The ‘New Pope’ Popedown: The Popes Settle All (Most) Family Business

The New Pope Popedown is a list of the five craziest and/or most notable things that happened in each episode of HBO’s ‘The New Pope,’ ranked from least to most crazy and/or notable. Like a countdown, but with popes.

5. Voiello is undefeated

The champion has returned. After a few weeks of trimming flowers in a greenhouse and the sad passing of his beloved Girolamo, Voiello — that duplicitous operator, that treacherous rascal — is back. And he is wasting no time in destroying his enemies. Let’s take a quick look:

— He forced out the new Secretary of State with blackmail involving homosexual affairs — which he referred to as “unseemly somersaults” — and an audio recording of the guy saying “I detest children and orphans” (a hilariously mean sentence that I adore), and then banished him to Kabul.


— He forced out the three-headed evil church/state snake with blackmail about the ongoing coke-fueled orgies they’d been having with an underage schoolgirl, which all made perfect sense in the context of the show but is a heck of a thing to see all typed out in one sentence like this.

— He discovered Lenny woke up from his coma and immediately started working with him on his dramatic re-rollout, which involves blurry photos and denials and a kind of Bigfoot-style mystery that seems like a lot of fun.

Also, very shortly after meeting the risen Young Pope and going over this plan, he started peppering Lenny for any information the coma provided about his beloved soccer team. Voiello is the greatest. We love him.

4. The New Pope has retreated to the papal ski chalet


Well, The New Pope has fled the Vatican for a scenic ski chalet after he went through heroin withdrawal during a live television interview about the sex abuse scandals in the church, and he’s moping around spectacularly, and he just revealed that he stole his famous treatise — the thing that launched him into the upper echelon of Catholic scholars — from his dead twin brother, and he revealed that his twin brother is dead because he was too strung out on heroin to get help after a ski accident resulted in a head wound, and his dog died in a terrorist attack, and he was being blackmailed by one cardinal and covering up the drug orgies of another cardinal and his finance minister, and he has to deal with the freaking Young Pope waking up from his coma and coming back to the Vatican with plans to chat about the future.


On the bright side, someone leaked pictures of him as a young punk rocker and they made the cover of Vanity Fair and everyone loved it. And Sofia showed up and helped him put on his eye makeup. And he has a lot of very nice hats and sweaters. So he’s got that going for him. Not all bad.

3. The Young Pope’s fridge is stocked


Lenny Belardo made his triumphant return to Rome this week to kick off the Sasquatch ruse we discussed above and begin to sort out the power dynamic between him and Brannox now that we have a Two Living Popes situation. This is all fine and good and I am legitimately excited to see how it all plays out next week. Lenny is such a charismatic figure and Brannox is such a mopey sucker. They both have tough childhoods in their past and fractured relationships with their families (Lenny because he’s an orphan whose parents abandoned him to go be hippies, Brannox because of the “whoops I’m too blasted on heroin to save my brother after a ski accident” thing) but, beyond that, they couldn’t be more different. Should be a fascinating conversation.

None of which is the point of this section. The point of this section is that Lenny’s fridge is absolutely loaded up with cans of his beloved Cherry Coke Zero upon his return. It is a source of great joy in my life that this show has now extracted two seasons worth of jokes about his love of this soda. So much is happening everywhere all the time on this show — the sitting pope was being blackmailed about his drug habit and there was a drug-fueled orgy that involved high-ranking church figures that was completely unrelated to that first thing — but they will never fail to get in a little soda joke. I don’t see how you can do anything but respect it.

2. Look at these freaking guys


The New Pope, like The Young Pope before it, deals with very deep, very serious matters like loss and abandonment and loneliness and an individual’s relationship with God, both personal and through organized religion. It is beautifully shot and often stunning to look at and occasionally as profound as anything on television.

It also, sometimes, features a vaping assassin and a menacing priest with an eyepatch threatening a teenager who is suspected of a terrorist act and then later showing up in the aftermath of a drug orgy with pictures and video and demands of resignations. They might be my favorite characters on this show. I would watch an entire season about them navigating the seedy underbelly of Rome. I promise I am not joking about this. It is wonderful.

1. A theory of murder by miracle


You can be forgiven if you forgot there was a pope between the Young Pope and the New Pope. His name was Francis and he was assassinated. It says everything you could ever need to know about these shows that a pope was assassinated and it’s like the 15th most important thing that happened this season. People barely talk about it. It’s wild.

The prevailing wisdom was that the assassination was the work of Voiello and his vaping assassin, who has a name (Bauer) but who cares? Well, it is my great pleasure to report to you that now, as of this week, Bauer the Vaping Assassin claims that he was beaten to the murder by, you guessed it, Lenny Belardo, the Young Pope himself, who killed the pope via miracle by wiggling his finger while in a coma. Everyone is serious about this.

We are staring down a potential murder by miracle. And the episode ended with a long shot of Jude Law and his bare rump standing butt naked in an empty swimming pool as he stared at his robes, after a full episode of him wearing his all-white papal tracksuit that probably has at least one old Cherry Coke Zero stain on it. Jude Law and John Malkovich are about to have a showdown. Everyone has remarkable outfits.

What a tremendous television program.

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