The Young Pope Season-Finale Recap: Who Is God?

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Javier Cámara as Gutierrez, Jude Law as Pius. Photo: HBO
The Young Pope

The Young Pope

Episode 10 Season 1 Episode 10
Editor's Rating 3 stars

While I try to recover from the season’s penultimate episode, the world is still reeling from the love letters of Lenny Belardo. In light of that bombshell story, people are reacting more softly to Pius than ever before, now that they know he’s secretly a huge marshmallow (who still thinks gay people need to be drummed out of the church and women who’ve had abortions should be refused absolution.)

It’s Christmastime, so I choose to think of this as the Love, Actually episode. (We do have revelations of love AND presents and hugging, so.) Even Pius’s bouncer-nun has figured out how to provide him with better excuses for ending boring meetings! Everything’s coming up Milhouse.

After Pius slips out of a snooze of a sitdown with the Patriarch of Moscow, we get some good Sofia time, which is 50 percent of why I watch the show. He even lets her sit in the pope chair! He would NEVER have done that earlier in the season. Sofia’s obvious glee at sitting in the pope chair is another reason I love her. If Sofia wrote a book about dominating at your job while maintaining flawless personal style and a sense of playful cheekiness, I would buy it in a heartbeat.

Speaking of people I love, Gutierrez and Pius have a FANTASTIC scene together. Pius wants him to become his personal secretary; Sister Mary, he explains, has finally watched the boy become a man, and is ready to move on. Gutierrez, who, as Pius correctly observes, has really grown a sac during his time in New York, is like, “No, you’re a big tit about gay people, it is DISGUSTING to lump gay people in with child molesters, and, guess what, I am a homosexual.” Pius knows this, of course, because Pius knows everything, and is like, “Look, I want your advice, I am already being influenced by you.” Which is nice. Pius says he also knows that Gutierrez was sexually abused as a child, and this is why he sent him to lead the Kurtwell investigation. I mean, I get it? But that’s a LOT to put on a guy, frankly.

(We also see Archbishop Kurtwell shuffling around the Vatican a bit. I remain stonily indifferent to his neurological issue. I hope he dies.)

Pius spends time with Cardinal Marivaux, who has been tirelessly pushing the cause of Juana Fernandez, a Guatemalan teenager whom he believes deserves canonization. Pius has been having visions of her, but continues to be stubborn about the saintliness of others. He agrees, however, to go to Guatemala to spend Christmas with the “miracle children” (cured by Juana, and now grown.) He will scupper this plan at the last minute — literally the last minute, with the plane on the tarmac — and go to Venice instead, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

There’s a lovely scene with the terminally upbeat Cardinal Aguirre, who tells Pius that he has conducted a survey revealing that 99 percent of Catholics want to see the pope deliver a sermon face-to-face. Pius asks if this would change anything. No, Aguirre tells him, popes do not change people … but it would put them in a better mood.

Speaking of better moods, our lil’ bro Tomasso gets his long-awaited cardinal’s hat. He just DISSOLVES in tears during the consistory, he is so, so happy and hugs Pius like he’s drowning and it’s his lifelong dream. Life is a rich tapestry! Good for Tomasso, I say. During said hug, Pius makes eye contact with Cardinal Ozolins, the guy he dispatched to Ketchikan, Alaska, via the Globe Spin of Doom. Ozolins’s hands are all gnarled from those horrible outdoor Masses, and Pius clearly feels a little bad about it. He tells him his hands are those of Jesus, on the cross, which seems comforting to Ozolins. I would not be super-comforted by that, but then, I’m not a cardinal.

Our Pius-Kurtwell showdown, when it arrives, is fairly meh. Kurtwell has been practicing his childhood hard-luck story, which has transformed from the version he told his henchman back in New York, and now includes “the landlord made me blow him when I was 12, and THAT’S why I molest boys now.” It’s unclear if we’re supposed to think this is utterly fictitious or not. It certainly doesn’t excuse any of his actions — you can see Gutierrez trying not to jump across the table and punch his teeth down his throat — and the fact he squeezes out a few crocodile tears doesn’t really move the needle either. Pius, in classic thread-the-needle mode, tells Kurtwell he will send him back to the United States. Kurtwell gets WAY too excited, and is promptly led to the Globe Spin of Doom.

