TV Reviews

Genius Season 2 Episode 1: Picasso: Chapter One Review

National Geographic’s Genius is an anthology series that began in 2017 that chronicles one subject’s life per season. In its premiere season, the focus was on Albert Einstein and took viewers through the major events in his life.

Last night kicked off season two which looks to focus on one of the most renown artists of the 20th century–Pablo Picasso. Season two will chronicle his life in the same manner, switching back and forth between his childhood, teen years, and adult life. Are you ready to dive into the world of this intriguing artist?

Synopsis: Pablo Picasso confronts the threat of fascism in Spain, and young Pablo rejects traditional painting to search for his own voice. (TVGuide) 

Writer: Ken Biller

Director: Ken Biller

Rating: TV-14

Running Time: 43 minutes

Airs: Tuesdays at 10pm on The National Geographic Channel (Canada/United States)

Genius truly is genius. The manner in which this anthology has been created is such an interesting way to learn about some of the most iconic individuals of our time. Last night’s premiere introduced us to this season’s subject, Pablo Picasso, played by the great Antonio Banderas.

The episode begins with his birth, which almost resulted in his death due to his inability to breathe. However, his father blew cigarette smoke into the baby’s face and voila, the baby was okay! The episode has a bit of a time jump to Pablo as a child attending a bullfight with his father. He is taken aback at the sight of them which inspires him to paint his very first painting.

Just like his father before him, Pablo aspires to be a painter–and what an amazing one he was, right? And in typical Genius fashion, another time jump takes us to an older Pablo alongside his daughter, Maya. He shares the love of painting with her as well, which is a very cute moment to see.

One thing we quickly learn about Pablo is that he is not exactly monogamous. His has multiple mistresses and shares a daughter with Marie-Therese, the woman he claims to love the most. A group of men show up at Pablo’s doorstep asking him to paint a mural for the World Expo, to expose the fascists of the time. However, Pablo doesn’t want to create art others demand of him but wants to paint what he desires.

A flashback to Pablo’s childhood shows his (Alex Rich) relationship with his sister, Marie, who passes away at a young age. He makes a promise to God that he will stop painting if Maria survives, but alas this is not the case. Pablo eventually decides to paint the mural and uses Guernica as the inspiration, following the advice of his mistress.

As a young teen, Pablo, with the support of his uncle, Salvador, heads to Madrid to attend school. He starts to shape into the artist he goes on to become but not without the harsh criticism of his professors. Another flashback or forward shows a young Pablo camping in the woods with his paintings that get destroyed by the rain. This is also when he comes up with his name as an artist, deciding his father’s name Ruiz is much too common.

The first episode ends on a heavy note with a flash forward to Nazi-occupied Germany. A seller tells Pablo to get a visa and leave but Pablo refuses to leave–his paintings are his everything, and something he cannot leave behind.

Genius is off to a great start, and I am intrigued to learn more about Picasso’s life. While last season was all about Einstein and learning about his theories and discoveries, this season takes on a different approach and different profession. Picasso’s life has been amusing so far and I look forward to seeing more of Banderas’ interpretation of the elder Picasso. So far, he’s amazing.

Score: 7.5/10

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