The miniseries Genius: Picasso premieres April 24th, 9pm on National Geographic.
By Chris Flanagan
After a successful first season surrounding the life of Albert Einstein, Genius returns to this time follow the life, love, and flaws of Pablo Picasso. The story is structured similarly to that of the previous season as it focuses not only on the latter years of the icon’s life but also jumps back and forth from childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood. Praise is due to the casting director for choosing Antonio Banderas as Picasso in his later years for he not only demands the screen but completely embodies the character to the extent where he is lost within the artist. I say this only about Banderas because from the pilot the other cast is not yet able to shine on the same level as he. Their roles in the first episode, while important, are meant to serve as varying catalysts and waypoints along Picasso’s life to help the ebb and flow of his journey to greatness. I’m sure they will take on more meaning as the story delves deeper into what made the man a legend, however, it remains to be seen.
While the flashbacks of his life serve as major points within the narrative of the pilot, the main conflict lies with Pablo’s trepidation to do a commissioned painting at Spain’s behest after the bombing of Guernica in 1937. The episode does an excellent job via flashbacks of slowly unfolding the various influences and occurrences of Picasso’s young life that helped shaped the way he depicted life and art which all lead up to this particular moment, a moment that would greatly define his career in its later stages.
Where I believe the show takes a slight step backward is in the execution of its screenplay. Very early on, the show gave a feel as if it were one long recreation segment taking place during a documentary and all that was missing were talking head portions or voiceover interviews from loved ones or people that were close to Picasso. The script quickly moved away from this once we were able to see Pablo in the show’s present day, however, for most of the early half of this first episode this feeling was painfully noticeable.
Despite that minor gripe, the second season of Genius manages to start incredibly strong and leave the viewer wanting more. Personally, I cannot wait to watch more of Picasso’s story as the way it is told is wonderfully entertaining and addictive. I was not actively looking for an additional show to add to my weekly watch routine but I have found one in the second season of Genius. The show’s highly stylistic approach not only creates an entertaining story about an iconic figure but does so in a way where almost every scene floods the viewer’s eyes with color and vivid imagery. If you have the time and even the slightest bit of interest, I would highly recommend watching the first episode of Genius’ second season.
I give Genius: Picasso’s premiere an A.