The opening credits to The Young Pope go as such: The titular Pope Pius XIII aka Lenny Belardo (Jude Law) walks down a hallway of religious paintings, each depicting a different biblical scene. As he passes them, the paintings light up and come to life, as if Belardo himself has the ability to unfreeze them from statis. Belardo is cool and collected as he walks — anyone who’s seen any of The Young Pope (which you can stream anytime on HBO Now), even just a trailer, gets that that’s kind of his whole vibe. At the end of the hallway and conclusion of the credits, he turns to the camera, breaking the fourth wall, and winks at the viewer. It’s perfect: A combination of cool and a little mystical, all set to Bob Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower.”
Except — hang on — it’s not… well, it’s sort of Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower,” but it’s really an instrumental version of British rapper Devlin’s “Watchtower” produced by Labrinth that samples both Dylan’s original and Jimi Hendrix’s riff from his own cover. It’s a remix through and through, kicked up a notch with a pulsating electronic beat surging through the background of it.
That’s the paradox of The Young Pope, Paolo Sorrentino’s new series airing on HBO, isn’t it? Usually popes are old, but this one is young. Catholicism is a stuffy, old religion, but he’s a revolutionary. There’s classical music, but hey, why not make some room for electronic music? In fact, The Young Pope has made the best use of electronic music in a television series to date, if only because it adds all of the appropriate tension needed for a show whose stakes are that high — like, “fate of the Catholic Church” high.