A Review on Genius

By: Clinton Barney

Based off of Walter Isaacson’s book Einstein: His Life and Universe, the first season of National Geographic’s television series “Genius” follows the life of Albert Einstein and his uprising from a university student to the world’s most renown physicist.

Courtesy of IMDb

The show is rated TV-14. It was released on National Geographic in April 2017, and the last episode of the season ended in June 2017.

This season of “Genius” is written by Kenneth Biller and Noah Pink, and the directors change per episode. Kenneth Biller has directed three episodes, James Hawes, Kevin Hooks and Minkie Spiro each have directed two, and Ron Howard has directed one.

It has received 10 Emmy nominations in 2017, but unfortunately has not won any.

Even if you aren’t a science nerd like myself or familiar with Einstein, this series will still make sense, I promise.

This season focuses much more on just his impact on the scientific community, it focuses on him as an individual, as a son, as a student, as a lover, and most importantly as a father.

The season switches between the experiences of Einstein as a young adult going to school and an older Einstein that has already formed his scientific theories and is spending his life as a teacher. Of course, the younger Albert is played by a different actor than the older Albert is.

The flashbacks/flashes forward are very obvious, easy to follow along, and highly entertaining at times. You’re able to see the contrast in Germany between the 1890’s, when Albert was a teenager, and 1940’s, when Albert moved to America.

Each version of Einstein has their own unique plot points, such as a younger Albert’s experiences at school compared to older Albert’s time in America. However, there are a few plotlines that last throughout the entire season, like Einstein’s struggle balancing family life and his studies, the uprising of Nazi Germany, and his battle building and keeping his reputation.

A younger Einstein, played by Johnny Flynn, is an ecstatic and rebellious young buck that has the whole world ahead of him, but cannot seem to get his priorities straight. His mind is wild, and seems to come up with ideas after ideas in a matter of days. Despite his intelligence, he has a hard time building his reputation.

An older Einstein, played by Geoffrey Rush, who looks identical to the real Einstein, is battling enemies from all sides, including Nazi Germany, the FBI, his ex-wife, and health issues. He deals with the struggles of aging, as well as others trying to ruin his good name.

The transition between the two actors is smoother than one of my pick-up lines. Flynn’s version of Einstein slowly begins to grow his hair out, which starts to grey over time, until it becomes the flamboyant white hair everybody knows and loves, which Rush’s older Einstein sports so well. Even Albert’s German accent doesn’t skip a beat between actors. Rush perfectly picks up where Flynn left off.

This show doesn’t just capture Albert’s intelligence to a perfect detail, it also captures his silly and witty nature. “Genius” is a perfect mixture of drama and comedy, and is suitable for any audience.

I’m a lover for soundtracks, so you know I have to spend a bit of time on that. Even though the soundtrack is very short, 17 minutes long in its entirety, it is perfect for the show. It captures Albert’s innovative mind and is suiting when he is formulating his theories. It also pairs with the emotional aspects of the season as well. I’m not one to cry, but I have to admit this show made me tear up on a few occasions. The combination between great character development and a compelling soundtrack is much more from you’d expect a TV show to offer.

As for CGI, there isn’t much, but when it’s used, it’s used wonderfully. His vivid imagination is captured through these computer-generated graphics, which fits well into the narrative. The use of CGI is not just a refreshing sight to see in a show full of mathematical equations and scientific lingo, it puts the audience in Albert’s shoes and allows them to follow along with his complicated mind and theories.

A character that you both love and hate at times is always a good one, and that’s what Einstein offers. He is a very lovable soul, but he can piss you off… I mean, upset you, quite often. He is a bit of a jerk to his loved ones, but he always finds a way to redeem himself in the long run.

Other characters see-saw on this love/hate balance as well. There are a few characters you absolutely hate and some you absolutely love. You end up feeling bad for a majority of the characters, no matter how bad or good they are. The character development is unlike anything I’ve watched before; it feels so real and engaging.

“Genius” perfectly shows how Einstein came up with and eventually solved his theories, as well as their long-lasting effect on the scientific world. Some believed he was a fraud, and a select few disregarded his theories simply because of his heritage.

I have a deep appreciation for world history, and I love how world events affect Albert and his friends and family. Both World Wars have a large impact on some of his university partners, while the uprise of Nazi Germany has a direct effect on the Einstein family, which is Jewish.

There is a conflict between German and Jewish scientists, which I personally find very interesting, as you don’t really hear about an angle like that. The Germans battling for scientific superiority: it sounds a bit silly on paper, but it is played out so well.

At times, Einstein is suspected of being a communist just because he’s European.

Also, my boy Franklin Roosevelt makes an appearance, so that’s always a plus.

I believe everything flows so smoothly: the character development, the non-linear storytelling approach, conflicts and plot points, etc. It’s fun and equally interesting seeing Albert unfold into the person we know today.

The show kind of lags on in the later episodes, as his older life isn’t as exciting as his younger life. I guess it does fit in well with the narrative and is somewhat symbolic, that no matter how wild and driven you are in the beginning, everyone ages, and you become less of yourself as you inch towards death…Wait, what was I talking about again?

I feel like my IQ went up just by watching this show. Again, you don’t have to be a science, math and history geek like me to enjoy the show. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a new show to watch. It’s not on Netflix, so you’ll have to buy it, but I promise you it’s worth every penny. It is a truly beautiful show.

If I had to summarize this season in one word it would be:

Season 2 of National Geographic’s “Genius” is scheduled to release in 2018, and will focus on the life of painter Pablo Picasso.