The newly-elected Pope Pius XIII dreams he’s emerging from a pyramid of sleeping human babies. He awakens, decides what to wear, greets his flunkies and prepares to make his first address from Saint Peter’s Basilica.
Presenting as a statesman with oratorical skill to rival President Obama (he even sounds like him at one point; Jude Law does a great American accent) he exhorts the faithful to divorce, have fun etc.
Of course it’s all still part of his dream, although for Pius, it’s truly the stuff of nightmares.
So who is the fictional Pope Pius XIII??
…he’s young (and American)
“I’m an orphan. And orphans are never young,” he says.
His real name is Lenny Belardo, and he was left at an orphanage by unknown parents for unknown reasons, where Sister Mary (Diane Keaton), raised him.
He rose to be Archbishop of New York, and the protégé of James Cromwell’s Cardinal Spencer, who is angry at being passed over for Pope himself. We learn Pius was chosen to be a “photogenic puppet” – a bridge between progressive and conservative elements in the Church.
…he’s gone rogue, and is actually an arch-conservative
…At first nobody knows Pius’ thoughts on anything, right down to his breakfast choices. “All I have in the morning is a Cherry Coke Zero,” he says.
Would His Holiness care for a regular Diet Coke? “Let’s not utter heresies.”
When he finally does give his first papal address, it’s fire and brimstone. He doesn’t want any “part-time believers”. Intolerant of homosexuality, fiercely anti-abortion, he intends to remain elusive, the Invisible Pope, unseen by anyone outside his inner circle.
He fires the Vatican’s official photographer, and for his first address there will be no lighting, no cameraman. The faithful must only see a dark shadow.
Needless to say he’s going to make himself very unpopular with the press, the church, a billion or so Catholics, all other faiths…etc.
…sometimes The Young Pope is like a documentary set at a glossy fashion mag.
Watching Pius XIII stalking the Vatican corridors with his shades on, all he needs is a handbag and he’d be Anna Wintour. He describes himself as “intransigent, irritable, vindictive.”
And he really puts his mark on the papal wardrobe. Red shoes? Check. He’s even decreed that the papal tiara is IN this season. And the best thing of all? That soundtrack. Divine.
…is he worth the time?
Trailers may indicate a stylish drama full of political intrigue, but if you’re expecting House of Cards in the Vatican, you’ll be disappointed.
Surreal moments come as thick and fast as Sistine Chapel smoke. There’s the already infamous kangaroo, and Pius messing with that poor priest’s head about being a secret atheist.
At times it feels like the series toys with the viewer – could he be an alien? The Antichrist? Nope and nope, I’d guess.
Many Twitter users said they couldn’t understand Paolo Sorrentino’s swirling ten-hour art movie. But episodes five, six and seven are some of the best television I’ve seen, as scheming cardinals, slimy politicians and insubordinate monks all get their comeuppance.
As even Pius’s surrogate mother and biggest supporter, Sister Mary, fears that his papacy is a calamity for both the man and the future of the church, can a man with his own personal demons be the spiritual leader of a billion people?