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TV ReviewsThe New Pope (1×01) Episode 1 Review

Martin IzzardJanuary 14, 202075/100
Director
Paolo Sorrentino
Writers
Paolo Sorrentino, Umberto Contarello & Stefano Bises
Rating
TV-MA
Running Time
58 minutes
Airs
Mondays 9pm
Channel
HBO, HBO Canada
Overall Score
Rating Summary
The first episode starts slow as it sets up the new season’s storyline, it picks up in its second half, continuing with the stylisation and deliberate manner of its predecessor and displaying just how much that style will be a part of this follow-up series. 

Synopsis: Following his sudden heart attack, Pope Pius XIII lies in a coma while his followers fervently pray for a miraculous recovery. As the threat of terrorism and the potential risks of Pius’s idolatry loom, Secretary of State Cardinal Voiello is pressured to bring a new pope to power and, with the conclave at a deadlock, makes a hasty move that throws the Church into even greater chaos. (HBO)

After the first series finishing with a cliff-hanger of a final scene in which Jude Law’s Pope Pius XIII was seen having a heart attack, HBO’s Papal drama The Young Pope is back with a second series with a different name. The titular duties have moved on from Law’s Young Pope to The New Pope as John Malkovic enters the fray.

The New Pope features nine one-hour episodes, a running time which marks a show’s confidence in itself. And if there’s one thing that The Young Pope had going for it, it was confidence, with the same being true for this second series.

While the first episode starts slow as it sets up the new season’s storyline, it picks up in its second half, continuing with the stylisation and deliberate manner of its predecessor and displaying just how much that style will be a part of this follow-up series.

Audiences spend the first 20 minutes pondering over whether cardinals inside the catholic church should look to the need to install a new Pope as Pius lays in a coma after several failed heart transplants. This is followed by another 20 minutes of some incredibly beautifully-shot scenes of the Cardinals voting inside the Sistine Chapel where Silvio Orlando returns as the brilliantly cast Cardinal Angelo Voiello to try and get himself elected as the new leader of the church.

As the first series did, The New Pope is a series that requires a high level of concentration throughout. Without it, the pace might feel like a self-indulgent and the stylisation verging on smug. But immersing yourself in it for an hour at a time turns the whole experience into something far more likeable, something that’s very much on display in this first episode. There are a lot of knowing looks and subtle moments in the script that could easily be missed which have a big impact on how you view the characters going forward.

Once the episode establishes itself and reminds audiences that they’re in for a beautifully-crafted ride, the script moves faster and the dialogue picks up pace into something quite charming that will hopefully be maintained throughout the other eight episodes.

Such is the immersion in the world of the series, the episode’s absence of Law in a TV show starring Law is actually something you don’t think about until a very important plot moment at the end. It’s nice that the series has enough confidence in itself and in what’s to come that it didn’t feel as though it needed to rush Law back to the screen. Though this could be lulling some people into a false sense of security because it’s easy to see Pope Pius XIII as a character that some would find deeply unlikable.

It’s always tough to try and define a series’ positives and negatives solely based off of one episode and because of creator / director Paolo Sorrentino’s deliberate filmmaking style, The New Pope in particular feels like it could change audience opinion on a weekly basis.

But if it keeps up with the level set in episode one, we should be okay.



Find me on Twitter and Instagram as @Martin_Izzard and at TalkAboutMovies.co.uk.

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