"The Young Pope" isn't what I thought it would be. It is weird, funny and compelling, and contrary to what many might think, it doesn't ridicule the Vatican.
The trailer of the HBO had me anticipating a show with a Frank Underwood in the church - you know, that show where the Pope is badass mean, manipulative, political and a rebel.
Accepted, this Pope is badass and a rebel, but, he is all these in a charming way. However, he is also too conservative for his age.
A pope dressed in his papal gown and crawling out from the bottom of a pyramid of babies in the show's opening sequence is the first pointer at its weirdness.
The series follows Jude Law as Pius XIII aka Lenny Belardo; the first American Pope in history, who was supposedly elected by the elderly cardinals as a puppet who they could manipulate. Except, Lenny isn't a puppet. He is a Pope who is more interested in using his authority to lead a revolution in the church. He doesn't care about public opinion, appearing in public, and sometimes, you almost believe that he doesn't even believe in God.
"The Young Pope" is funny and it relies on the power of its plot, humour and dialogue to keep the viewers entertained. However, just as the sexual content in HBO's "Game of Thrones" isn't for everyone, the humour in "The Young Pope" isn't for everyone as most of Lenny's actions and the show itself will leave some, baffled and even angry.
But, despite any of its flaws, "The Young Pope" is the best thing I've seen on Television this year. It's a show that goes deeper than the actions of a seeming autocratic Church leader. It's a show that is about loneliness, faith, self confidence and journey to self discovery. It explores feelings we are all familiar with.
As a young boy abandoned by his parents, Lenny transfers the anger he felt towards them to God and in turn the Church.
He has mixed feelings about the existence of God. He is torn between focusing on the moments God proved his existence [when he healed his friend’s mother] or when it seems like God won't grant him the miracle he yearns for [meeting his parents].
Jude Law's interpretation of the titular character is profound. Dressed in full papal regalia, towering in a godlike manner while addressing his Cardinals; Law is brutal and charming at the same time.
A Pope who refuses to show his face/address the faithfuls and prefers to be a mystery, a Pope who teaches a barren woman how to pray to God for a child, a pope who cries when he loses his mentor, a Pope who intimidates world leaders, this Pope is contradictory and unpredictable.
His speech in the finale is the only time he connects with the church as a whole in a way that is personal, inspirational, honest, humble and hopeful.
They also get to see his face for the first time.
Unlike "Game of Thrones" and "Westworld," there’s not exactly a dramatic and exciting ending to sustain your anticipation from one episode to the other. However, the silence, banter, dialogue, mix of electronic and classic music, slow pace of the plot and serene works for it and makes it easy to binge-watch.
And then, there's the cunning Cardinal Secretary of State, Angelo Voiello, who tries everything in his power to undermine Lenny's reign. His facial expressions are just enough reason to watch the show.
"The Young Pope" isn't what I expected. It is a show about a man who is human despite the enormity of his position. Beneath the Pope's cruel and arrogant image is a lonely and insecure man who is on journey to discovering himself, his belief in God and his ability to perform his expected duties.
"The Young Pope" is visually pleasing piece of work that didn't turn out to be what I expected. Nevertheless, it is what I needed to start off my 2017 TV fixation.