Imperfect but Entertaining, Genius’ First Season is a Captivating Look At Brilliance
He was named Time Magazine’s “Person of the Century” and remains one of the most celebrated minds of all time. With a name synonymous with genius, it’s no wonder then that National Geographic Channel’s new series “Genius” would profile none other than Albert Einstein.
As was discussed in the review of the series pilot episode, “Genius” offered a very captivating yet imperfect look at this giant of a man. It featured a nonlinear narrative and bits of Einstein’s life from different time periods. These concerns expressed for the pilot were actually addressed, as the remaining episodes (for the most part) showcased chronological storytelling and stopped the zigzagging across decades. Furthermore, it allowed for the young and old Einstein to be separated and for the actors playing them to have the sole spotlight instead of competing against one another.
While the series remains imperfect, (but really what biographical material truly is) it was consistently captivating and had a good mix of science and humanity in it. Einstein’s groundbreaking theories were discussed at a depth to give a casual viewer an understanding of his work, yet not too simplified to offend more scientifically inclined audiences. But it was surely Einstein’s humanity that was highlighted and told in the most relatable fashion.
Though he is known equally for his discoveries as well as his unique physical appearances and quotes, the personal life of Albert Einstein is seldom known. And so while he was a revolutionary physicist and an eccentric human being, he was also a lover of life, a pacifist, a womanizer, a husband, and a father. “Genius” has succeeded in showing that this trailblazing scientist too was vulnerable, unsure, as well as stubborn. In short, he was a complex person with many flaws as well, but isn’t that really us all? Einstein’s magnificence is then through all his faults and human errors, a brilliance of the most extraordinary kind.
Both Johnny Flynn and Geoffrey Rush play Einstein in a respectable and humanistic way. Flynn’s young Einstein is a bold challenger of authority, a passionate lover of life, and a struggling husband. His infectious joy at his momentous scientific works is uplifting and intriguing to see. The older and eventually elderly Einstein of Geoffrey Rush is more reserved, saddened by the infamy some of his equations have caused him, and perennially devoted to the cause of world peace and deterrence.
The progression of the series from the youthful brilliance of Einstein’s relativity theories to the newly emigrated Einstein in America escaping the Nazis offers a rounded enough portrait of this man. As was said in the pilot review, “Genius” will undoubtedly leave more scholarly audiences wanting more but will surely satisfy and encourage further reading for more casual viewers. History has certainly been used with artistic license here but the core events and themes that shaped Einstein’s life are never truly exaggerated. Even from a production standpoint, most viewers will be sure to be pleased. Sets, costumes, and makeup have all been done very well giving a real life to the story; Geoffrey Rush’s makeup particularly on the elderly Einstein in his 60s and 70s is very realistic and similar to photos of the white-haired genius.
National Geographic Channel’s season 1 of “Genius” was a fascinating and well-constructed bio-series, that while was uneven in narrative structure provided at the very least an entertaining and educational viewing experience. Season 2 has been announced with Spanish Cubist pioneer Pablo Picasso as the subject, and if we can speculate as to its quality and approach then we can be optimistic it will be good television. Like Einstein (and Picasso and other geniuses) “Genius” is imperfect, but maybe that’s why it works too. Through all our imperfections, we shine too.