I’ve said this before, but The Young Pope truly is a piece of art. However, this doesn’t mean it is an amazing show, one that should share the same company as shows like Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones. Like most pieces of art, The Young Pope is meant to be enjoyed and interpreted differently depending on the viewer. Like a Picasso or a Rembrandt, Paolo Sorrentino’s masterpiece will mean something different to anyone and everyone who watches. Some might find that the show’s use of elaborate scenes and exotic camera angles make it an Emmy-worthy series. On the other hand, some may feel that the show’s lack of a consistent plot left a lot to be desired.
After watching the final two episodes and evaluating the show as a whole, I find myself somewhere in between these two groups. For example, episode nine was as beautiful and emotional an episode as there has been but it still felt incomplete. I loved seeing Spencer and Lenny interact with each other in this episode because it gave us and idea of what their relationship used to be like. With Spencer on his deathbed, we got to see the person that used to be Lenny’s mentor, not the person jealous of his success.
Where the episode lost me, though, was when the story jumped to Cardinal Gutierrez and his quest to investigate the child abuse allegations against Archbishop Kurtwell. Not only did this take away from all the energy and sympathy Lenny started to gain, but also it was boring to see a character we ultimately don’t care about wonder the streets of New York. What’s worse is that that Kurtwell’s blackmail amounted to absolutely nothing.
The final episode of the season was a bit more interesting, but it still was less than I was hoping for. Impressed by the work he’d done, Lenny promoted Cardinal Gutierrez to his personal secretary and then banished Kurtwell to Alaska. Sister Mary also left the Vatican to take up Sister Antonia’s old position in Africa. I loved the final meeting between these two characters because it truly showed how much they both meant to each other.
Of course, the final episode also saw Lenny reveal himself to the public for the first time as well as collapse from an apparent heart attack. My favorite part of the episode, however, was when Lenny was persuaded to lead a tour of the Vatican to a group of children. Lenny’s inability to interact with children has been a running theme this season, whether it was when he dropped Esther’s newborn or his disgust with baptizing children. His uncomfortable nature around children continued in episode ten when he made the tour group cry. This running theme has been interesting because it seems to directly relate to Lenny also being so young. Does Lenny being around children remind himself that he is a young, inexperienced, and underqualified pope? Does the pyramid of babies tell us Lenny’s age is his true obstacle?
With The Young Pope being the show that it is, we will probably never know. Instead, it has been left up to interpretation. That’s what makes this show so compelling. It doesn’t try and make everything obvious or try and hold your hand through the scenes that are supposed to make you think. Yes, there were obvious plot holes and not as much drama as the show originally presented. In fact, the show was nowhere near the “political drama” I originally thought it would be. Instead, The Young Pope is a great example of what a “character drama” should be. Even if there isn’t another season (there originally wasn’t supposed to be) The Young Pope is a very rewatchable show because of the many small details and its emphasis on viewer interpretation. I would imagine that every time you re-watch this show you will walk away with a new realization. That’s when you know a show is a true piece of art.
Season one of The Young Pope was an interesting show that brought unpredictability and thought-provoking television to new heights. The plot itself felt uninteresting and unmotivated at times, but Paolo Sorrentino’s stimulating camera work and brilliant characters more than made up for it. Does the HBO drama deserve a second season? Most definitely, but I also understand why they would want to leave the show as is. Either way, The Young Pope may end up being one of the biggest surprises of 2017.
Episodes 9 and 10 – Score: 8/10
The Young Pope Season One – Score: 8.5/10