The more I watch The Young Pope the more I realize how unique and refreshing a show it is. It’s the first show since Breaking Bad that seemingly prides itself on having a bold visual style and subtle uses of symbolism. Paolo Sorrentino’s use of elaborate scenes and exotic camera angles makes the show a true piece of art and not just another expensive cable drama. Episodes seven and eight did a particularly good job of bringing Sorrentino’s vision to life even with the characters at their lowest points of the series.
First off, I never expected the characters of this show to reach such a low point. Sure, there were going to be certain people who would have to deal with not getting what they wanted, but to have almost every major character in a different state than they were when we were first introduced to them is very surprising. Right now, no one is winning. For example, episode five saw Lenny reach rock bottom after discovering the people he thought were his parents were actually hired actors. And, I can’t blame him. Could you imagine being an orphan all your life and getting a chance to meet your parents face to face only to the realize it’s all a ruse?
People might think that this was an important scene for Lenny’s character because it shows he is human and has a soft side. What it really shows, however, is that Lenny just hasn’t matured yet. His unconventional childhood left him empty and he hasn’t been able to fill the void. When Lenny fell into the position of being the pope, he was given more power and responsibility that he was mentally and emotionally able to handle.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the series thus far, however, was the death of Dussolier. The Young Pope was the last show I would have expected to kill off a character. In fact, this might be my biggest complaint of the show so far just because of how random it felt. Yes, Dussolier was in a very dark place after the death of Angelo Sanchez, but to have him killed by a drug lord seems a little out of left field. Also, he was just starting to grow as a character so it’s a little disappointing that his story abruptly ended.
Unfortunately, episode eight wasn’t quite the follow-up I hoped for. In the first episode away from the Vatican, Lenny heads to the pope’s summer palace for a vacation and then takes a trip to Africa. It was a pretty stale episode and I think it could have used the emotional state of the characters more to its advantage. Plus, Sister Antonia felt more like a distraction than a valuable character to the story. However, I thought Spencer’s character completely transformed in this episode and did a lot to explain who Lenny really is.
But, the best thing about episodes seven and eight was Sorrentino’s continued use of excellent visuals. The best moment from these two episodes was at the beginning of episode eight when Lenny was at the bottom of the pool praying for Dussollier. The way Lenny looked frozen in time, not a single air bubble escaping him, was powerful and absolutely amazing to look at. I also loved how the pyramid of babies made a return, but this time even bigger. These two episodes were full of bold and unique visuals and it was such a pleasure to watch.
With only two episodes remaining, it will be interesting to see where things go, especially for Lenny. This is one of the few shows where I have no thoughts going into the final episodes. Literally, anything could happen. If there is one thing I want to see, though, it’s some real growth and awareness from Lenny.