I don’t know about you, but I’m getting a little bit sick of watching Young Pope Lenny dress down the assorted people that come across the shadow of his throne on any given day. At first it was fun watching him give Cardinals Voiello or Spencer a verbal lashing as he swanned around his nearly empty office, but now it just seems like overkill. Considering this episode jumped ahead by nine months, think about all the awful things he had to say to people while we weren’t even there.
By the time he was threatening a room of shoeless monks by licking the corner of his mouth like some sort of Bond villain dressed up for a St. Patrick’s Day parade, I was over it. They were asking for his resignation or else they would declare an official schism and secede from the Roman Catholic Church. Lenny responds by telling them that he will declare an endless war on them… and that their feet stink. I mean, this guy really has to work hard to make a bunch of religious fanatics with assorted neck bandages look like reasonable people.
The episode’s most eventful harangue happened when Lenny met with the Italian prime minister, who looks a bit like Justin Trudeau if he only ate bruschetta and pasta with gravy (real Italians call it gravy). Lenny starts their conversation by issuing a characteristically unrealistic set of demands: He wants Italy to ban abortion, divorce, and gay marriage, and also to give the Vatican even more land and money. The Prime Minister responds that Lenny’s retrograde policies has made him so unpopular that he can finally lead a revolution and modernize Italy without worrying about upsetting the Catholic Church.
Lenny responds with a tirade about how he and god can tell all the Catholics not to vote by reinstating non expedit, an unused archaic policy where the Pope can tell Catholics not to vote. (Lenny has never met an unused archaic policy he didn’t want to dust off and threaten people with.) It was long-winded and rather obvious. In the end, the Prime Minister goes to the press and says they had a warm meeting but Italy still has some major problems with the Church.
The most immediate concern to Voiello is the “eight per thousand” tax in Italy. This is a policy where eight percent of the taxes for every Italian individual is donated to one of about a dozen organized religions, including the Catholic Church, or is donated to a general charity organization run by the Italian state. Each person gets to select which it goes to on his or her taxes and, if they don’t choose, then the money is evenly allocated among the religious organizations that the state recognizes. (Don’t worry, Leah Remini, Scientology is not one of them.) As Lenny tells the Prime Minister, about 90 percent of Italians consider themselves Catholic, so if this stream of income dries up, then the Church in Italy is in grave danger. Couple this with the loss of donations and general goodwill that Lenny’s crusade for complete adherence to scripture has cost the Church, and they could be selling off the Pietà before the end of the year.
Of course, during all of this, the biggest mistake that Lenny made in the whole episode was when he dropped Pius, Esther and her husband’s newborn, right on his head. It was a scene of comic incompetence. Yes, this may be some kind of miracle baby that Lenny created by panting to the Virgin Mary like he was trying to satisfy her sexually, but after that lump he took on the cranium that kid sure is going to have a lot of problems. This is exactly why you should never give the Pope a baby.
The real star of this episode, though, was not a baby, but what you do to make one. Lenny’s “brother” Andrew engaged in such behavior with one of his female parishioners in Honduras. Well, he also was engaged in some behavior with a male parishioner that cannot make babies but is equally as sexxy as it is with a woman. (That extra “x” is for excommunication.) Yes, since this is an HBO drama it is contractually obligated to have at least one bisexual threeway during its 10-episode run; so here is Andrew, getting it on with members of either sex and then covering their heads and asking them to pray as they lounge in bed.
At first it seemed that in the nine months that we skipped over, Andrew had left the church so that he could explore the world of the flesh, but he just popped back to Honduras to say goodbye to his parish and maybe his old lovers. He was also there to install a new bishop, who was much more brave than he had ever been and plans on standing up to the narco-traffickers that plague the region. Andrew is headed to Rome where he will oversee all of the clergy for the Pope. He’s tasked with making sure that the Church enforces the vow of chastity all priests take, which Lenny, who would rather do Pilates than a member of either gender, doesn’t think anyone takes seriously.
Another one of Lenny’s great ideas is to pay gentlemen a bounty if they can seduce a member of the clergy into having sex with them. Um, isn’t that a little bit like prostitution? Doesn’t the Bible declare that a no-no? Andrew, of course, has broken both of these rules and has a hard time believing that he should enforce them. This becomes abundantly clear when he meets Angelo Sanchez, a comely young man who has dreamed of being a priest his whole life who also happens to be a member of the LGBTQIA rainbow.
The best scene of the night came when Andrew was dining alone at a restaurant when the Real Housewives of Rome, in too-tight dresses and too-tight faces, came to invite him to a dinner party. Hot on their heels came Angelo, who was also behaving like a Real Housewife by throwing a glass of wine at Andrew. If this guy is trying to convince people he’s not gay, he’s clearly not doing a very good job by behaving like one of Andy Cohen’s greatest creations.
But instead of getting angry, Andrew chases Angelo down and finds him weeping in the courtyard of a building. Andrew embraces him, not in a sexual way (though it’s clear they both might enjoy such a scenario) but because Andrew knows his pain and also hates himself a little bit because he’s still not brave enough to do the right thing. It’s the same as it was in Honduras: Andrew wanted the congregation to like him so he was nice to them and didn’t make the hard choices. Similarly, he wants Lenny to like him and won’t stand up to his Draconian rule.
The anti-Lenny forces seem to be gaining steam, however. Just past the halfway mark of the season, it’s hard to know if this is an arc about the rise and fall of a pope or if it’s about proving that he is a man of faith who can legitimately create miracles. Based on what we learn at the end of the episode, it might be the former. Something bad happened to Tonino Petola, the crazy guy with the stigmata who claimed that he could cure people of their ailments. We last saw him when Lenny, Voiello, and the other big shot cardinals were sitting in his little dining room under a lit-up crucifix like they were in the party room at a Buca di Beppo. Now an inspector comes knocking on Voiello’s door asking if the Vatican is involved in his disappearance.
The inspector isn’t the only threat. Andrew seems getting ready to stand up to his old buddy—if they can both get over the memory of looking at a young Sister Mary like she was the star of an Herbal Essences commercial. Don Tomasso, the Pope’s confessor and main spy, is angry that he hasn’t been made a cardinal. Gutierrez, who can’t even leave the Vatican without almost getting run over by a Vespa, is sure to bungle his pedophilia investigation. The Italian state is going to leave the Church destitute. And, most menacingly, Angelo has hopped the fence of the Vatican—the wall they erected to keep laypeople like him out of their hair. He has some unfinished business with the Pope.
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