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The Young Pope #4

May The Foe Be With You

The Young Pope is a miracle in the true sense of the term (not the paganistic fantasy depicted in overture of this episode) for its very boldness: what, it asks, if the Catholic Church had a Holy Father who would not only be Word, but Flesh, and as such flesh would be planning the kind of revenge only available to an absolute sovereign? What, to be more specific, if the Pope was Darth Vador dressed all in white?

Equaling homosexuality and paedophilia is, paradoxically, something only the Church -whatever it is – would initiate, being guilty of both, not necessarily together. In episode 4, Pope Pius XIII’s agenda is becoming clear and it’s no less than destroying the Catholic Church. For that, he’s using a very simple method: turning its lies and base urges (greed, lust, power) against itself, with a blunt brutatily which is all but stupid. There is, in fact, a mole in the Vatican, and it’s the Holy Father. “Jesus Christ!” let Sister Mary escape at some point; “If only I were” comes the answer.

Sister Mary is otherwise absent from what is a quintessential mid-season episode, completing the exposition of the main characters and plot with a deft harmony between scenes, some gracious, some ferocious, some both. The initial exchange between the Blessed Father and a Sri-Lankan nurse is shokingly cruel, but balanced by an unexpected act of kindness: this Pope has a plan, but it has his fancies, too. Those certainly do not include church rituals, especially baptism, to which a very funny side scene is devoted.

Esther is tasked by Cardinal Voiello to seduce Pius XIII. “I’m not such a seductress”, she objects, only to be answered “Neither was the Virgin Mary”. The Young Pope‘s range is indeed broad, from Fellinian anti-clericalism to Spinoza-inspired casuistics, not to forget football as the unofficial religion of Italy and Berlusconi-style TV. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister of Greenland visits, giving the Pope an opportunity to use both his own brand of gaydar and his ability to make anyone feel instantly, intensely, very uncomfortable. The Mad Shepherd quietly torments his flock, gloating at he watches them smile and squirm in equal measures.

“The punishment of God is never over beauty, never”, says the Pope to Esther while he, at her demand, teaches her how to pray, a beautiful phrase that doubtlessly flew naturally for the author of maybe the best movie of this young century, The Great Beauty. One will take the risk of drooling by saying once again The Young Pope is essential viewing. More than opinion, this is belief, or even faith.

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