I’m beginning to think that Andrew, he of the bisexual three-way, is a more interesting character than Lenny, the “yung pope” of all those memes. Just look at what Andrew did this episode: he got wasted at an awful dinner party, laughed hysterically when a Real Housewife of Rome stripped in front of him, went swimming with all of his clothes on, fended off a rape, traveled to Honduras, and got killed by a drug lord. Seriously, in just under an hour he had a whole life’s worth of tales to tell.
And what did Lenny do? He walked around dreaming about his parents, sniffed at a woman like he was a cocker spaniel introducing himself at the dog run, changed a diaper, and then decided that he’s going to quit being Pope. Just what is a young pope once he is no longer pope and getting older every day? He is absolutely nothing at all.
It seemed like the secondary characters were getting a whole lot more attention this episode than the man at the center. We had Andrew’s exploits and his guilt over the suicide of Angelo Sanchez, the young gay man he rejected to becoming a priest. That lead Andrew to shirk his duties and return to his life of sin in Honduras. Ultimately, he paid for that sin with his life, when the husband of the woman at the center of his bisexual three-way killed him.
Meanwhile, Sister Mary finally started to plot and plan like the rest of the people in the Vatican. Don Tomasso, who got in a sewer grate made to look like a confessional booth, told Sister Mary that the Pope no longer believes in God. She finally decided to use the piece of the pipe Lenny lost when he ran away from the orphanage to convince him his parents were coming back, and to distract him long enough so that the institution of the Church could be saved.
Cardinal Spencer, who has been depressed behind his rock star sunglasses this whole time, finally received a reason to hope for the future now that Voiello and Cardinal Caltanisetta (you know, the old one with the oxygen) told him that he would become the new pope when Lenny resigns. After Lenny tells him he’s giving up, he is literally practicing his acceptance speech in front of the mirror like Anne Hathaway did every single morning for the first 31 years of her life.
And we can’t forget Voiello, who decided to scam the Pope into signing an order to make it easier to ordain new priests after he made it nearly impossible. He admits he couldn’t get him to sign his resignation, but he had to do something to ensure his survival. I worry about Voiello, though, not only because he lounges around his apartment wearing a full soccer kit, but because his beloved Napoli squad lost what should have been an easy victory. Does that mean that defeat is imminent for our beloved mole-y Cardinal?
Though Lenny was thoroughly boring this episode, I’m beginning to think that he might be more hero than antihero. Tonight, he experienced two very important revelations. The first he expressed to both Spencer and Sister Mary: that his papacy is a failure. Everyone knew it wasn’t in the Church or the Lord’s best interest for him to impose such a strict doctrine, one so lacking forgiveness, on Catholics across the world. He’s finally realized this himself, and knows that something has to change.
There is a very obvious through line between his lack of faith and the strict rulings. There is also a straight line between his lack of faith and the loss of his parents. When Sister Mary gives him that bit of pipe, he starts to imagine his parents once again, but this time, instead of running away from him, they’re embracing him. Sure, it’s in front of that awful hill of dead babies, but it’s a sweet moment. But after the trick with the actors, he seems to give up on the idea that he’ll ever meet his parents.
That leads to his conversation on the turret with Andrew, when he says that a priest can never really grow up because he is always a son and never becomes a father. A very astute observation. But Lenny is starting to see himself as a father, cherishing the role he plays in young Pius’s life, even changing his extra heavy diaper. I can’t blame him. I would do just about anything to avoid listening to yet another person crucify “Hallelujah” in a reality TV show competition. (Seriously, can’t we get a papal edict barring that song from television for the rest of existence?)
We start to see the shift in Lenny’s personality when he confronts Sister Mary, knowing that she is the one who organized the plot to have his fake parents show up at the Vatican. At first he’s hunting down the guilty party, ready to have his retribution; but as he slowly changes, he thanks Sister Mary for this betrayal. He tells her it’s the only time he’s ever felt at home for a moment. Realizing they were fake may have been what he needed to let go of the idea of finding his parents forever. Now he can start to grow up on his own.
This all paves the way for his big breakthrough at the end of the episode: He witnesses the crying girl in the garden. She’s sitting in front of the same black Madonna where he was sitting at the end of episode three, when he told Gutierrez that he doesn’t believe in god anymore. She is most likely a manifestation of the Virgin Mary herself, or at least that is how Lenny imagines her. We know that Lenny has healed the sick and made a sterile woman give birth, so it seems that it would be possible for god to speak to him directly as well.
That is what he has been looking for all along. He’s spoken on several occasions, especially at the end of the first episode, about how he wants a concrete sign; he wants to hear the voice of god the way the Pope is supposed to. At his lowest point, when he has given up hope in everything else, the Lord finally appears to him. He has, in essence, found his father and mother—it is Jesus and his virgin mother Mary. By letting go of his earthly parents, he has found his heavenly ones.
Suddenly, Lenny is looking better than all of the other minor figures we rooted for. Andrew left when things get hard, abandoned the Lord, and was killed for it. Spencer is giving in to his vanity and pride and can’t help the figure he sees as a son when he needs it most. Voiello and Sister Mary used duplicity to achieve their aims, as noble as they might have been. They don’t receive redemption, but Lenny does.
Will he change direction for the church? Is he going to figure out how to revitalize the institution and create a new world of divine faith? I have a feeling that Lenny is going to get a couple of episodes of good works before the awful deeds he did earlier in his Papacy come back to destroy him.