The Number Of The Beast
Opening on a startling death in the Curia refectory, witnessed by indifferent fellow cardinals, this episode, once has been established Pope Pius’ plan on destroying the Church (the What), lays the groundwork for his modus operandi (the How) and starts shedding some conflicting lights on his motivation to do so (the Why). “What did he die of?” asks a cardinal, still masticating his lunch. “Of old age, like our Church.” comes the answer.
Sorrentino then alternates between three highly symbolic scenes, so complementary in their purpose that you can positively hear him giggle on the back of the soundrack: the elevation of faithfull Bishop Guttierez to the rank of cardinal; Esther giving birth to her baby boy; and a crude glimpse on what Cardinal Dussolier is up to in Honduras, namely having a parting threesome with his two favorite members on his flock, the wife of the richest man in town and a muscular young man. The fact that Dussolier is the meat of this particular sandwich doesn’t augure well to his future in Roma, where he has been ordered to come back.
In starck contrast with the assembled Curia, the pope wears green for Guttierez ordination, but he’s back to Holy white when he visits Esther at the hospital. She has decided to name the boy after him, so the Pope blesses “Pius the Fourteen” before dropping him on the bed when he’s reminded that the Italian Prime Minister is waiting for him at the Vatican. It’s not directorial giggles you hear then, it’s the sound of your laughter: enjoy it while it last because what follows is all but funny.
The meeting with the young, handsome Prime Minister is more of a pissing contest than a courtesy visit. In full golden regalia, the Pope presents a list of request to the Head of Government, every one more outrageusement then the other. Pius XIII wants to put a term to abortion, to homosexual marriage, to sexual depravity within the Church, and as a cherry on the Holy Cake he wants the Vatican territory to be renegociated. The Prime Minister laughs at this delirious laundry list, only to be reminded that if he has been elected by men, the Pope has been elected by God. The Holy Father then threatens not only to reactivate an obsolete “Non Expedit” disposition, forbidding Catholics to vote at election time, but to appear for the first time on St Peter square to enforce its application, a media event like no other in modern history.
The How has become clear at this point: the Pope considers himself the second advent of Christ and he won’t compromise in any way. Franciscan monks alluding to a schism of their order become the object of his fury. Voiello laments about the drooling revenues of the Papal State, to no avail, but has a more urgent fish to fry when a police officer asks about a missing shepherd who happened to be in open conflict with the Vatican. Last but not least, Cardinal Dussolier definitely has a thing for both middle-aged women with expensive cosmetic surgery and altar boys; if the formers’ fate are left to the imagination – or the next episode – the latters are definitely in peril, since one throws himself from the roof of the basilica after his apllication for priesthood has been rejected on the grounds or his homosexuality. The Beast is unleashed, and his number is XIII…