Albert Einstein was one of the most brilliant individuals the world has ever seen. But as the first three episodes of Genius (Nat Geo, Tuesdays 9 PM/8 CT) have shown, he had many character faults evident to most of the people who knew him. To cite a few, Einstein was impetuous, irrational, self-absorbed, and had the most difficult time relating to members of the opposite sex. At the end of the third episode, it seems a change may be taking place in his life, as he lets go of his pride and begins work as a patent clerk.
Or has he?
It seems Einstein’s head is occupied with other things while at the office. He (Johnny Flynn) and Mileva (Samantha Colley) have a healthy baby and they live in a decent place. But Einstein cannot get the science out of his head and constantly thinks of how to get his name out in the academic world. His roommate from Zurich, Michele Besso (Seth Gabel), helps formulate ideas, while Mileva helps him write a series of papers that seemingly generate no interest. But people are looking, including Pierre Lennard (Michael McElhatton) and Max Planck (Ralph Brown).
All is not wine and roses for Einstein, however. He is so focused on science that he practically ignores his son—and Mileva, to a certain extent. He invites his mom (Helen Monks) to help out at the house, where she promptly tries to convert Mileva into a housewife. Mileva will have none of that, infuriating mom, who calls her “[Albert’s] librarian and clock.” Einstein has to step in to that situation and kicks his mother out. He also has to deal with his former girlfriend Marie Winteler (Shannon Tarbet) when her family experiences a horrible tragedy.
Interspersed within the episode by new director Kevin Hooks are scenes involving Pierre and Marie Curie (Corrado Invernizzi and Klára Issová) as they discover radium. The juxtaposition of the relationships the husbands have with their wives are shocking. When Pierre wins the 1903 Nobel Prize, he says he won’t accept it unless Marie gets it as well. On the other hand, when Einstein discovers the theory of relativity, he thanks Marcel in the paper but not his own wife. Could this be a foreshadowing to future issues?
Hooks’ directorial style is a little different than Minkie Spiro’s as he paints a broader picture and isn’t as focused on the intimate portrayals of characters. It’s a bit jarring—and one reason I was concerned when I discovered multiple directors would be part of the production of Genius. It’s not terrible, however, and as long as there are no more hands in the directorial cookie jar, the series should be okay.
Albert still struggles with priorities—family is a mere existence to him, alluded to by at least one character. Mileva stays home and helps him while taking care of their son. Only after Marie Winteler’s dad talks to him about focusing on the childhood of his son does Albert begin to spend time with him. But even then, his scientific mind is spinning wildly. The book of Ecclesiastes mentions that there is a time for everything under heaven:
“A time to give birth and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance.
A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.
A time to search and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear apart and a time to sew together;
A time to be silent and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate;
A time for war and a time for peace (Eccl 3:2-8 NASB).”
We have to learn to prioritize our lives based on our current situations, striking a balance our families can work within. Too much focus on work can lead to alienation from friends and family. Too much play (or even laziness) can lead to a loss of finances and added stress on those we love. Being well-rounded makes everyone around us better.
We’ll just have to see if Albert learns this lesson next week . . .