What makes The Young Pope so estranged is no one can relate to it. It’s safe to say that a majority of those watching the show are not priests — Pope Francis is modern, but he would never. So all of us non-holy people who are watching the show have no idea what normally happens in the Vatican, not even practicing Roman Catholics.
The show’s audience is prepared for fictional chaos in a fictional Vatican. Lenny Belardo is just the guy to do it.
Cash Christ is King
A cardinal drops dead in the Vatican mess hall during breakfast. Within seconds of the man’s death, a cardinal cries out asking what he died of — as if anyone knew. Cleverly, someone replies, “The same thing our church is going to die of — old age.”
That line is the groundwork for the entire episode, which holds true to Christianity in the U.S. today. Young people don’t go to church and it’s waging a war on religion that has too many old soldiers. As “Episode Six” unfolds, the cardinals continue to fight a pope that is pushing away young people.
As if the theme was not more obvious, Voiello (Silvio Orlando) mentions to the pope that donations and tourist visits to the Vatican have declined. The pope’s only response is “the faithful will return.” The philosophy behind a leader is that they sometimes don’t make popular decisions, but ones that benefit the group. However, Voiello is exasperated that the pope is not bothered by his unpopular opinions, which leads him to ask the question we’ve all been asking Lenny Belardo: “Who are you really?”
Again with the scenes
One observation that holds true to The Young Pope is the writers throw a lot of stuff in the plot within the hour. And to save time, “Episode Six” simultaneously shows the cardinalship ceremony of Bernardo Gutierrez; a mass in Ketchikan, Alaska led by former Cardinal Ozolins; Esther giving birth; and Cardinal Dussolier (Scott Shepherd) having a threesome with a man and a woman in parish in Honduras. If the shock of that last scene hasn’t worn off yet, let us remind ourselves that Dussolier is supposed to lead as Prefect for the Congregation of the Clergy to prevent anymore suspected gay/unchaste men from entering the priesthood.
Cardinal Gutierrez goes to New York City to investigate a sexual abuse case within the diocese. He has never been outside the Vatican walls. He almost gets run over by a Vespa taking his first step off the property. His journey will be interesting due to his alcoholism and inability to cross streets and order food. He’s in for a culture shock.
Lenny (Jude Law) visits Esther (Ludivine Sagnier) and her husband Peter in the hospital. He brings an arrangement of flowers and a bible owned by Thomas Jefferson, the spine of which was apparently never cracked. The baby’s name is Pius and with that, the pope hesitantly holds the baby and is so joyous, except when Valente startles him and he drops the baby. The couple immediately says the baby boy is fine, but Lenny feels terrible about the situation.
The prime minister of Italy has his first audience with Lenny. He gives the prime minister a list of requests and from this, we know it’s going to be a good, tension-building scene.
Lenny gives the prime minister a list of demands for the Italian government — ban abortion, ban gay marriage, give taxes to the Vatican, no euthanasia, ban Muslims and Hindus in Italy, ban common law marriage and expand the territories of the Vatican.
The prime minister accuses the church of being weak and of having no authority to make the demands. Many have turned away because of Lenny’s fundamentalist views, his harsh news releases and his refusal to address the public with his face. The prime minister refers being elected by human beings. Lenny, however, was elected by God and that cannot be proven with numbers.
Lenny plans on making a physical appearance right before the prime minister’s general election. The curiosity will get the best of everyone. And according to Lenny, the public will see his beautiful blue eyes and beautiful face, more beautiful than Jesus Christ. And because he’s so handsome like Christ, many will depict him as the Son of God.
Here’s where Lenny drops the bomb of his diabolical plan: When he addresses and announces “non-expedit,” a law that restores the inability for Catholics to vote in Italian elections. Catholics are 88 percent of the population and Lenny’s reasoning is they may disobey the pope, but not Jesus Christ, which he now embodies.
Dussolier leaves his parish in Honduras in order to become the prefect for the Vatican. The homily he gives is touching and carries the message of Lenny that his replacement will not coddle them like he did.
As he accepts the job that Lenny offers him, a new conflict appears. Lenny is ruling out all priests who are gay. Dussolier disagrees, for he believes when you take the vow as a priest, your sexual preference is no longer relevant. We know this is B.S. because Dussolier totally has a sexual preference because he isn’t chaste. A young man applied to enter the priesthood and he was denied because he was suspected to have homosexual tendencies. The man was crushed and Dussolier faced him in silence, feeling helpless about the situation. The man came and found Dussolier eating dinner and threw a glass of water in Dussolier's face. The end scene was the young man committing suicide by jumping off the roof of the Vatican.
There will be more trouble with this down the road as the brothers work closely together. Dussolier is also starting to become a bigger character. Hopefully, it won’t be like Cardinal Michael Spencer, where he had a climactic moment and then dropped off.
The character development was needed. Was "Episode Six" better than "Five?" Not really.
Yeah, "Six" had a legitimate sex scene, but "Five" had real plot climaxes.
The Young Pope airs Sundays and Mondays at 9 p.m. on HBO.