The Young Pope Recap: Episode 7


In the opening moments of The Young Pope’s seventh epode, Voiello walks into frame wearing a soccer uniform and holding rosary beads. His team is losing, and it seems he’s been praying for them. Besides the announcer, there is no dialogue. There is a reason that we love Voiello so much. It’s also  a scene that continues the tradition of excellent opening sequences in this show.

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Voiello wants Lenny out. Badly. But that’s not such a straightforward thing to do anymore. They’re not going to run with the scandal with Esther due to concerns over how the Church would then be perceived as a whole. Really, that doesn’t matter so much. That plan was always silly; it’s simpler to let Lenny’s confidants slowly come to their senses by learning what kind of man he really is. In the first 20 minutes, Tomaso betrays Lenny to Sister Mary by outing him as a non believer.

Lenny’s parents have become a serious driving force in The Young Pope. Episode 7 spends a lot of time on Lenny’s longing for them – they haunt him, seemingly endlessly. He he has surreal dreams, and is even mailed a mysterious pipe that he believes to be his father’s. Sure, he wants to unite the Church under his hard, practically dystopian vision, but perhaps even more than that he wants to see his parents again. It’s easy to see Lenny as an unfeeling monster, but his pining for his parents humanizes him. It’s practically the only part of this show that does.

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“It’s easy to see Lenny as an unfeeling monster, but his pining for his parents humanizes him.”

The other driving force of this episode is Voiello. Sister Mary outright tells him that Lenny is in a fragile emotional state and that he could probably be convinced to sign a document that would help get the Church back on its feet. In a private confession, Sister Mary asks for forgiveness for going against Lenny, and that she has no intention of stopping. Voiello has been slowly cracking at her over the course of the season, and now he finally has her. It turns out that Lenny hasn’t been doing all that much for the Church since he was appointed Pope. Shocking.

Elsewhere, Andrew is losing it after the events of the previous episode. At a party that could politely be called bizarre, he gets drunk, gets propositioned (refuses) and is driven home. He is then almost raped, in what feels like a scene built for shock value; only to lower him even further.

This is an episode about breaking people down to their emotional core. First it’s Andrew, and then Lenny, in a plot that gets dangerously close to being cartoonish. Sister Mary and Voiello, intending to prey on Lenny’s weakness, arrange for a fake mother and father. Lenny, even in his emotional state, can tell that they’re not the real deal by smelling them. It’s a scene that lasts five minutes, and is one of The Young Pope’s sillier moments. To the show’s credit, its relatively ambiguous whether or not it is meant to be played straight. It also has the added effect of hardening Lenny even more, but when trying to squeeze information out of Tomaso, he gets nothing. He doesn’t have Tomaso in his pocket anymore.

It’s a chilling moment when Tomaso whispers “I won’t tell you anything ever again,” and when asked why, he admits that it’s because Lenny doesn’t believe in God.

Lenny spends a lot of time with Esther, her husband, and their newborn this episode. It’s to their chagrin, though it’s not like they can tell the Pope to go home. Lenny smells the baby constantly, which is apparently a superpower of his since he can tell his parents from actors the same way.

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Back to Voiello, his relationship with Lenny now seems to be one of grudging respect on both sides. There is also no more playing around – when asked directly if he had anything to do with the actors, Voiello states that he didn’t, and that his methods are generally more sophisticated. Voiello is getting bolder, while still of course playing games in the shadows. We welcome to more open competition. Still, it’s obvious that he played some part in orchestrating the whole thing. He also ends up leaving Lenny speechless when he accuses Lenny of being responsible for boy’s suicide.

If things were bad for Andrew in the Vatican, they are objectively worse when he returns to Honduras. It turns out that he had been sleeping with a drug kingpin’s wife, and now the jig is up. This is how Andrew’s story ends – murdered by a narco. It’s not an entirely satisfying end for what was a rather interesting character.

“It’s not an entirely satisfying end for what was a rather interesting character.”

In the end, we’re treated to a rather sad scene of Michael practicing his speech, believing that Lenny will resign and he will take the reins. But then we learn than Sister Mary still believes in Lenny, and not only that, but he thanks her for sending him the actors. They made him feel, for a moment, that he had “come home.” The Young Pope, both the show and the character, are not easily predictable. The final shot is that of Lenny seeing a crying, silent boy, before the credits cut in.

Next: HBO nabs 3 DGA Awards.

We’re left wondering what it means, even though the emotion comes through fully. Even through its many ups and downs, The Young Pope is always confident. Even when it loses its footing it sometimes feels deliberate.