Genius is a word that needs context to be fully understood and in the second season of the National Geographic Channel’s “Genius,” the context is indeed everything. While the first season of this anthology took a more “traditional” route with the term. The story of Albert Einstein started a journey to showcase the fluid nature of the term.
This time around the show is back in pre-war/WWII Europe, but we’ve moved from a mathematical genius to the arts and Pablo Picasso.
To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this second season. At the end of the first, it wasn’t even clear if there would be a second season. While I was disappointed by the choice to not chronicle the life of the litany of forgotten brilliant females of history for season two, I was intrigued by Picasso and this artistic turn.
Now that the uncertain second season has begun, the anthology now appears to have taken the same repertory approach as other similar series (i.e. “American Horror Story”) and you’ll see more than a few familiar faces. For example, Samantha Colley who played Mileva Maric (i.e. Einstein’s wife/woman scorned) is now Dora Maar (i.e. Picasso’s mistress/woman scorned).
However, unlike the first season, which after setting up its young Einstein (Johnny Flynn) and older Einstein (Geoffrey Rush) in the first episode, followed a rather chronological pattern, this second season (at least in the first two episodes) seems to be splitting time between pre-war and WWII Picasso. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the casting of Antonio Banderas as the elder Pablo.
In all seriousness, if you think nothing else of this incredible series, you have to applaud the casting of Antonio Banderas as Pablo Picasso. It’s inspired all on its own. Add the fact that Banderas is from the same town in Spain as the master painter himself and it’s downright (yes, I’m going to say it) genius. And in Alex Rich, who plays younger Picasso, they’ve found quite the doppelganger.
What impressed me about the first season was the candor with which it treated its star. Einstein was a genius, yes, but he was not perfect. Picasso has a similarly colorful, but certainly less than savory path (which is not surprising if you know anything about the art world in Paris at the turn of the century). Of course, those morality gray areas are what make for some pretty amazing storytelling. We’re only two episodes in, but this season promises to be another awe-inspiring journey.
But if I’m being honest, what I’m most looking forward to is season 3, which the network has already revealed will feature Mary Shelley (i.e. a genius woman scorned who I presume will be portrayed by Samantha Colley). Bring on the monsters.