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Cardinal Gutierrez (Javier Cámara) and Lenny Belardo (Jude Law) grow closer and confide in each other in episode three. 

TV Review: The God complex is real — 'The Young Pope' has mommy and daddy issues

In the Roman Catholic Church, it is believed the pope is infallible. The Young Pope’s Lenny Belardo is not only claiming divinity as pope, but with more wisdom and harshness than God while claiming he’s more handsome than Jesus Christ himself. It’s not enough for Belardo to get his way with those from the Vatican, but he wants power over God.

The storyline

“Episode three” opens with Lenny’s (Jude Law) nightly talk with Tomasso (Marcello Romolo). As the camera zooms in closer and closer to Lenny’s face, he denounces more than half of the 10 Commandments in one breath. He admits he knows the conclave chose a pope they presumed they knew.

After Lenny’s intense close-up, we’re cut off by the new and edgy opening — Lenny walks in slow motion to “All Along the Watchtower” with moving Catholic Renaissance paintings and neon credits — it’s clear the episode will dig up a more clear path of how the destructive Lenny Belardo came into power.

The press and the world are still trying to make sense of the terrifying homily Lenny gave last episode. The cardinals and bishops around the world are panicked and curious about Lenny’s unrevealed plans and policies. Lenny’s stalling on his plans, which many fear are going to set the church back 400 years. Cardinal Caltanissetta (Toni Bertorelli) says it best when he tells Lenny he is the young man with old ideas.

Ungodly motives

Lenny’s motive for his cold behavior and hostile stance is revealed, or more so exposed by Cardinal Michael Spencer (James Cromwell). Instead of coming to Lenny’s quarters to apologize for his behavior, he shames Lenny for his tough-love marketing strategy. “You want to make the world pay for the wrong it did you,” Spencer says. “And for that you’ll be a terrible pope, the worst.”

Lenny soon demands Voiello to tell him how he happened to get elected as pope. Many rumors are going around: Voiello manipulated the conclave in electing Lenny, someone else did or — the most interesting answer — the Holy Spirit picked the pope. Voiello believes the third, and all other priests believe the Holy Spirit had nothing to do with it (ironic, isn’t it).

Voiello tells Lenny his appointment was a compromise: a young man who would lead the modern world, but has conservative ideas. Though Voiello’s character is developing, it's hard to be on his side when fights break out between him and Lenny. Voiello has a lavish apartment with old furniture and tapestries, and he blackmails Cardinal Gutierrez (more on that later).

Two of the more interesting storylines occurred at the end of the episode. One is the evolving friendship between Lenny and Cardinal Gutierrez. It’s so genuine, it’s hard to believe Lenny has no motive for hanging out with him and telling him secrets. Lenny shares how he had a love interest one week before he was about to go to the seminary. That goes unresolved, for one of Voiello’s henchmen priests finds the two men talking.

Gutierrez is blackmailed by Voiello. If he does not find out more about the “girlfriend” Lenny had, he will expose Gutierrez’s alcoholism.

The Vatican has eyes

After Spencer’s outburst, he begs Lenny for forgiveness and accepts Lenny’s offer as prefect. However, his apology is too late and the offer of prefect is off the table.

The other storyline that has room to grow is about the Swiss Guard’s wife, Esther (Ludivine Sagnier). After the homily, she stands motionless in St. Peter's Square. Lenny notices and calls her up. During their conversation, he faints and has a vision of an altar boy (presumably him) chasing a hippie couple to a dock and asking who they are. We can assume this is a vision of his parents abandoning him. The more interesting part is Esther has had an affair with Valente — a priest.

So far, there are only two women in the series who are not nuns, and Lenny takes to both of them.

In the end, Lenny has a heart-to-heart with Gutierrez and wonders if someone like Voiello would be better as pope, since Voiello believes in God. With sympathetic eyes, Gutierrez says, “Voiello is a politician. You are the pope.”

What we still don’t know

  • The relation between Voiello and the disabled boy
  • Why Cardinal Gutierrez has so many stuffed animals in his bed chamber
  • Why Lenny is keeping Esther around
  • If Gutierrez will confess to Lenny he told Voiello about Lenny’s “girlfriend”
  • If Sister Mary approves of Lenny’s behavior

Rating: 3/5
The Young Pope airs every Sunday and Monday at 9 p.m. on HBO.

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