The Young Pope Popedown is a list of the five craziest and/or most notable things that happened in each episode of HBO’s The Young Pope, ranked from least to most crazy and/or notable. Like a countdown, but with popes.
5. The Pope settles all family business
Well well well, the season finale. The point when we, usually, would expect to see resolutions to various open plots, and maybe even have a show put a bow on the whole thing. A satisfying conclusion, if you will. But… is it fair to expect that from this show? Little has played out as we expected over the course of the season. The Pope identified an impostor by smelling her. The show morphed from a goofy tale of Vatican politics into an Italian art film about loneliness and abandonment. There was a kangaroo. Almost anything was on the table, really.
Which is why it was almost strange to see them go with the straightforward route. I mean, kind of. There was an extended vision of The Ghost of Popes Past that featured a pope who looked like Santa Claus giving Lenny advice. But after nine episodes of baby pyramids and nuns getting struck down by midnight truck stop prayers, that was like a B- on the nutso scale. Pope Santa could have turned into a turtle and it still wouldn’t have gotten above an A-. Nothing could have shocked me at this point.
Anyway, throughout the episode, Lenny made amends and evolved, learning various lessons from various mistakes, kickstarted largely by the release of his love letters, which, according to the news, more or less brought about world peace. (Sure.)
– Sister Mary is out as Secretary and off to replace Sister Antonia in Africa, helping the young and poor, and presumably not running a water cartel with local warlords. To replace her, Lenny taps Gutierrez, the former drunken hermit and now Lead Vatican Detective, who turns the job down in disgust due to Lenny’s treatment of gays and his own homosexuality. But then Lenny presents him with a riddle: If Lenny knows he’s gay, and still wants to promote him, does that not mean Lenny’s views are evolving? A-HA. Touché. Promotion accepted. Also, this happened.
– Kurtwell is dragged in and made to confess, and in doing so tells a much different and much darker version of the landlord story. Lenny, because this is what Lenny does, walks him over to the glowing globe and sends him to Alaska. Which, like, fine? I get that it sucks to go to Alaska, so it’s a decent punishment (jail would be better), but what about the people who live there? These poor folks keep getting the worst cardinals in the whole church, the latest of whom is a serial sexual predator. That seems unfair to them. What did they ever do to anyone?
– We find out that we’ll never find out what happened to the stigmata guy. Voiello won’t even tell his beloved young muse. This is infuriating. I must know. Did they fit him with cement shoes and throw him in the ocean? Is he in a dungeon? TELL ME, VOIELLO.
But even telling us they won’t tell us counts as a resolution, I guess. The only truly unresolved issue left at the end of the season is death of the kangaroo. No, I won’t let this go. Not even a mention of an investigation, or a funeral. Would it have been so hard to do that second thing and have Lenny give a heartfelt eulogy? I don’t think so.
4. We’re not so different, you and I
The angriest I have ever been at this show — well, the second angriest, as I have not gone to all-caps for this one — was in the finale when we got a scene of Lenny and Voiello playing pool. It’s not the pool that angered me. Quite the opposite, actually. My problem was that we didn’t get this scene until after the two of them made up and became friends. I was hoping for a tense scene between two adversaries, where the competition on the table serves as supplement to the larger competition between them for the future of the church. I wanted them to play a game of 9-ball with an important aspect of church policy on the line. I wanted Lenny to lean over the table with a cigarette between his lips and say “Five ball, side pocket” and then blast it in.
But mostly, I wanted Lenny to win a few games and then have Voiello offer to up the ante. Way up. Like, “loser has to resign.” And then I wanted him to pull an expensive, bejeweled box out of a closet, pull out two halves of a high-end pool cue, screw them together in silence, and then wipe Lenny clear off the table, like Uncle Phil in the Fresh Prince episode where Will gets in deep to a pool hustler. Uncle Phil’s weapon of choice was named Lucille. I am dying to know what Voiello would have called his hustler’s pool cue.
3. The Pope is a good tour guide
The Pope gets roped into giving a tour of the Vatican to a group of children. The tour (“tour”) lasts less than five minutes and consists of the following:
- The Pope tells the children it is raining because they made God sad
- The children begin crying
- The Pope chastises them for not having a sense of humor
- The Pope sticks his tongue out at them as they are ushered away.
2. Didn’t we almost have it all?
Have you ever seen anyone sadder than poor Voiello was when Sister Mary got on the chopper to go to Africa? The guy spent the better part of eight, eight and a half episodes being a duplicitous blackmailing creep who threatened to reveal sensitive personal information about people and basically turned sweet, simple Esther into a temptress, and yet, there I was, feeling bad for him that his star-crossed non-sexual love affair was coming to an end. It’s just… I mean… look at his face. He looks like a little boy whose best friend is moving away. I legitimately feel bad for him. And Sister Mary, too. I could have watched an entire episode of the two of them sneaking around the garden, stealing glances and holding hands, and then pushing each other away when they realize what people would say. They were like an old, celibate Romeo and Juliet, but if Romeo was a manipulative scoundrel and Juliet was a basketball-obsessed nun.
1. The Pope’s heart grew three sizes that day
Lenny bails on his Nicaragua trip to head to Venice. The parental hunt is on. But perhaps more importantly, Lenny is changing, which we see through the final speech he gives. It’s the polar opposite of his first. Where that one was secretive and filled with fear and theatrics, this one was simple and hopeful and open, his emotion-riddled face staring straight out into the crowd. It was a nice speech, and when he used his new cheapie viewfinder to spy out into the crowd to see his grumpy hippie parents turn and walk away (just now realizing this is my last chance to point this out, so here goes: Voiello’s pronunciation of “hippies” is delightful), he took it surprisingly well, all things considered, once he recovered from the mini cardiac event it caused him. So… actually, he did not take it well, I guess. Yeah, let’s go with that.
And then he had a second half a heart attack, passed out, saw Jesus in the clouds, and then the camera zoomed out from the Venice balcony where the Pope lay possibly dying straight out into friggin’ outer space and the entire season closed on a shot of Earth with the phrase “The End” on the screen, I swear to God, because The Young Pope stays The Young Pope, always and forever.