed-off office space, Mad’s questions are endless, and her refusal to stop until she has answers is aspirational.
The issue for Mad, unfortunately, is Elizabeth. Her mother is a roadblock that she doesn’t know how to circumvent.
Mad and Elizabeth’s dynamic is interesting.
They have a sweet afternoon routine that was featured on Lessons In Chemistry Season 1 Episode 4, but once Elizabeth takes her position as the host of Supper At Six, both know things will quickly have to change.
Mad is resistant at first. She doesn’t want her mother to spend her afternoons working and doesn’t want to lose her time with Elizabeth.
Mad quickly learns there are perks to being a latch-key kid.
Though Elizabeth provides a meticulous schedule for her daughter, Mad ignores it and does what she wants.
While there has been an undercurrent throughout Lessons In Chemistry season 1 that dabbles with religion, Mad doesn’t appear to have much to do with it.
She does, however, meet Reverend Wakely and sparks his interest. Mad wants to know more about Calvin, and after providing the reverend with some information, he helps her research.
Mad still has her work cut out for her, and when she’s not sleuthing around about Calvin, she’s sad about missing Elizabeth.
It’s something Elizabeth only notices after it’s already sunk in. The pair have dinner at a diner, sharing pancakes and stories about their days when the attention gets overwhelming.
Mad doesn’t care about Elizabeth’s TV persona. She wants to spend time with her mother.
Elizabeth, on the other hand, is relishing in the attention she’s getting for her TV appearance.
While she initially didn’t care much about being on television, Elizabeth becomes enraptured when she hears she’ll have complete creative control.
It’s not exactly the truth, but she plans for it regardless. Walter, who’s slowly becoming one of Elizabeth’s friends, wants her to do what she likes with the show.
Though there’s pushback from the network executive, Phil, no one is anticipating just how successful Elizabeth’s first live episode will be.
Before the live taping, Brie Larson‘s Elizabeth does her best during an uncomfortable dress rehearsal.
While Walter and Phil try to push on her concept, Elizabeth is steadfast in her message.
She wants to be clear that cooking is hard work, and it should be treated as such. Cooking is a skill, a science, and she has the tools to teach it.
However, cooking is also work that a woman typically does for her family. Elizabeth wants it to be clear that wives and mothers should be respected for feeding their families day after day.
She speaks plainly about her beliefs. Elizabeth has always been straightforward, and this is no different.
Much to the audience’s shock during her dress rehearsal, Elizabeth isn’t trying to play to the camera or put on a persona. She is blunt, serious, and severe.
The audience, a group comprised of mostly men, gives their feedback to an executive.
While the women in the group find women empowering, the men are perturbed. One asks why Elizabeth doesn’t smile, much to the women’s chagrin.
Phil tries to push Walter into changing things for the show, but Elizabeth refuses.
She speaks firmly to Phil, who isn’t used to pushback in general, much less from a woman.
It’s a testament to Elizabeth Zott herself that she never wavers but never angers. She’s firm, calm, and it’s terrifying to the men in the room.
Before Phil can chastise Elizabeth, his secretary shares that the phone lines are ringing off the hook.
Supper At Six has calls coming in non-stop, and Elizabeth is a smash hit. A big smug, and deservedly so, Elizabeth takes one of the calls herself.
The threads of the story are apparent as Lessons In Chemistry moves into its final stretch of episodes.
Elizabeth has found success outside of a lab and a way to fund Mad’s education, but it will push her away from her family more than she’d like.
Mad will continue exploring Calvin’s life, whether in actual interest or growing resentment about her mother’s new job.
The series, thus far, has been less about the fact that the story is straightforward but about the beautiful characterization that the story provides.
Lessons In Chemistry Season 1 has given viewers a look at Elizabeth in various phases. The through-line of her character is strength.
Early in her journey, Elizabeth faced unimaginable adversity while pursuing her education. She faced difficulty in a lab full of men looking for her to make their coffee.
She dealt with tragedy after Calvin’s death and rebuilt something unimaginable after Mad was born.
Seeing Elizabeth and Mad as separate entities navigating through a whole new world of success will be a fascinating turn. However, with the story points clear, it’s still anyone’s guess what Elizabeth Zott will do next.
Cher Thompson is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on X.