'Genius: Chapter 7' episode recap – Einstein's problems are all relative
Did you miss the seventh episode of the NatGeo series about Albert Einstein? Catch up here with this 'Genius' instant recap.
Warning: Spoilers ahead!
'Genius: Chapter Seven' / National Geographic Channel
Original airdate: 6.6.17 / Written by Kelly Souders / Directed by James Hawes
Episode grade: 4 out of 5 stars
While the previous few episodes have been mired in soap opera clichés and the romantic love life of Einstein, we're happy to report that this episode more than makes up for it. It combines both the personal side of Einstein as well as what was going on in the greater political world around him. And Academy Award winner Geoffrey Rush finally (finally!) returns as an older Einstein after having been absent since the premiere.
The episode does, however, start with a little bit of the soap opera entanglements left over from the previous shows. Albert is still pining for Elsa, and she's still refusing a serious and public relationship until he officially divorces Mileva. Elsa is worried that Albert will become famous and the press will have a field day with their relationship. "How long until they discover you are living in sin with a divorcee who is your first cousin?"
Meanwhile, Mileva is tight on cash and in and out of the hospital for various illnesses. Einstein himself gets sick by developing an ulcer as he struggles to complete his general theory of relativity. Einstein wants to travel to Zurich to check in on MIleva and see his two sons. He boards a train to Switzerland, but is turned away at the border, which has been closed due to the war. This frustrates Einstein, but it takes a greater toll on his children. This incident just further cements their notions of a distant father.
When Mileva returns from the hospital, she finally agrees to divorce Einstein. But she has several conditions: 1. She will get sole custody; 2. The boys will not be able to travel to Berlin to visit their dad; 3. Should Einstein ever win the Nobel Prize, he must give the financial winnings to Mileva. Desperate to end this chapter in his life, Einstein relents to her terms.
On the professional front, Einstein is on the verge of solving his general theory of relativity. He meets with a famous and well-respected mathematician, Professor David Hilbert. "I've spent the past few years of my life trying to complete the damned thing," Einstein tells him. "I'm overjoyed that you're willing to assist me." Hilbert is confused. He doesn't want to assist Einstein at all; he wants to solve it on his own.
The gauntlet is thrown down, and this lights a fire under Einstein to solve it before the mathematician. The episode picks up the pace as the scenes pivot between Hilbert and Einstein competing to see who can come up with it first. At the Prussian Academy in Berlin, Einstein decides to give four lectures. "By the last lecture, I will either have tamed this beast or will have been trampled by it."
Meanwhile, a letter from Hilbert arrives. "He's done it," Einstein declares. "He's completed the last equation. He's defeated me."
His friend and fellow physicist Max Planck offers some comfort. "The theory is still yours. Nobody can take that away from you. The final calculation is a mere footnote. And at least now you can go and see your boys."
But wait! A little while later, Einstein is ruffling through his paperwork and, in a moment of clarity, it hits him. "It's a glorious day! Hilbert made a mistake!"
Flash forward to Cambridge University in 1919. Elsa tussles Albert's hair as he goes on stage for a press conference. "The laws of Sir Isaac Newtown have just received their first major modification in over two centuries," says an astronomer at the event. "We are all witness to one of the most resplendent achievements of human thought in our lifetime."
But at the Nobel Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, they are not as smitten. One of Einstein's intellectual adversaries, Professor Philipp Lenard, calls the theory of relativity a hoax. He dubs them mere "philosophical equations designed to deceive." Lenard convinces the Nobel committee to not award Einstein the prize that year.
Throughout the episode, we also begin to see Einstein's Germany turn into a military state. Professor Fritz Haber, a colleague of Einstein, turns his office in an R&D lab for the defense department. He uses his scientific knowledge to weaponize poison gas and, in one of the episode's most moving scenes, we see it being tested on a platoon of French soldiers. Haber's gas is now being called "The Death Cloud." Haber's wife is so upset at the man he has become that she commits suicide.
Einstein, too, can't believe what his friend is doing. "Scientists are meant to unravel the mysteries of the world, not find new ways to destroy it," he tells Haber. "What you're doing is abominable."
Haber wins the Nobel Prize in Chemistry that year, which infuriates Einstein.
Einstein: "Did you not invent a new way to destroy human life?"
Haber: "Yes, but that was not my only innovation."
Einstein: "Life cannot be balanced like an equation. Good deeds do not erase the evil ones."
At first reluctant to get involved in politics in any way, Einstein feels he can no longer just stand idly by. He signs a letter opposing the war.
Episode's best cameo: In his excited, sleepless state of trying to work out his theory of relativity, we're finally introduced to Einstein's iconic frazzled hairdo.
Want more Einstein? Check out our treasure trove of stories related to the beloved genius.
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