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The Young Pope: “Episode Four”

by Tamara Winfrey
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This show continues to run on Ambien.

After another dreamlike sequence, it’s revealed that Tonino Pettola, a man with stigmata, actually exists and has been writing to the Vatican asking for an audience with the pope. Naturally, Lenny has been sending the mail back to him unopened, and is unmoved even after an emotional plea on television. He’s slouched on a sofa with a cigarette clinging to his lip like he’s bored out of his mind.


Bored Pope

I’m not sure why Tonino is even there, unless it’s to double down on Lenny not being into the cheesier parts of the church. A lot of stigmata have been shown to be self-inflicted, and when I ask Catholics about them I get a lot of eye-rolling. If the show wants to explore miracles and the supernatural, they picked the wrong category. I have a feeling that if Tonino becomes a recurring character, he’s going to be shown to be inflicting the stigmata upon himself. I mean, he DID think that the sheep was the Virgin Mary.

Cardinal Voiello is as much of a study in contrasts as Lenny is. He’s praying intently and visiting a severely disabled boy in his spare time. Then he is sneaking around again and showing up in people’s rooms like Batman. He is Batman with a raisin superglued on his cheek, plotting and scheming to get people into scandals, all for the good of the church.



This episode he is doing a creepy Aaron Sorkin walk-and-talk around a dining room table with Esther, then he is just standing there having tea in her house when she gets home later on. He pulled that in the last episode, too. I don’t know what kind of castle laws they have over there, but that’s how you get shot in my neighborhood.

Just one question: Voiello has referred to sugar as cane sugar a couple of times now, almost like it’s come kind of drug. Is that just how they say it in Europe, or is there something else I haven’t picked up on here?

I LOVE HOW THEY HANDLED THE NUN’S HEARING IMPAIRMENT. I couldn’t figure out why Lenny’s voice sounded like it was coming through a transistor radio, and then she adjusted her hearing aid, and it was so clear what had happened. There was artistic license there, so it wasn’t completely accurate. They used it to hint again that Lenny doesn’t believe in God, but I still loved the scene.

How Lenny handles her grief at her sister’s passing is very interesting. He counsels her, and even has the body brought to the Vatican. Then, in what seems like a heel-face turn, he berates her for crying. I’ve seen some people reacting to this thinking that he’s being cruel, and I can certainly understand why it seems that way. However, if you are Catholic, you believe, or you are supposed to believe, that when you have died, you are with God—you are where you are supposed to be. When Lenny says that we should stop crying at funerals, he doesn’t mean it as a cruel thing. It just comes across that way.

Lenny’s relationship with Esther is weird, even without the Ambien effect. Do people just hang out in the Vatican gardens and on the helipad like that? He teaches her how to pray, then he’s walking around the garden at night, and happens to walk by when she’s having sex with her husband Peter in the front room where Lenny can see everything. It’s this weird montage where they’re doing the mambo and Lenny is praying for them to conceive, but he keeps saying “You MUST, you MUST,” in rhythm with the mambo. Lenny has more issues than Vogue. He needs to watch out for her. Voiello wants her to try to seduce him to cause a scandal.


Greenland Visit

Did you know Greenland is where God resides? Also, Catholics are like Native Americans, and the Pope is very handsome. Lenny says so. Lenny has the same filter between brain and mouth as Prince Philip, and any diplomatic conversation with him is going to be exceptionally awkward. I’m not sure what the Greenland visit was about, but it seems Lenny was able to discern which Vatican officials were likely to be gay and which ones weren’t by who paid attention to the beautiful Greenland prime minister and who did not. And Lenny wants to get the gay priests out of the church.

We haven’t talked much about the Kurtwell case so far because we’ve been busy trying to get to know the characters and to get a feel for the show, but The Young Pope has already been approve for a second season, so there should be plenty of opportunity for further exploration. Archbishop Kurtwell is a gay priest who is accused of having sexually abused several children. Lenny wants to use this as a catalyst to remove all gays from the priesthood. Voiello, in a rare moment of sanity, tries to tell him that homosexuality and pedophilia are different things, and that this would eliminate two-thirds of the clergy, but Lenny is not having it.

So who does Lenny send to investigate Kurtwell? Someone who can’t even hail a cab– Monsignor Gutierrez, whom Voiello is blackmailing with his alcohol problem.

Does Lenny know what Voiello us up to?

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