My years in college and graduate school were ones I will always remember. There were the times where I was thrown into the campus lake for my birthday—without fail. There were times where I would just sit outside and enjoy nature, not having a care in the world. Of course, there were also times where I found myself stressed out to the breaking point with reading assignments, exams, or relationships. Those years weren’t always the best of times, but the moments of joy and satisfaction far outweighed the moments of despair. As a result, I began to truly become an adult.
In the second episode of Genius (National Geographic, Tuesdays 9 PM /8 CT), young Albert Einstein (Johnny Flynn) finds himself at Zurich Polytechnic, where he’s attempting to make something of his life. He has an incredible mind, but it can be swayed by the only girl in the class, Mileva Maric (Samantha Colley). Not only does she have her gender working against her, she also walks with a noticeable limp—one that caused noticeable mockery in her early schooling. But she’s quite smart and her brain intrigues Albert. Not only that, she has zero interest in guys. Albert is still in a relationship with Marie Winteler (Shannon Tarbet), but has stopped talking to her completely, noting that she’s too simple-minded to have discussions about math and science with him.
The viewer gets to see a different side of Albert when it comes to schooling. He’s not studious and tends to fly by the seat of his pants, showing little regard for authority or academic structure. His professors are incensed, but he keeps passing classes with flying colors. Mileva doesn’t help matters, as his interest in her seems to cloud his mind. She pushes away from him, even auditing classes at a school in Germany, but runs into the same issue with being a female—nobody wants her. She returns to Zurich, where Albert admits to her, “I’m head over heels in love with your mind.” But what is he to do with Marie? In the end, somebody is going to get hurt—the question is who and how much.
Ron Howard’s opening episode of Genius took a broad paintbrush approach to the cultural and global events of Einstein’s time. The second part is directed by Minkie Spiro and is significantly less loud and bombastic in nature, focusing on more intimate portrayals of the characters. I think it works quite effectively—even moreso than the first episode—since the focus is mainly on young Albert’s schooling in Zurich. Spiro does offer a few glimpses into Mileva’s early childhood, providing much-needed perspective about her personality. She’s never had it easy—and it doesn’t seem Albert’s going to make it any easier. I do wish more attention had been placed on Marie, however.
Taking responsibility for one’s actions is an important attribute for a person to have. Over time, God wants us to slowly begin to put the childish portions of our life aside, replacing them with the maturity that comes from being an adult (see 1 Corinthians 13:11). At this point in Genius, however, Albert hasn’t completely learned this lesson. Having a brilliant mind is a blessing, but only as it is coupled with appropriate actions. One letter Albert writes near the end of the episode demonstrates this in perfect clarity. It’s simply not our place to go around hurting others; instead, we should care about other people more than ourselves, looking out for them in the same manner (see Philippians 2:3-4). In this way, we can become both responsible and respected at the same time.