The third episode of The New Pope finally sees John Malkovich filling the papal void as Cardinal Brannox, but audiences still are left waiting for Pope Pius XIII to return to action.
This recap of The New Pope Season 1, Episode 3 contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
The New Pope has always been self-aware, taking the lead from its predecessor The Young Pope. It contains constant references to real-world events, real-life people, and the ongoing status of the church it turns into fantasy. Though Pope Pius XIII (Jude Law) continues to be in a coma, we finally have a new pope once again.
The third episode of Paolo Sorrentino’s show leans into this awareness early and often, with Cardinal Sir John Brannox (John Malkovich) struggling to decide to take the papal crown. He dismisses calls from British royal Meghan Markle, explaining that she needs constant fashion advice from the cardinal. The sequestered nuns continue to fill the opening credits, this time with singular shots of women dancing against a wall. Remains one of the best openings to any show in 2020.
At Brannox’s residence, marketing manager Sofia Dubois (Cécile de France) chats with him about his decision. She says he reminds her of one of her favorite actors, John Malkovich. His response?
“He doesn’t do much for me.”
The New Pope Episode 3 remains as meta as ever. Brannox berates his parents, explaining that he became his twin brother after he died. “That is what love means to me,” he says. “Forsaking myself… I know how to endure suffering.” Brannox has quickly become one of the saddest characters on HBO.
Though initially denying the offer, he changes his mind the next morning, traveling to Rome to accept the papacy. He takes the name of Pope John Paul III, giving his addresses to the public and the cardinals. The new pope focuses on growing in tenderness and intimacy, saying that the church’s mission is to recognize, preserve, and value fragility, wise words coming from a man who looks a fragile as can be.
To the cardinals, he preaches the absence of passion, which is an “eternal enemy of humility.” The New Pope Episode 3 contains constant reminders that Paolo Sorrentino writes unmatched lines of beauty. As he explains, popes must be accepted and obeyed, regardless of how many mistakes they make.
The episode firmly rests on the shoulders of the women in The New Pope, a world largely focused on men. Women have never been given much time in Sorrentino’s show, but the sequestered nuns, as well as Esther, finally get more depth. The nuns request money for one of them to fly to see their dying mother, giving them a reason to rebel. They begin getting tattoos, meeting with local boys, and look to be heading towards a war with the cardinals. It’s tough not to root for the only women we’ve seen in this world dominated by sinful men.
Finally, Esther meets a new man in her parish and gets romantically involved, leading him to suggest she prostitute herself for money. Esther meets with the deformed son of a rich woman in exchange for some serious cash consideration, but she can’t go through with it. At the same time, Pius XIII sheds a single tear, just one step closer to him waking up as soon as possible.
Though The New Pope Season 1, Episode 3 didn’t move the story in any considerable direction, The New Pope gives time to its female characters and an initial look at its true new pope. Let’s just say we’re waiting for Pius to wake up, or at least waiting for a war to start.
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