The Young Pope pulls back the crazy reins considerably in the second episode. We are grading on a curve since the series began with a mountain of dead CGI babies, but still, the fact remains that episode two is a little less crazy. Things are not quite normal, but they are less flamboyant and more coherent.
The Young Pope remains a bit of an enigma and at times is absolutely bonkers. There is a costume choice by Annette Bening’s Sister Mary that will have me confused for, conservatively, the next 10 years. In the second episode, The Young Pope does seem to have a much clearer idea of what type of show it wants to be, and it is a deeply intriguing one about power, religion and the impact on both upon humanity.
Lenny the Con Man Pope
The episode begins with Lenny meeting with the woman who is responsible for the marketing of the Vatican. In other words, she is the person who puts the pope’s face on a bunch of tourist stuff. These plates, paper and other paraphernalia of the pope are some of the Vatican’s main sources of income. You’d think the egoistic Lenny would be for this, but he is in fact vehemently opposed. Lenny wants to be the Daft Punk of popes — this is an actual line. Lenny doesn’t want his image to be on anything because he means nothing; the Church is what is important.
It is actually quite a brilliant moment of manipulation by Lenny. With this action, Lenny manages to convince everyone that he is the most pious and devout man who has ever lived. Voiello’s efforts to find any kind of dirt on Lenny comes up dry because there is nothing to be found. Lenny has crafted the perfect life. He even has a very weird moment where he communicates with a kangaroo, who has been sent to live in the Vatican’s zoo. Lenny sets the kangaroo free to roam the gardens because apparently The Young Pope needed a pet kangaroo around. All this strange and wonderful behavior supports Sister Mary’s belief that Lenny is an actual saint.
Sister Mary’s Power Play
Sister Mary is the other integral part of the episode as The Young Pope gives us our clearest idea of who she is as a person. There is no doubt now that Mary is a true believer of Lenny and the Church. She believes wholeheartedly in her adopted son and sees him as a “jewel.”
Mary does, however, go on a bit of a power trip with all the responsibilities that Lenny gave her. Mary threatens Voiello. She tails him and discovers he has an invalid young man he is caring for. Whether this person is Voiello’s brother, son or someone else entirely is left unsaid. The thing that is clear is that Sister Mary is pretty much drunk with power. Her weird power plays actually appear to be one of the central points of The Young Pope. Power will corrupt everyone and everything.
A Pope Without a Parent
It’s at this point in the episode where things get pretty insane. Sister Mary’s power trip makes Lenny look weak, and he responds by almost completely shutting her out. Lenny completely rejects his mother figure and goes running to his father figure, Cardinal Spencer. Lenny fires the man in charge of teaching the priests because he learns he is homosexual. With the spot now open, Lenny offers it to Spencer. Spencer refuses his offer and spits repeatedly during his conversation with Lenny. It is just as gross as it is odd.
Rejected by Spencer, Lenny comes crawling back to Sister Mary. Lenny shows up at her apartment, and she is wearing — for reasons that are never explained — a shirt that reads, “I’m a virgin but this is an old shirt.” The T-shirt is never commented on, it is never given justification and the scene itself is actually quite serious. It is incredibly distracting that Sister Mary is wearing this shirt, and yet I never want her to wear anything else on The Young Pope. Despite Sister Mary’s clothing choices, she manages to convince Lenny that he is worthy of love and that he is “a reflection of Christ.” No one in this family has the slightest idea what subtly means or how to act that way.
What Have We Forgotten?
Charged by his talk with Sister Mary, Lenny finally gives his first homily as pope. He stands on the balcony in St. Peter’s Square showing just his silhouette. As a piece of cinematography, it is an amazing image. As a piece of television, Lenny’s homily is completely ludicrous. He chastises the thousands in the square and the millions watching. Lenny tells them that they all need to be devoted exclusively to God. Nothing matters in their life but God.
Lenny’s repeated declarations damning his congregation are punctuated by the clanging of large drums. It is unclear if this is actually happening or if it has been inserted on the TV show for dramatic effect. It doesn’t really matter either way because Lenny looks like an insane dictator. He is of course exactly that, and the realization hits home for Voiello watching him.
Lenny’s speech reaches a dramatic end when someone in the crowd asks to see his face. Lenny yells at them, so they proceed to shine a laser pointer on him. Lenny freaks out and storms off the balcony after the “insult.” The skies immediately open up and a huge thunderstorm rains down on everyone watching. On second thought, maybe it isn’t just the family unit of Lenny and Sister Mary who have no idea what subtly is; maybe it is The Young Pope as a whole.
What did you think of the second episode of The Young Pope? Is Sister Mary a true believer? What did you make of Lenny’s first homily? Are you more interested in the show? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
The Young Pope season 1 airs Sundays and Mondays at 9/8c on HBO.
(Image courtesy of HBO)