If there was anybody questioning who Lenny is on the show and what he is to the show, episodes five and six of The Young Pope quickly answered them. As the first half of the season wrapped up, it has become very clear that Lenny is a dominant force, a master at the mind games, and someone who can’t be intimidated. He’s a villain that may not be able to be stopped.
Someone who’s tried to undermine Lenny throughout the show has been Cardinal Voiello but his blatant disregard for the new pope was ultimately challenged in episode five. Lenny showed why he is a tough man to mess with when he made it known to Voiello that he’s been on to him the whole time. Lenny knew about Voillo’s attempt to blackmail him, he knows what’s going on with Gutierrez, and most importantly, he knows no one can challenge him. In turn, Cardinal Voiello completely rolls over for Lenny. One of the best lines of the whole season came in this episode when Lenny was berating Voiello and he says, “Your old methods only work on old popes, who are afraid of losing consensus. They don’t work with me, I am the young pope.” I thought this line was perfect. It not only reaffirmed to the audience who Lenny is but it also officially announced to Cardinal Voiello and the rest of the Church that he is here to stay.
Lenny made it even more official in this episode when he decided to finally address the cardinals in the Sistine Chapel. It was a powerful scene that essentially cemented Lenny as a papal dictator. We saw everything from Lenny giving a convincing speech about his conservative plans for the Church and forcing the cardinals to kiss his feet, to Lenny picking out his papal outfit to LMFAO’s “Sexy and I Know It”. Paolo Sorrentino has done an amazing job of creating a deep and thought-provoking show that doesn’t take itself too seriously and isn’t afraid of a little comic relief.
Episode six showed us a nine-month jump in time that saw a cardinal die at the breakfast table, Esther give birth (and Lenny subsequently drop the baby), and Ozolins leading Mass in the middle of snowy Alaska. After what seemed like business as usual at the Vatican, Lenny finally got down to some serious business and showed us what a Pius XIII papacy entails. He outlawed any gay priests in the Church and has clamped down on the celibacy vow every priest takes, but per Lenny, also breaks.
But, what episode six might have done the best was establish Lenny as a master of the political mind games. After learning of the Vatican’s dire financial issues and loss of followers, Lenny has a sit-down with the Italian prime minister. This encounter saw Lenny intentionally arrive late, dress in his most extravagant papal attire and present a series of strict and conservative demands, all for the purpose of intimidation. On the other hand, the prime minister is a progressive and secular political bad boy who wants to modernize Italy and remove the power and influence the Catholic Church has in the state.
This scene was amazing because it featured two young and handsome alpha leaders who are good at getting what they want. At first, it seemed like we finally met someone who could challenge Lenny, but as it turned out, Lenny had too many tricks up his sleeve. He told the prime minister that he has no problem revealing himself to the public right before the upcoming election and announce a “non expedit” which would keep Italian Catholics from voting. This would essentially ensure that the prime minister would lose the election and reestablish the Catholic Church as a political power in Italy.
In the end, this meeting seemed to have rattled the prime minister but he still seems like the biggest threat to Lenny and his papacy. The way these two can command a scene together is amazing and It will be interesting to see how this relationship develops. I would love to see the prime minister become Lenny’s biggest adversary.
Right now there is so much going on in The Young Pope that it can be challenging to make sense of it all. There are characters that have become impossible the read, several schemes being planned, and numerous conflicts beginning to emerge. For many shows this would be considered an epic mess of a story, but not for The Young Pope. Paolo Sorrentino has created a show that is soaked in mystery and confusion and somehow it works. Like the show itself, viewers shouldn’t take it too seriously and just enjoy the show for what it is.