If you’ve been watching National Geographic and Ron Howard’s GENIUS television series, then you’ve been following the story of the greatest scientific mind in history, Albert Einstein. Not only was he responsible for coming up with the famous theory of relativity, but Einstein’s work had significant impact on world history during a time of great uncertainty and conflict. The show examines this by following Einstein through his life and giving audiences a more grounded perspective of his legacy, including all of the bumps and bruises he endured along the way. We get a solid look at the history of the great mind, but we also get a better look at the man behind it all.
Both final episodes of GENIUS chronicle Einstein’s later years, with episode 9 taking place during the end of World War 2 in the 1940s and episode 10 leading right into the Cold War era of the 1950s. There are a number of time skips back and forth in both episodes, including some moments that jump to before the big war, which can slow down some of the momentum they build up along the way. If you’re not familiar with the real events, the end of World War 2 was signaled by the collapse of Nazi Germany and the dropping of the atomic bomb in Japan.
The 1950s were the beginning of the arms race and Cold War between the United States and Russia, where the paranoia of communism spreading was at its all-time high the United States. The conflict we see Einstein go through has less to do with the war itself and more the consequences of his work influencing the major events around him. We feel the looming threat of the war when characters speak about it, but we hardly see the fighting that happened.
Geoffrey Rush plays an older version of Einstein, struggling at home with his family and facing the reality of events that unfold through his work. Throughout the episode, tension increases for Einstein as the dawn of a major scientific breakthrough set to impact the Second World War looms over the horizon. The serious moments from history have an emotional weight to them, especially after we see what the Nazis were planning in Europe, but we still get to see a playful side of Einstein in the lighter moments of the episode.
An intellectual humor between Einstein and his fellow scientist give us some dimension to the real life person, but the jokes they deliver fall flat in most cases. The supporting cast does an excellent job of feeling like they were pulled out of the time period, but they lack any charm to have us really become invested in them along the way.
The final episode of GENIUS continues past the ending of World War 2 and into the 1950s. With the threat of Nazi Germany no longer relevant, things take a radical turn for Einstein back at home in both his public and private life. A few characters, some from history, stand out as weaker parts to the story but only appear a few times throughout the episode. We don’t get many conclusions for them, as the latter half of the episode focuses on Einstein and his family. Some characters do feel over-exaggerated with their actions and come off as out of place. While they may have been historical figures, we could have seen them less and it would have made everything in the episode more effective.
The conflict we see for Einstein in this episode becomes one about reputation, where leaving a lasting legacy and not being forgotten becomes super important to him. The paranoia of communism becomes a huge part of American life and it creates a rift between Einstein and the United States government, only adding to his hardships as Einstein grows older. We see his public reputation become threatened as the Red Scare seeps into the public consciousness and causes everyone to become irrational.
However, the tone of the series shifts to a somber conclusion rather than the urgency of the previous episode. We still get the historical events that directly relate to Einstein’s life at the time, but we focus more on Einstein himself and his core family. As a wrap up to the series, it was a fitting to conclusion to the story that was centered on the man behind the great scientific legacy.
The last two episodes of GENIUS give both a good history and personal story to Albert Einstein. Though there are a few missteps along the way, each episode has some good elements that work well in relation to the history they are based on. If you’ve enjoyed the previous episodes of the series, then you’ll be satisfied with the last few and how they bring everything to an end. The final two episode of GENIUS are set to air on June 20th on the National Geographic Channel.
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