The Young Pope Recap: Episode 3


Get ready for more Vatican intrigue

It would do The Young Pope a disservice to say that this is a show about a megalomaniac. Lenny is a more complex character than that, as is the show itself. The third episode begins with Lenny, dressed casually, looking to the past and giving light details as to how he got to where he is now. There is no talk of the games that Michael keeps referring to. There is, instead, a sort of religious psych up. Lenny is, and was, convinced that it could only be him. The scene ends with a threat, as Lenny says that the people elected a Pope that they did not know. He later takes this all back in an early morning plea for guidance from God.

Oh, and then there is the opening title sequence for the first time, which shows Lenny walking down a hallway of moving portraits and then looking directly at the camera soundtracked to a take on Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower.” This is The Young Pope.

The Young Pope thrives in moments like these.

Some of the best scenes in The Young Pope so far don’t even involve Lenny at all, but his Cardinals. Voiello is every bit the greedy politician, playing behind the scenes. He mocks a child’s poor country while his dog sits behind him in an ornate chair. The Young Pope thrives in moments like these.

Image Credit: HBO

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Speaking of Lenny, it’s easy to call him heartless, but that wouldn’t give enough credit to the full story. He indelicately says that yes, he does in fact intend to diminish one of his Cardinals even further by making him randomly pick a spot on a globe to be transferred to. That very same Cardinal is one of the players in the background, attempting to manipulate Lenny. There are two sides here. We don’t need to touch on the fact that he forces the old man to transfer to Alaska.

If there is one weak spot in the third episode, it comes from Sister Mary. Lenny wants her, instead of Voiello, to give a press conference, and before that she pleads with Michael to help Lenny and not be so spiteful. They are scenes that work, and they certainly make sense, but there is still something off. The sometimes weak dialogue rears its head here, making Diane Keaton’s performance feel unconvincing. In trying to stay both tongue-in-cheek and darkly seriously, the show sometimes falters.

Oh, but don’t worry, that kangaroo is still hanging around.

Michael’s meeting with Lenny goes much like their previous one. This time, however, Lenny is not begging for aid. He has a plan; he wants to bring mystery back to the Church. It’s a scene that is in stark contrast to when they last met. That’s not to say that Lenny still doesn’t want Michael to work with him (and Michael still knows how to cut him,) but there is no begging this time. Lenny’s power and belief in himself only grows.

Oh, but don’t worry, that kangaroo is still hanging around. The Young Pope never puts the kangaroo in focus, choosing instead to have Lenny glimpse it every so often. If we didn’t know that he actually let it loose, we might think it were a figment of his imagination. The Young Pope loves to play with surreal imagery.

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Later, Lenny is introduced to an admirer of his, Esther. A woman who sees Lenny how he wants to be seen. After he literally faints in her arms – or does a quick trust fall, it’s not clear – we are treated to another dream sequence. A young Lenny chases two adults, ostensibly his parents. The ghosts of Lenny’s parents haunt him deeply, making him the man that he is.

Not that much actually goes on in ‘Episode 3.’ Lenny is himself, Michael is angry. The plot moves forward in fits and starts, but that is actually the beauty of it all. It’s thought-out, focused, if not sometimes ponderous. It’s complicated and contradictory, much like Lenny himself. It doesn’t much care if you’re along for the ride or not.

That doesn’t mean that nothing happens. In an intense moment, Lenny demands to know from Voiello why he was elected Pope. Voiello has an outburst, saying that Lenny was supposed to be guided by Michael and himself. And so Lenny know has him in the palm of his hand. Lenny wishes to have him deposed, which would basically strip Voiello of his station and power. It’s a harsh, rarely used punishment. That’s the type of Pope that Lenny wants to be, and he later lays out his plan of building fear to the other Cardinals.

Next: Does it matter that we don't know how Lenny was elected?

But Lenny isn’t all doom and gloom. He shares a story about visiting California and winning a girl over by juggling. He smiles, and it doesn’t feel put-upon or hollow. It is a genuinely nice moment that is directly followed by Voiello desperately trying to regain is footing by blackmail. It’s not touched on why the Priest’s bed is covered in stuffed animals, but the implication is clear.

It is sometimes easy to dismiss The Young Pope as being too slow and too full of itself. But for those patient with it there is something truly unique to be found.