Ready For A Pope-Off on HBO

Two Popes, no waiting! That’s what we’ve got on the season finalé of The New Pope (9pm ET Monday on HBO). And after watching the first eight episodes, I have no idea what I’m gonna get.

There are so many seemingly disparate storylines this season that I assume will converge. Rebellious cloistered nuns. Sexual tension between the priests. Dog-killing terrorists. Some bizarro Italian guy pimping out the woman who had a miracle baby to fulfill the desires of sad incels. A murdered pope. A drug addict pope. A long dead twin.

I mean, there’s a lot going on here, which I think is designed to hide the fact that there’s not a lot going on here.

Living On A Prayer

Producers had to move Heaven and Earth to get this season made. It’s been three years since Jude Law’s Pius XIII shook our faith. This season just makes me shake my head.

John Malkovich is captivating in anything he does, and his soliloquies as Sir John Cardinal Brannox/Pope John Paul III don’t disappoint. But as the story develops, the writers tried to give him depth, but end up not being all that deep.

Jude Law’s Pius XIII spends most of the season in a coma, and despite those limitations, he still manages to out act most of the supporting cast.

Divine Inspiration

With creator Paolo Sorrentino back to write and direct. From a style standpoint, there is lots of continuity from the first season. From music, to long shots, to lots of breasts, this is clearly a European production. But while style is steady, the substance is not.

The Young Pope challenged viewers to examine their faith, beliefs, or moral code. The New Pope does none of that. We grew with Lenny/Pius XIII. He took us on his journey of faith. And no matter what you believe, if anything, it was still an insightful journey to take.

Brannox’s journey is not all that. He’s a British aristocrat who became an indifferent cardinal and is shunned by his parents. We know something terrible and life-changing happened, and bread crumb clues are dropped over the middle episodes. But the reveal is nothing extravagant. It is very common and mundane. Drugs. Tragic? Yes. Life-informing? Certainly. Worthy of a show like this? Not by a stretch.

Some say it’s not fair to compare the two seasons since they are technically two completely different series. Hardly. Even calling it a spiritual companion piece would be an understatement. At a minimum it’s a direct sequel, in reality it’s a second season. And the drop off is huge.

Last Rites

So what will we get in the season finalé? No clue. But I’m hoping for lots of soliloquies from Jude and John, and an epic Pope-Off for the soul of the audience faithful.

The Critic’s Cocktail Recommendation

Church wine. Just a sip! (until the priest isn’t looking, then chug down the entire chalice!)


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