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. Goodbye, Voiello, probably
It appears to be the end of an era. Cardinal Voiello, the savvy backroom operator, the man who knows everything about everything, the possessor of a righteous mole that is glued to the face of the actor who plays him every single day, is leaving his post as Vatican Secretary of State. Not by choice, though. Never by choice. No, he is being pushed out by The New Pope, Malkovich himself, for what the pontiff described in the moment as “hundreds of reasons, probably,” but which mostly boil down to two: He knows too much and he, uh, assassinated the previous pope.
The first one is a problem because, surprise, there’s a coke-fueled orgy taking place between the finance minister, another cardinal, a high-ranking Italian politician, and an underage teen schoolgirl, and the Vatican wants it covered up because it was “required” to achieve important tax relief and keep the Church afloat. Voiello, a master of blackmail, is therefore too dangerous to keep around. The second thing has not yet been proven but is true and is something that everyone on the show has really been glossing over lately, like they’ve all forgotten about it and moved on, which is pretty funny.
As his last act, he visited the striking nuns and solved their problems one at a time, revealing once again that he knows everything about everything, including secret pregnancies and worrisome lumps on breasts. The best was how he asked the pregnant nun to name the baby Angelo, after him, boy or girl. “Name your child after me” is a heck of a bold move. I have no choice but to respect it.
The surprise here isn’t that this series introduced a creepy pale dude in an eyepatch who eats green beans seductively and taps his custard with a spoon in a way that is somehow revolting and whose calling card is a threat delivered via cockroach. No, the surprise here is that it took them until the second season to introduce a creepy pale dude in an eyepatch who eats green beans seductively and taps his custard with a spoon in a way that is somehow revolting and whose calling card is a threat delivered via cockroach.
I hope this guy and the vaping assassin become friends. I hope they get an apartment together. I hope they already have an apartment together and we just haven’t seen it yet. Do a whole bottle episode there next week that’s just them arguing about what to watch on television. See what I care.
3. The pope’s big interview went poorly
Some notes on Pope Malkovich, who is not having a very good time right now:
- Agreed to a big interview on live television
- Did not ask for his fancy gold bedside box the evening before
- Began struggling to answer questions during the interview, at which point we discovered that he was going through withdrawal, which appears to settle the issue of the mystery box’s contents: drugs, probably some sort of opiate, considering a) he’s not doing uppers to get to sleep, and b) just his whole emo vibe, in general
- The interviewer asked him about his dead brother, who we learned died after becoming ill during a ski trip, which is not nearly as dramatic as I expected the whole situation to be and has me convinced there’s more to the story
- The interviewer asked about the sexual abuses and scandals in the church
- The sad mopey dope-sick pope got up and walked out of the room without answering the question
- On live television
- Which seems like maybe not the best thing to do
- And like it might have consequences down the road
- And also, his chief of staff are finance guru are having coke orgies with a schoolgirl, which is something I feel like I should mention again just so it doesn’t get lost in the whole Eyepatch Guy business
2. Let’s check in with Ester aaaaaaand she’s choking out an old lady
The last time we checked in with Ester, the Young Pope’s platonic muse and mother of a miracle baby, she was toying with the idea of taking large sums of money to provide a kind of sexual surrogacy to a wealthy woman’s developmentally disabled son. Since then, and I do apologize for resorting to bullet points in two consecutive sections but there’s almost no way around it, the following has happened:
- She accepted the job
- She started seeing more clients, but, like, all at once, while the weird rich mother looked on, which is somehow not even a top-five strangest thing in this episode
- The mother called her a saint for doing the work
- The mother then saw her son hug Ester in a very loving, non-sexual way
- The mother fired Ester and gave a weird speech that seemed to imply only she can love her son
- Ester offered to keep coming for free because she realized the work fulfilled her
- The mother insulted her
- Ester choked the mother out on a balcony and ran off thinking she killed her
- The mother woke up the next morning
Give The New Pope this, if nothing else: This is not a storyline you’re going to see on, like, Blue Bloods. The show is sui generis, one of one, for better and worse, sometimes at the same time. We must protect it at all costs.
1. The Young Pope has been in a coma for six full episodes
It is profoundly funny to me that The Young Pope, Lenny Belardo himself, has been in a coma for the entirety of this season, save a few dream sequences where he’s appeared in visions to offer advice or approving/disapproving glances. The show really went and brought Jude Law back and then proceeded to stick him in an Italian ICU under a neon cross and have him sigh into an oxygen mask for over half the season. The audacity of that is both startling and inspiring. They’ve even given us like six false starts where his finger will move or someone will go running into or out of the room like something important is happening but then, at the beginning of the next episode, there he is, still in the coma. It’s tremendous. I hope he never wakes up.
At the end of this episode, after Malkovich stumbled out of his interview, the candle in Lenny’s room extinguished itself and most of the lights went out. Ordinarily, this would be a bad omen. But last week, a huge gross hellworm crawled down his arm and, while that also seems like a bad omen, he was right back to the same place this week, unharmed, barely changed. I’m convinced they’re just trolling us now. It’s like if a guy you know bought a helicopter and kept it under a tarp for a full month, then took the tarp off for a day, then woke up the next morning and put the tarp right back on without ever flying it. It is legitimately hilarious to me. I’m so proud of everyone involved.