One January morning in 1998, I walked into a lecture hall at Furman University, not knowing what to expect in the Psychology class I was registered for. The professor walked in, a rather tall man with bright red hair, and spoke: “Good morning. My name is Dr. Einstein.” The class laughed, then he continued: “If you’re wondering, I am actually related to Albert.” At that point, the class grew silent, then sat back for a fantastic semester of learning with a professor who sincerely loved to teach. To this day, I still believe Dr. Einstein was the smartest–not to mention most challenging–professor I had. (If you’re wondering, he’s still teaching at Furman)
In the final two-hour conclusion to National Geographic Channel’s Genius, Albert Einstein (Geoffrey Rush) has moved to the US and is a professor at Princeton University. But the events of the world have seemed to conspire against him. Franz Haber (Richard Topol) dies, as does Mileva, his stepdaughter Ilse, and his current wife, Elsa (Emily Watson). To assuage his feelings, a svelte Russian bombshell named Margarita (Ania Bukstein) enters his life and helps him get through the process of becoming a US citizen. We soon discover she’s a spy attempting to get access to Einstein’s calculations for an unknown purpose, but she fails in her mission. Later, Albert’s work on general relativity becomes linked to the atomic bomb being worked on by the US and Germany, a thought that makes him sick. When the bomb is dropped on Japan by the US, Einstein is thrust into the spotlight again—not as a brilliant scientist, but as the harbinger of nuclear death.
As a result of this new moniker, Albert begins to push away from his love of science, becoming more active politically. It creates another big issue in the form of J Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI (TR Knight). He thinks Albert is a Communist and is willing to go to any length to prove his assertion true. It makes life difficult as Einstein is concerned with the witch hunt going on for people like the Rosenbergs and is ready to make his feelings known to the world. But that’s exactly what Hoover wants. When Albert writes a letter to the judge of the Rosenberg trial, Hoover intercepts it and proceeds to discredit Einstein all over the pages of America’s papers. All Albert has left are a few friends and his assistant Helene (Emily Laing), who he prefers to see and not hear. His son Hans has come over from Germany, but the rift from the divorce is still fresh.
Sinking into a funk, an unexpected help arrives in the form of Alice Edwards (Dixie Egerickx), a little girl who asks him to help her with her long division homework. Suddenly, he remembers the joy of teaching and breaks out of his depression. In the end, he is able to reconcile himself to Hans (even telling him that he would’ve never achieved anything without Mileva) before finally passing away.
Ken Billings directs the final two part-episode and provides a satisfying conclusion to the series. He’s even able to inject a little emotion into the end sequences as Albert is reconciled to Hans and tells Helene she’s a blessing to him. It was nice to see a little glimmer of hope as Einstein’s carefully crafted world began to crash down around him. I’m already looking forward to the second season of Genius, which will feature the life of one Pablo Diego Jose Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno Maria de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santisima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso (yes, that’s the painter’s full name).
One of the neatest things to see in the final episode was how Alice Edwards, with her constant questioning and eager desire to learn, helped bring Albert back to a love of teaching. When life seems to feel unbearable and the only safe space is under the covers of the bed, there is a way to get back to normal. King David mentioned this in Psalm 51, when it seemed like his sins and mistakes were going to overwhelm him. He went to God and asked for forgiveness, then prayed, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways” (verses 12-13 NASB). Sometimes all it takes is asking God for the joy to be restored, and it will arrive in a form that will do the trick. Then we will be able to take on life with a renewed confidence and vigor, making a difference in the lives of others. And isn’t that what we, in the end, want to happen?