(WARNING: This post contains spoilers of The Young Pope Episodes 1–3)
If you're like me, you love good television. Not garbage shows that networks shove down your gullet hoping you are none the wiser, but quality storytelling, deep character development, and an entertaining plot that keeps you begging for more. Shows like Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, and The Walking Dead have massive followings for a reason. We love to see someone like Jon Snow overcome Ramsay Bolton or Rick Grimes best The Governor (remember him?) because we have so much invested in them. Through great writing and production value, we learn how to either attach ourselves to the relatable emotions of a character or wish they would die in a fiery chasm of despair. This brings us to Lenny Belardo (#JudeLaw) a.k.a. Pope Pius XIII a.k.a. "The Young Pope."
While he may be known as "The Young Pope," it's easy to initially see his character and situation as anything but young. Like most of Florida, at first #TheYoungPope appears tiresome, worn-out, and as appealing as cracked leather. However, a second look has given me a whole new perspective on the show.
There's A New Pope In Town
Right off the bat, I was as confused as a priest at an orgy — characters were flailing around aimlessly, throwing shit on the wall to see if it would stick, and all in all being assholes. Nothing was really following any sort of formula. One scene would be out of this world — I mean straight-up bonkers. There was Daft Punk playing, ludicrous (albeit stylish) hats, fans of strictly Cherry Diet Coke, and kangaroos.
Yes, you read that correctly: kangaroos.
Right after this would be a scene that was, for all intents and purposes, serious. We got a look into less popular Church terminology, the true faith of God, and how the electoral process works for a new Pope. I'm not disagreeing with these choices; you need to shake shit up a bit. However, there was no way to tell where the lines were drawn.
Cardinal Voiello (Silvio Orlando) and Cardinal Spencer were even more confusing. Voiello is basically Lenny's antagonist, and Spencer is Lenny's ultra-conservative mentor. Where Voiello can never decide whether he is for or against Lenny, Spencer can't get his head out of his own ass. When he finally does come around, the change in his mindset is too unbelievable.
It was all really about trying to decide who was with Lenny and who wasn't. I understand having people like Varys or Littlefinger in a show keeps you on your toes, but there were no obvious enemies to Lenny. Even Voiello would falter here and there. It was just such a confusing show to endure.
An Act Of God: Discovering The Worth Of 'The Young Pope'
Then it all changed. Like a true epiphany (after some research) I had found what was missing. This show is literally all about faith. Or, more importantly, the absence of faith. It is subtle and scarcely mentioned, but Lenny admits to not knowing if he even believes in God — something obviously very profound for the head of the Catholic Church. Whether it has something to do with his parents abandoning him, whatever miracle he might have performed as a child, or just his overall attitude as a person, Pius XIII is a troubled soul. Once you realize that this show's strongest attribute is this theme, it will open you up to a whole new world.
It doesn't end with Lenny. Voiello is an equally troubled soul. He lost faith in humankind after seeing what people are willing to do to get ahead in life. His only confidant — and to an extent, friend — is a severely handicapped boy named Girolamo, whom he believes is the only decent person left on Earth. Although he is often conflicted with his decisions regarding Lenny, Girolamo keeps his faith somewhat in check.
Spencer has lost his faith in the Church after losing the election. Instead of embracing Lenny as the Pope, he's denounced him and his religion, pretty much acting the part of "the sorest loser." Only when he is reminded that his job is to carry the weight of God is his faith somewhat restored.
Dear, dear Esther (Ludivine Sagnier) has lost her faith because of her sterility. A pretty rough hand to be dealt as a woman, she prays and prays to God to help restore her fertility, only for her calls to be unanswered. Thanks to Lenny's dramatic speech, her glimmer of hope turns into a big-ass fireball, hurtling towards her.
Aside from each character's conflict with faith, the title itself should be looked at more carefully. Yes, Lenny is considered to be pretty young for a Pope, as in he wasn't around for Christ's resurrection. However, it's not his age that's what makes the title standout, it's his actions, and more specifically, his lack of maturity. At first, I saw him being an asshat as a minor annoyance that blossomed into full-fledged anger. But if you look at him as what he really is — a young, troubled, inexperienced Pope — it all makes sense.
Would an experienced Pope deliver such a dramatic speech, dressed in gold-trimmed robes and a tiara? Would a wise Pope send a Cardinal he didn't deem necessary to the absolute ends of the Earth? Would a mature Pope let a goddamn kangaroo loose in the gardens? No, but you know who would? A Pope who doesn't know how to handle the responsibility he's been given; a Pope who isn't 100 percent sure he believes in God; a Pope who might need some advice from more mature and experienced members of the Church. In essence, Lenny is a child. He is a Young Pope.
What this show lacked in at first turned out to be its biggest turning point: originality. The Young Pope continues to surprise me once I was able to get over the fact that it is unlike any other show out there. It delivers beautiful cinematography, ever-evolving characters, and a theme that will keep you questioning what you truly believe in. With such a strong emphasis on faith and a new outlook on the future of this show, I'll be tuning into this one for a long time.
What did you love most about The Young Pope?