Genius - National Geographic's Einstein biopic

I know, I know. Quarter to Three loves to rag on biopics, but this is exceptionally well done. It even features Geoffrey Rush as the elder Einstein, and he’s bringing even more gravitas here than he did in The King’s Speech. Johnny Flynn’s young Einstein offers a worthy predecessor to Rush’s, and the difference in their tones plays off the story perfectly.

But in the end, this is barely a biopic. It’s more of a historical drama, contextualized by the European politics of the day and powered by the scientific discoveries that shaped the modern world. In many ways this series has more in common with the book Longitude, about the invention of extremely precise watches for navigation on the seas. To that end, I have never seen a piece of drama convey science so well. The scientific exposition is intuitive without gross simplification, motivated by the characters in the story rather than the script’s dictates, and captures the moments of inspiration for their understanding with an almost alarming deftness. It’s so good that it has me reading about theoretical physics for fun now. (Admittedly I’m a former math grad student who also reads obscure monographs in mathematics for fun…)

The season finale airs tonight. There’s word of a second season, which I can only assume would focus on someone else. Perhaps Kurt Gödel? He & Einstein were close friends in their later years at Princeton, and Gödel’s professional life in foundational mathematics has striking parallels to Einstein’s, including revolutionizing the landscape of the entire field with his two incompleteness theorems, which showed mathematics to be far stranger & more unintuitive than anyone had imagined. I’d love to see a Bertrand Russell series, although the graphic novel Logicomix does a damn fine job of that already. (It even comes close to Genius’s exposition of its scientific ideas, which is no small feat for mathematical logic.)

You had me at “Geoffrey Rush”. I hope Netflix or Amazon pick it up to offer it over here…