Silvio Orlando as Cardinal Voiello.
As so often happens after a real banger of an episode, such as we enjoyed on Sunday night, this one phones it in a bit. Mostly, this episode is an opportunity for The Young Pope to set up some new antagonists. Voiello has been at least temporarily disarmed, and Pope Pius XIII needs someone he can really sink his perfect, white teeth into.
We skip ahead nine months (“… but, Nicole, isn’t that also the length of human gestation?”) and get the real treat of seeing poor ol’ Cardinal Ozolins freezing his butt off in Ketchikan, Alaska, looking as miserable as I’ve ever seen a man in a furry parka look. Why he’s celebrating Mass OUTSIDE in an Alaskan winter, I have no idea. It’s probably on Pius’s instructions. That’s just the sort of knife-twisting he enjoys.
Voiello, back at the office, has some #realtalk for Pius. Donations are way down; Vatican tourism is way down. Pius is typically unconcerned: “The faithful will return.” Yeah, man, Voiello says, maybe, but we’re also collecting pockets of real wackadoo fundies because of your hardcore beliefs — you know, kind of like ISLAM. Pius, carefully examining his nails, is like, “Yeah, well, Islam has more followers than we do.” Voiello manages not to cross himself in horror.
Now we come to a SMALL SURPRISE, which is our handsome ginger son, Andrew, having extremely athletic and exciting sex with a very beautiful woman and a very beautiful man back in the Honduran diocese where he has returned to bid a final good-bye. Pius wants him back in Rome, though Andrew would prefer to stay. I mean, obviously, since he is apparently having a swingin’ old time there, but he also genuinely cares for his flock. In classic Young Pope fashion, once everyone is done orgasming, Andrew drapes a white sheet over the three of them like a friggin’ child blanket fort and leads them in prayer. Get your freak on, Andrew!
This plot will thicken and congeal slightly, as it is hinted that the gorgeous woman is probably married to one of the big narco kingpins whom Andrew hasn’t really had the sack to take on during his time in Honduras. Go big or go Rome, as they say.
Our beloved Gutierrez is being made a cardinal in preparation for his trip to America. He continues to look like a Russian Orthodox ikon of a saint (I think it’s the nose) and Pius seems genuinely joyful to place the red biretta on his head. Voiello is unimpressed, but whatever, man, you tried to blackmail him for a victimless crime, go fuck yourself. Watching Gutierrez attempt to literally CROSS THE STREET for the first time to catch his ride to the airport is like shoving a baby bird out of the nest. New York is a rough town, guys! What if he gets into three-card monte?
In an uncharacteristic turn, our man Tommaso is also feeling pretty pissy. He thinks that the pope is dragging his feet on making HIM a cardinal, and unwisely pops off a bit to his own confessor about all the dirty secrets he could reveal, if he wanted to. Uh, slow your roll there, buddy. You’re not ready to come at the king.
Meanwhile, Esther gives birth to her Miracle Baby in pain and agony, as per the specifications laid out in the Book of Genesis. Pius comes rolling in to meet the blessed child, utterly dwarfed by a massive floral arrangement he insists on carrying himself, to the obvious discomfort of Father Valente, who is probably also bummed that his former girlfriend just had a baby with someone else. Someone else, of course, being that schlubby Swiss Guard Peter, who sits to the side and is pathetically honored by Pius’s visit, even as Pius …
Which of COURSE he does, it’s Pius. You know who else is Pius? The baby. They named the baby Pius. How could you do that to a baby? Go with Lenny instead. For his part, the Young Pope has made the baby a super-appropriate baby gift of Thomas Jefferson’s own Bible. He hadn’t really opened or read it, but that just means it’s in mint condition.
(The baby is fine; Pius dropped him on the bed.)
I promised you a new antagonist, and you shall receive it in the form of the Italian prime minister, who is almost as dishy-looking as Pius himself, but without the swagger and voluminous robes. They IMMEDIATELY start getting all Bette-Davis-versus-Joan-Crawford at each other. The prime minister is pissy that Pius made him wait nine months for this audience, while Pius has a ridiculous laundry list of demands: no abortion, no divorce, no common-law marriages, no gay unions, more money for Catholic families, religious restrictions on Hindus and Muslims, no euthanasia, and a chance to REVIEW THE GEOGRAPHICAL BOUNDARIES OF THE VATICAN STATE.
The prime minister obviously chokes on his espresso and is like, “Uhhh, this is the 21st century and I don’t need to suck up to the pope anymore, I have 41 percent of the vote and I’m very handsome and I’m gonna lead Italy into the future and we don’t even know that God exists.”
Pius is like, “Don’t make me prove to you that God exists, motherfucker, ‘cause I’ll fuckin’ do it.”
There’s a general election coming up in six months, you see, and Pius is totally prepared to, in his words, “reveal my beautiful blue eyes and soft round mouth” to the faithful for the first time and say, “Non Expedit.” If he does, the prime minister’s 41 percent will dwindle to about 10 percent, because 87.8 percent of the Italian population is still Catholic. The prime minister is like, “Uhhh, I’m not sure about that math,” but he’s sweating a little.
He pulls himself together for the post-audience press conference and is like, “This pope is indeed a saint! What a productive meeting! We’re still gonna do what I want and we’re going to think about imposing a stiffer tax on the Church.” Pius tells Voiello that he is bluffing, and also that they should announce that priests are no longer to offer absolution to women who have had abortions. You can SEE Voiello develop nine new ulcers whenever Pius opens his mouth.
While he’s on an Unpopular Ideas Roll, Pius tells Andrew he is to winnow out the ranks of prospective seminarians with a de facto sexual sting operation. Andrew, fresh out of the loving arms of his Honduran girlfriend and boyfriend, is understandably upset with this idea. Pius, of course, DGAF about these concerns, and in short order, Andrew sits helplessly while a devout young man is told he will not be allowed to enter seminary, either in Rome or abroad.
We have a brief but delightful interlude where a group of barefoot Franciscan monks show up demanding Pius’s resignation, lest they cause a SCHISM, and Pius literally tells them he’ll strip them of everything they own and throw them into the street to be spat on by homeless people, so they should “stop talking bullshit and get [themselves] some shoes.” That’s the end of that particular Franciscan power move.
Oh! Voiello also gets his own new antagonist in the form of a pretty cute police captain, who is investigating the disappearance of our stigmata gentleman and is damn sure the Vatican knows more than they’re telling. “His family said you threatened to throw him into quicksand,” he says. Voiello plays it off, but you know the cops will be back. They had been calling the stigmata fellow from VATICAN PHONE LINES. Like, guys, I know you have the Lord on your side, but He helps those who help themselves (by using burner phones.) This is Basic Intimidation 101.
The episode ends quite tragically, as the young man barred from seminary confronts Andrew at dinner, throws a glass of wine in his face, calls him a murderer, and then jumps to his death into St. Peter’s Square. This may be the first real wedge between Andrew and Pius, and it’s going to be a public-relations nightmare.