The New Pope “Ninth Episode”

Well, this looks like the end of the road for the Pope saga.

What was the point of all this, I wonder…

Don’t get me wrong.  I enjoyed both The New Pope and The Young Pope for what they were, but in the end, what were they?  These were shows that played a bit with reality, showing Pope Lenny visiting people while he was in his coma, and this last episode, he tells Brannox that those weren’t just hallucinations and he actually was there.  The Islamic terrorism plotline doesn’t seem to amount to much, but these shows were not so much about plot as they were about character, the nature of faith and religion, and the spiritual journeys of two of the four Popes that appeared over the course of the series.

Yes, four Popes.  Brannox and Lenny, obviously, but also Francis II and, well, the last one who probably isn’t that surprising.  Granted, Francis wasn’t Pope for long, and that suggests the other theme to the series, namely how to weld power.

Ultimately, that’s why Brannox may not have been a good choice.  Though he was wise, even beyond the stuff he swiped from his dead brother, he didn’t have the temperament to handle the stress of the job well.  Lenny, by contrast, decided to butt heads with everyone when he first took office, and even here, he bulls his way back to his position as the power behind the throne, deferring to Brannox, even complimenting him, but still dictating terms and speeches to his successor.  Sure, Voiello says they were both great Popes, and both had their moments, both of them attracting followers in their own way, but the viewer saw the human side to both men and how they floundered at times.  Lenny wasn’t always as right as he believed he was, and while Brannox respected and followed the institutions of the office, he likewise had trouble with the stress and pressures of the office, particularly coming on the heals of a Pope people were revering as a saint before he died and whose believers were worshiping him more than the Church or the faith he represented.

That the series ends with Esther in jail after she and some other Lenny-ites took a school room hostage and killed a priest, well, that just points out how every religion has its fanatics.  If anything, that Lenny dies while finally doing something he would have refused to do under any circumstance when we first met the character, namely personally greeting regular people in St. Peter’s Square, really shows the character’s growth.  Brannox likewise gets to resign, go back to England, reconcile with his parents, and find peace and possible happiness with Sofia.

And Voiello, well, he finally gets to be the Pope while raising Esther’s son from the looks of things.  That kid sure was tearing around the Vatican in a very Shining-esque sort of way.  Considering Voiello’s a better man than even he would admit to be while still being a consummate politician, I’m sure the Vatican of this universe, with Lenny’s example and Brannox’s philosophy behind it, will be fine.

And so ends one trippy HBO show, where realism wasn’t much of a priority, and at least it gave me some good visuals.  True, not all the plots worked for me, but the character arcs for Lenny and Brannox made for a good series.  Let’s say 8.5 out of 10 religious leaders with problems.

But now I need something else for Tuesdays, and The Umbrella Academy hasn’t started its second season yet.  I’ll have to go with the HBO mini-series Sharp Objects, something I’ve been meaning to watch for a while anyway.

Amy Adams in an adaptation of a pretty good Gillian Flynn novel?  That sounds like a great idea.

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