The Young Pope series challenges us on someone we consider to be an evil, manipulative person. In episode four, the blatant contrast between Lenny Belardo (Jude Law) and Cardinal Voiello (Silvio Orlando) tests viewers. The two men and their morals dance back and forth: Voiello keeps those inside the Vatican walls under his thumb in a manipulative way, but does so because it's "God's will" and will bring order back. Lenny continues to carry out traditionalist ideas, but still shares compassion with those around him.
The opening scene shows a white horse parading in a field, which carries a bald, decrepit man who appears to be stigmatic (see sidebar for more information.) This man is Tonino Pettola, and people come from all over to see him heal the sick as he witnesses the Virgin Mary in a sheep.
After the credits, Lenny is shown in a gorgeous green robe with a gold accented collar. Sister Suree (
Trouble in God’s house
Esther’s storyline expands — she’s no longer just a mystical blond woman. She is an unhappy wife who wants a child. She and her husband are both sterile, however, and Lenny advises her to pray to the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, for a child.
It’s clear to everyone that Esther (Ludivine Sagnier) has become friends with Lenny. Voiello has eyes and ears in the Vatican. His ability to hold information against everyone keeps in him in power — except he can't do this with the pope, and it drives him crazy.
Voiello is desperate to find dirt on Lenny, which forces him to conspire sins to pin on the pope. Voiello knows that Esther has had an affair with Valente, the pope’s assistant. Here’s the messed up part: Voiello, a cardinal, blackmails Esther to seduce Lenny, the head of the Roman Catholic church. Even Esther does not think it is possible. She’s vulnerable to her sins and so to keep them quiet after Voiello explains the pope has had “dozens of girlfriends.”
She has many lame attempts explaining to Lenny she wants to share her beauty with a man other than her husband. He quickly shuts the conversation down and tells her to share her secrets to God in her head. Yeah, he just friendzoned Esther, but he should because he’s the freaking pope, right? It’s hard to tell what Lenny wants in the situation, especially after he runs into a painful sex scene of Esther up against a window with her husband. Instead of walking away, Lenny kneels and prays to the Virgin Mary to grant the couple a child.
It’s hard to believe the prayer was genuine and not just an excuse to distract himself from the sex that was happening in front of him.
Probably the best part of the episode is when Voiello attempts to show his cool side and give a gift to our young pope. Voiello claims it can replace smoking. Lenny doesn’t accept it and we are left to imagine the older generation trying to buy the pope a vape pen.
Lenny still shows his childish side, though — it wouldn’t be The Young Pope without it. He groans at having to baptize babies. So much so he’s in a trance, repeatedly saying to the mother, “she takes after you.” It backfired on him once when the black baby he was baptizing had white parents. “Yes, it’s perfectly clear she’s been adopted,” he says. “That doesn’t change a thing.”
He also shows that side with Sofia (Cecile de France), who gently pushes him along to publicity events like the visit from the Prime Minister of Greenland. The dynamic between Sofia and Lenny is lighthearted and the most enjoyable.
When meeting the prime minister, he puts her in an uncomfortable position like he does with all leaders, except she didn’t seem to mind/notice. He lacks gratitude in her gifts and starts off the conversation about how he knows how handsome he is, even for a pope.
The end of the show was absurd. The pope is shown looking out to St. Peter’s Square while a tape is playing — a gift from the Greenland administration. The camera turns to the prime minister dancing at the end of a hallway to the music while fun facts on Greenland roll on the screen.
It reads: “Greenland, 'Land Of Men,' is an island off the American continent located in the far north of the Atlantic Ocean. The main productive activities in Greenland are shrimp and halibut fishing. Greenlanders, like South Americans, are known worldwide for their uncontainable passion for dancing.”
The facts would be useful if it were something that people had been asking during the show. It's not even a “where are they now” sequence.
Questions that are answered:
- The disable boy’s name is Girolamo and Voiello basically uses him as a confessional. He does not want to deem himself vulnerable in the Vatican, so he goes to the boy to relieve his secrets and stresses. What’s messed up is Voiello believes the boy is more holy because he has a cognitive impairment. He would not be wonderful and special if he were unable to sin like “normal” man.
- Lenny keeps Esther around because she reminds him of his old girlfriend before he entered priesthood.
- Part of Lenny’s agenda is to root out the gay priests in the church as well as the paedophilia. This ironically leads to immediate “confessions” from priests about their impure thoughts of women.
The Young Pope airs Sundays and Mondays at 9 p.m. on HBO.