Shockingly…

SHOCKINGLY…

He’s off to Ketchikan, Alaska. (With the added implication that Ozolins gets to come home, which is nice.) We get a brief flash to Kurtwell delivering a miserable outdoor Mass. Now, as a matter of fact, this is NOT the most appropriate punishment for a serially child-molesting cardinal. There’s a rich and disgusting church tradition of packing off problem priests to developing countries, so I guess we’re supposed to be unconcerned about the youth of Ketchikan? DEFROCK AND EXCOMMUNICATE HIM, PIUS.

While we’re talking about the aspects of the show that don’t quite meet the mark, I’ve kept putting off talking about Girolamo, the boy with cerebral palsy whom Voiello confides in and calls his best friend and is purportedly free from sin. It’s VERY magical-disabled-person (disabled people are not saints, people with intellectual deficits are not free from the same sins/shitty behavior/wretched thoughts to which the rest of the population are prone), but I don’t know if I can really count this as a flaw in the show so much as a character trait in Voiello. I can imagine that Girolamo would seem angelic next to the dickbags Voiello interacts with in the Vatican every day. It might be more accurate to say that Sorrentino is obsessed with illness and saintliness in general, and the relationship between the two. (See also: Sister Antonia’s terrible breath as a sign of her inner evil.) I do think it’s weird and offensive that the actor who plays Girolamo is nowhere on the cast list, but any time a dog appears in a scene we get “DAISY played by BISCUIT” somewhere in the credits.

At any rate, Voiello tells Girolamo that he has fallen in love with Sister Mary. Alas, she is off to take over Sister Antonia’s villages of mercy, so he must bid farewell to her at the Vatican’s helicopter pad with very red and wet eyes. Also, Voiello almost tells Girolamo what happened to Tonino Pettola, the stigmata hustler with the sheep, but holds back at the last minute. “Unsettling” is all we get. TEASE. TEASE.

Perhaps bolstered by his truth-telling, Voiello offers Pius a very reasonable explanation for why his parents have not reached out to their now very famous son. They’re hippies, and he’s slightly to the right of Attila the Hun. It is at this moment that Pius decides to go to Venice and speak to the people.

The public Mass we’ve been waiting for is pretty hit or miss. We’re definitely supposed to think it’s wildly successful, and I admit to being moved by it, but a lot of that is owed to Jude Law being very convincing and consistently on the verge of tears throughout. He preaches about Juana, prompting Cardinal Marivaux to basically soil himself with joy, and repeats the questions with which she was peppered by the children she raised: “Are we good, or are we bad? Are we true, or are we false? Are we kings, or are we servants? Are we disappointed, or are we joyful? Are we lost, or are we found?” And so on, there were a lot of questions.

We see people around the world listening in to the pope’s words — including our Honduran narco and his wife, the Italian prime minister, Kurtwell’s victims, and Lenny’s old girlfriend — all of whom are obviously moved by these questions.

Pius continues: “‘It doesn’t matter,’ replied the blessed one. ‘God does not allow himself to be seen. God does not shout, God does not whisper, God does not comfort us.’”

“Who is God?”

“God smiles.”

At this point, Pius fishes out the little telescope Gutierrez gave him for Christmas and scopes the delighted faithful. ELDERLY HIPPIES SPOTTED AT TWELVE O’CLOCK. ELDERLY, GRIM-LOOKING HIPPIES ALERT.

Pius, overwhelmed, and possibly possessing some kind of cardiac defect, almost collapses. He recovers just enough to pronounce, “One day I will die, and I will finally be able to embrace you all, one by one. I have faith that I will.”

Then he collapses MORE EMPHATICALLY with, like, seizure symptoms and stuff, and the doctors come, and Sofia is fussing over him, and he sees Jesus in the clouds, and I think he’s experiencing the return to faith that he’s desired. But that’s the end of the season, so I guess we’ll have to wait.

The Young Pope Season-Finale Recap: Who Is God?