One of the key points of conflict thus far on Genius, National Geographic Channel’s 10-part series on Albert Einstein (Tuesdays, 9 PM/ 8 CT), involves his marriage. It’s obvious that Albert married Mileva mainly for her scientific mind and little more. As a result, the relationship has been spiraling downhill for a few episodes; in the meantime, Albert’s scientific career has been on an upward trajectory. When his cousin Elsa enters the picture as more than just a family relation, it’s only a matter of time before the powder keg of emotions explode.
Director James Hooks (the fourth different director of the series thus far) brings a heavily dialogue-driven perspective to the proceedings. He begins the sixth episode by setting up Einstein’s plan to confirm that light waves bend as a result of gravity. Albert (Johnny Flynn) has teamed up with an astronomer who will photograph the upcoming eclipse and gather data to further strengthen his theory of relativity. Problem one: the nearest location to see the full eclipse is Crimea, Russia. Now that he’s moved to Berlin and is a part of the Prussian Academy, Albert has to convince a bunch of skeptical scientists to provide funding for the trip—scientists who are ruffled by his brazen attempts to challenge their previous work. Albert gets some of the money, but Elsa (Gwendolyn Ellis) uses her clout to get the rest.
Problem two: After the trip has departed, German declares war on—you guessed it—Russia. With a load of photographic equipment in tow behind enemy lines, things aren’t going to go well for the members of the team on the train (see below).
But there’s another issue—a Serbian scientist has been able to come up with proof that Einstein’s theory doesn’t work as it currently exists. If Einstein publishes the paper with the eclipse data, he’ll likely be discredited.
This is where Einstein’s marriage enters the discussion. He moved the family to Berlin because he wants to be with Elsa instead—he even tells her, “With you, it’s sunshine. At home, [it’s always] a cloud of anger.” But she realizes how scandalous the situation can become unless Mileva (Samantha Colley) is out of the picture. Mileva finds out, and Albert has to make a decision—one that will have consequences for the rest of his life.
He chooses Elsa, telling Mileva he wants a divorce. But Mileva refuses to grant it to him.
At this point, Albert becomes even more of a jerk than one can possibly imagine, giving Mileva a written list of demands in order to keep the marriage intact. They amount to a completely platonic, non-physical relationship—cook, clean, take care of the two kids, and leave him completely alone with his studies. Surprisingly, she agrees to this. When she learns of the Serbian’s negation of Einstein’s proof, she tries to tell him, but he cites the written list he wrote her and dismisses her out of hand.
Eventually, the strain is too much, and after she has a one-night stand with the Serbian scientist, Mileva agrees to separate (not divorce—this may play a role in future episodes). Albert is elated—now he can return to Elsa. But when he returns home, he finds it empty. Mileva takes the children to Zurich, leaving Albert—for the first time in the series—completely broken.
Nobody wants to ever hit rock bottom in life. But there comes a period for most people where just that occurs. What once was is not any more. Friends have abandoned in a time when they’re needed the most. There’s really nothing left to do but surrender to God and strive to make life changes that last. It doesn’t mean there won’t be scars, but the end will be better than the alternative. Jesus talked about this situation in a story about a young guy who took his inheritance, blew it all on the frivolities of life, then found himself in a place where he had to resort to eating pig slop to survive. Only then did he come to his senses and point his life in the right direction (see Luke 15:11-31).
We’ll have to see if anything arises from the final scene of the episode—Albert Einstein crying, alone, at a train station. Is this really rock bottom, or will things get even worse?