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The Young Pope #5 (2016)

I Am Sexy And I Know It

Most series reaching midway experience an air hole, usually punctuated by the second best cliffhanger of the season; not this one. Asking a incongruous but simple question: “How easy is it to be God?”, Episode 5 mixes obedience and perversity in Sorrentino’s equally imperious and empathetic way: this Pope’s puzzle gets a prominent missing piece with the arrival of his tiara from America, and as the master of symbols that both character and director are, this milestone in Pius XIII’s pontificate reverses power dynamics in the Holy Father’s dance with Cardinal Voiello. Also, the long-belated address to the Curia starts on techno within the Sistine Chapel, in full regalia. Once again, one pictures Fellini smiling wildly wherever he is now. Bless bim.

There are even less ways than ever to anticipate what will pop up next in the series’ plot; power shifts continuously, as power does, in an exhausting game only monsters with a mission can uphold. The Holy Father’s confessor, in one of their rooftop nightwatches, seems pretty much drained of any energy by now, zombified by apocalyptic views. He’s the Pope’s confidante, and what he has to hear about Pius XIII’s intended revolution casts a godly fear on his soul. Well, that was the intention, wasn’t it?

Savantly amalgamating past and present, this episode, including its vaporetto prologue, reveals a bit more about the Pope’s childhood, meaning not much. Apart from admirable editing, there is a life lesson to be studied here: if you can take the boy out of the orphanage, you can’t take the orphanage out of the boy. Its constraints are indeed unlimited, as proven by Pius XIII and his brother’s brief visit to a hotel lobby resulting in a hooker taking his picture on a cellphone. This Pope is definitely a strange Pope.

Utterly terrifying dialogue resonates within the Holy See. “I want great love stories for God. I want fanatics for God. Because fanaticism is love.” is the essence of the Pope’s address to the cardinals. He’s updating the Word, the way some other holy dignitaries reshapes another one. There is a suicide bomber in the Vatican, and you can’t miss him, as he’s the one wearing the apostolic tiara in the Sistine Chapel.

Cardinal Spencer, having been broken down to smithereens of faith, is the first one to bow to the Pope’s will, and he’s followed by Voiello, in a holy/kinky sub/dom seance following an equally weird seduction scene turned fertility prayer lensed by Church-sanctioned paparazzi. One should apologise for taking so much time for reviewing The Young Pope’s¬†first season; but there is so much to take in that taking the scenic road really is one’s only option.

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