Paolo Sorrentino’s drama sees Pope John Paul III and Pope Pius XIII finding new audiences and new platforms.
This recap of The New Pope Season 1, Episode 5 contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
The New Pope continued its run of odd guest appearances as episode five started with a conversation between Pope John Paul III (John Malkovich) and model and actress Sharon Stone. They talk about the need for an upgrade to the Bible, Stone’s IQ of 154, and the pope’s love for gin and tonics. The opening highlighted the same, slow pacing that has struck the middle of this HBO drama’s inaugural season.
Of course, all we needed were the opening credits to wake back up. As the sequestered nuns fill the screen in the thumping credits, they now have begun to take off their clothes in front of the lit-up cross, as their benevolence fades and anger grows within the confines of the show and its religious walls. Though their collective storyline took a back seat with episode five, we hear that one nun is pregnant, one struggles with a (possibly) cancerous lump, and others continue to have a great, great time within the Vatican.
The pope’s relationship with marketing head Sofia (Cecile de France) additionally continues to heat up, as he gives her his private phone number, and invites her to his apartment anytime she might need papal services. She takes him up on his offer quite quickly, just as the pope’s popularity begins to soar. As an Islamic-esque group makes headlines, the pope gives a rousing speech featuring one word: No. He yells it over and over again, as the crowds follow his lead. He even kisses a baby on the popularity campaign trail.
PJP III takes Sofia down into the catacombs for their first one-on-one date. As he says, “the catacombs are the closest thing to a nightclub a priest has.” He voices his renewed concern about the death of Pope Francis II and reveals that he voted for Lenny Belardo, Pope Pius XIII, in the conclave though he continues to live in a state of comatose. He explains that his new focuses are pedophilia and sexual abuse within the church. The pope continues to speak in metaphors and poems though, explaining that “man cannot be changed but he can be diverted,” and he will give an interview with a high-profile reporter. In this interview, he plans to drop a Catholic bomb: his support for marriage for priests, both gay and straight. In his own words and those that we should all echo in this world, “We have to legitimize possible love.”
In the meantime, others close to Jude Law’s Pius XIII continue to struggle. Esther’s love interest is prostituting her to the local priest and the deformed boy in the town. She decides to run away with her child, little Pius, and look for a better life. Cardinal Gutierrez fights with his alcoholism once again and looks more and more lost without his guide in the pope.
The last section of episode five was dedicated to Pope Pius XIII, Lenny Belardo, the man who still has overwhelming support in and out of the series. The big news? He sighs, leading to a radio station to only broadcast his breathing. Everyone in this world turns it on and listens, causing a powerful moment in time. After 415 breaths, he sighs again. Then after 414 breaths, he sighs again. At this rate, we’ll have our old pope back in our lives sooner rather than later. The masses flock to his building, and like them, we hold our own breath in anticipation of the show’s most polarizing figure waking up. Paolo Sorrentino’s religious drama finally looks to be headed in a definitive direction. And Pope Pius XIII is definitely ready to join in on the fun.
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Based in Brooklyn, NY, Michael is a regular critic for Ready Steady Cut and also writes for Cinema Sentries, The Film Experience and Film Inquiry.