TV ReviewsThe New Pope (1×05) Episode 5 Review

Martin IzzardFebruary 10, 202060/100
Paolo Sorrentino
Paolo Sorrentino, Umberto Contrarello, Stefano Bises
Running Time
60 minutes
Mondays 9pm
HBO, HBO Canada
Overall Score
Rating Summary
A much less engaging episode than any others yet, it feels a bit like The New Pope is running out of steam and unless something big happens in episode six, we could be in for a second half that feels much more laborious.

For our review of the last episode of The New Pope, click here.

Synopsis: A brutal act of terrorism in France leads to an unconventional response from the pope that strikes a chord with the public. Feeling disconnected from her husband, Sofia reaches out to Brannox, who shares more of his personal history. Pius XIII’s followers flock to Venice when there’s a sudden change in his condition. (HBO)

Episode 5 opens with the aftermath of another terrorist attack, a series narrative that’s been mentioned but not necessarily explored. Throughout this episode, you get a few moments of hope that it’s going to become something more than a fleeting mention of something going on outside of the Vatican. And while The New Pope does address the attack, it quickly dissipates. 

Much of the humour and entertaining script that Malkovich’s John Paul III has been given is missing as we hit the halfway point of the series. Perhaps a reflection of his realisation that the papacy isn’t what he expected or something much harder than he thought it would be, this fifth episode has a decidedly downbeat feeling to it. This is well-used for some beautifully-shot, slow-paced and purposeful sequences but you have to hope it’s not a feeling that’s maintained for the series’ remaining episodes. 

What was intriguing about The Young Pope was its behind the scenes look at inside the Vatican but this new series has pulled back on that and the interesting playing of the internal politics that we saw in the early episodes of The New Pope have somewhat disappeared. 

This is perhaps due to the limited role for Cardinal Voiello in this episode, a character who was the best thing about the last few episodes. He’s the one that represents the vices of the men inside the Vatican and adds to the intrigue as he’s the one that’s really playing the political long-game within the church. So when his role in episode five is unfortunately drawn-back, that adds to the downbeat nature of this episode. 

We also see several conversations in which characters are starting to question his position as secretary of state and asking John Paul III to the same. The downfall of a character who’s put himself in a great position of power would certainly make for an interesting storyline but it would also add to the already half-addressed narratives happening in the series so far. 

The episode does introduce more for Law to do at least, as a radio station starts broadcasting the breathing from his hospital bed where he lays in a coma. Seen as the head of an increasingly-popular cult-like group, it certainly feels as though he’s set to wake up and shake things up, but for this to happen halfway through the series already feels too little too late. 

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