The ‘New Pope’ Popedown: Get Ready For An Extremely Emo Pope Malkovich

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. Seducing John Malkovich


Well, the Church has problems. A lot of problems. As laid out by Voiello, the Vatican Secretary of State and truly excellent mole-haver, these problems include but are not limited to:

  • Rising Muslim extremists threatening acts of terrorism against members of the hierarchy
  • A number of disquieting sex scandals
  • Growing idolatry of Pope Pius, The Young Pope, who remains in a coma and whose legend continues to grow as Ester, the Vatican guard’s wife from last season, runs around telling anyone with a camera what a miracle worker he is
  • Questions about the death of Pope Francis, which are very reasonable, considering Voiello conspired to have him assassinated in the first episode of this new season

And so, Voiello and his crew of weasels and schemers are off to England to attempt to convince Sir John Brannox, as aristocrat and philosopher and believer in the middle way of religious doctrine to become the next pontiff. It’s a seduction, really.

Speaking of seduction…


This is a woman named Sofia, who is along for the trip with the Cardinals and is a powerful figure in the Vatican and whose partner is an even more powerful figure who desperately wants a Pope in his pocket. They have an interesting relationship. The first time we saw them together, he was fully nude and masturbating onto her fully clothed body in the bathroom. Later in the episode, they had phone sex, to whatever degree “she said ‘lick me’ and then pressed the phone into her loins and proceeded to have a writhing orgasm in Sir John Brannox’s castle, even though I don’t think that’s how phones or writhing orgasms work” counts as phone sex.

It says a lot about The New Pope that it found a way to up the ante after having a nun pleasure herself to climax while lying next to the comatose Young Pope in the premiere. What an incredible television program.

4. Meet Sir John Brannox, an emo aristocrat who lives in a castle…


This is awkward for me. It is quite literally my job to write words in this box to explain John Malkovich as Sir John Brannox to you, and yet, here I am, so hopelessly overcome with joy about this character that I’m flailing around like a beached sea creature. I will give it a shot, though.

John Brannox is a clinically depressed English nobleman and member of the Catholic Church who lives in a huge castle on a stunning estate and wears wondrous colorful suits exclusively. The first time we see him, he is sitting on a fainting couch and sighing out a window while wearing a purple suit. He then gets up and crosses the hall to another fainting couch where he strikes the pose above. He lives with his elderly, sickly parents, both of whom sit outside for nine hours every day and stare at the grave of his twin brother, Adam, who died over 30 years ago and whose death they blame on John.

Here are some things John Brannox says during the episode:

“So here we are faced with the frightful task of having to converse.”

[on what makes him weep] “The inexhaustible imperfection of the world.”

“That joke is terribly funny even though I did not laugh.”

“I am a fragile and delicate man.”

I love him so much. He wears eyeliner and sulks around in preposterous suits that cost more than your mortgage payment and plays the harp and brings everyone’s mood straight into the dumps with him. At various points, he is described as “fragile,” “porcelain,” and “made of velvet,” which also sounds like how you’d describe the toilet in Prince’s house. When someone asks him to define love, he starts his answer with “a vagrant lies dying on a street corner…” He’s so incredibly fancy and emo, and Malkovich is just gorging on the scenery to play him, in the best way possible.

Here are some other screencaps of him.


I can’t wait for him to become Pope.

3. … and appears to be a former punk rocker


I have two good ideas for movies that would be terrible. The first is called Clone Heist and is about a master thief who needs to pull off one last big job but his crew is all dead or in jail so he finds scientists and makes five clones of himself to form the team, with the twist being that each progressive clone gets a little dumber. It’s basically Ocean’s Eleven crossed with the Michael Keaton movie Multiplicity.

The second one is called Pope Swap. It’s about a rock star and the Pope swapping bodies after wishing on the same falling star. (ROCK STAR: I wish people took me seriously. POPE: I wish I could have more fun. BLAMMO.) Hilarity ensues.

I bring these up now for a couple of reasons: One, because I like bringing them up; two, because, if these pictures in this screencap are to be believed, Sir John Brannox, the saddest boy in the land, the future Pope himself, had a dalliance with hardcore British punk rock in his youth, and he may or may not have been in a band.

2. The Young Pope is now a guardian angel????


For reasons including “because you don’t cast Jude Law and leave him in a coma for two full episodes” and “because this show whoops ass,” Pope Pius appeared throughout the episode as a kind of guardian angel, comforting a gay Vatican official named Gutierrez after he declined the sexual advances of another member of the crew, and lighting a fire in Voiello’s fireplace on a cold night, and rolling Sofia over after she FaceTimed herself into nirvana, and sliding Sir John Brannox’s golden bedside sleeping box away from him as he prepared for slumber. What was in the box? Drugs? A flash drive with the collected works of My Chemical Romance on it? A mystery!

Anyway, please note that we are two episodes into this season and, assuming Sir John accepts the invitation to become Pope, we will be on our third Pope:

Pius — In a coma, appearing as a ghost in visions

Francis — Assassinated after like a week for feeling himself too much

Sir John Brannox — Mopey harp-playing noble who wears makeup and is more dramatic than all of the works of Shakespeare combined

This should be the highest-rated show on television.

1. Did John Brannox kill his twin brother?


I have no proof of this and no reason to suspect it beyond this curious statement that was delivered with no provocation whatsoever, but I think it would be a fun theory to get cooking on Reddit. Let’s work on that between episodes.

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