Millicent Shelton, who directed the fifth and sixth episodes of “Lessons in Chemistry,” emphasized that the relationship between Elizabeth Zott (Brie Larson) and Walter (Kevin Sussman) is purely platonic and that they bond through constructive criticism.
Episode 5 introduces Rainn Wilson’s aggressive station owner and manager Phil, who finds his match in Elizabeth’s stubbornness. His hateful views about women have no chance against Zott’s fight for equal rights and emphasis on the importance of women’s work in the kitchen. In a way, Phil thwarts Walter Pine.
Shelton focused her analysis on a particular scene between the TV producer and the chemist in the fifth episode of the Apple TV+ drama, in which they sit together and have a warm conversation.
“One of my favorite scenes in 105 is the scene between Kevin and Brie sitting on the stairs outside the studio, and for me that’s where the beginning of their friendship happens. Before that, Calvin was the only guy who was kind of a friend, but not really, because an intimate relationship with someone and friendship are different things,” Shelton said. “But she and Walter are actually just friends. And that moment on the stairs where he could sit there and be honest with her and not try to have any sexual relationship with her. It was simply about how a man and a woman can be friends and honor and respect each other. for who they are as beings.”
Shelton also emphasized the mutual respect that Walter and Elizabeth have for each other, which is rare for Elizabeth on the series as she experiences all sorts of misogyny and anti-feminism in her daily life.
“At first I read the scene and was like, ‘Okay,’ and then when they started acting, I was like, ‘Oh, that’s, that’s an amazing moment.’ “You see her journey from the beginning of the episode when he’s just striving for someone to make him successful as a producer,” Shelton said. “And at the end of the episode, he sees her as a human being and a person he likes, and they’re going to work together. She, who was a person who was always defensive and a little touchy, ends up realizing that he is a friend and gives her constructive criticism, not just criticism, which makes a big difference because constructive criticism is based on her try , to help that person improve, not tear them down. And in the end she realizes that and that’s why they’re friends.”
Showrunner Lee Eisenberg explained the types of men Elizabeth encounters on the show, from Phil to Walter to Calvin and more.
“I think it was very important for us not to paint anyone, neither gender nor origin, we want to avoid stereotypes as much as possible. And the simplest thing is: “Oh, all the men in Elizabeth’s life are bad.” That would be the simplest version and that’s not true at all. I think Calvin and Elizabeth don’t get along well when they first meet. He accuses her of stealing his ribose, which she did, and barely apologizes for it. As the series progresses, we want to have men who are allies. We want men who are shitheads. We want to have varying degrees of shitheads. And we also want to have passive men who could have done something and then don’t do it,” Eisenberg told TheWrap.
“That was something that was really interesting for us. And then when she starts dinner at six and you see a relationship with Walter, we never wanted that to feel romantic in any way. We wanted it to feel like a single dad and mom, both struggling with their own situations, both at home and at work, being able to lean on each other and really kind of unusual To make friends that I really had. You’ve never seen anything like this between two people at a later point in their lives. It’s not teenagers who get caught up in it. They really lean on each other, becoming more like family partners than romantic partners. And that was a relationship we enjoyed exploring.”
The first five episodes of Lessons in Chemistry are now streaming on Apple TV+.