This is the prayer I muttered between my teeth. ‘Lord, I don’t care with what means; licit or elicit, they’re all fine. I don’t care about the holy spirit, whether he illumines me or not. I don’t care about anything. I don’t care about your opinions, if I’m up for the task, or if I’m an outsider or a long shot. I don’t care if you think I’m weak, or a scoundrel. I don’t care about loving my neighbor as myself. I will never love my neighbor as myself. I only care about one thing, Lord, that I — not the others — can be useful to you.’ I prayed some more, harder this time. I was praying so hard I nearly shit my pants. I had to glue my ass to the chair so as not to make a mess. I stared straight at Dussolier, I said ‘God, not him. Me’. I looked at Spencer and I said, ‘God, not him; me’. I must have chanted those words a thousand times before they opened the voting again. Like a mantra, ‘Not him; me. Not him; me. Not him; me’, and then, toward the end, ‘Not them; me’. And now, I’m the pope. Not them. Me … They all went white when they heard the name I’d chosen, I reveled in their fear. They’re beginning to realize who I am. Because that is the enormous error they committed; they chose a pope they didn’t know. And today, they began to understand … I spoke my new name, Pius XIII, and they forgot to thank God because they thought God had failed to illumine them. I forgot to thank God because I didn’t think God illumined them either. I love myself more than my neighbor, more than God; I believe only in myself. I am the Lord, omnipotent. Lenny, you have illumined yourself. Fuck.”
If Jude Law as Lenny Belardo aka Pope Pius XIII relating his prayer to Don Tommaso (Marcello Romolo) at the outset of The Young Pope‘s third episode doesn’t win him an Emmy, I’ll eat my hat or some such accouterment, because his performance is that excellent. If you prefer the new pope’s attitude in a wordless presentation, check out the excellent opening title sequence, (which first appears in this hour), and features Lenny walking past a series of 10 masterpieces to Devlin’s take on All Along the Watchtower.
I’ve already watched that way too many times, as well as the opening scene, which leaves one hard pressed not to think of a certain newly installed politician (though Paolo Sorrentino created this series long before that particular threat became credible). I’ve said it before, and I’m certain I’ll keep up through the rest of the episodes: Jude Law is nearly perfect in this role, and the rest of the cast isn’t far behind.
Following a stellar meltdown by would be shoo-in, Cardinal Spencer (James Cromwell), spewing and spitting his anger at Cardinal Voiello (Silvio Orlando) for his foolishness, installing an uncontrollable not-puppet who’ll have the church “in his clutches for a long time … The young are always more extreme than the old”, Lenny shares another prayer. Bedside this time, on his knees, the young pope trades clasped hands for … a smoking cigarette, as he yells his impassioned plea to a background techno beat, this is no solemn study on religion like you’ve ever seen before. Your laughter will only roll on and on as the scene switches to Cardinal Voiello’s lavish apartment, an adorable, be-throned pup watching over all as His Eminence scolds a young boy for misaddressing him and wanting to race his cars on a carpet that costs “Twice the GDP of your entire country”.
If you aren’t amused at what characters are saying, you’ll inevitably find yourself just as delighted by their expressions or visual sequences; it’s almost impossible (unless you’re truly offended, in which case you’d likely not watch at all) to not be entertained by this unique look behind the Vatican scenes. As Cardinal Voiello reminds, there are also serious matters to attend to; the child abuse scandal, Lenny’s (and others’) secrets, a blackmail plot and perhaps, “the most dangerous pope in modern times”.
The gorgeous production continues with flashbacks (and the final two episodes) shot in Venice, the introduction of Esther (Ludivine Sagnier), a married woman infatuated with Lenny, and some very interesting confessions.
“My jokes contain the truth.” Lenny, Pope Pius XIII
Cardinal Voiello: “You know something Holy Father, you are as handsome as Jesus, but you are not actually Jesus”.
Lenny: “I may actually be more handsome. Keep that to yourself”.
The Young Pope, Episode 4 airs tonight on HBO.