Pope Pius XIII finally returns from his coma, bringing the same miracles, doubt, and electric intensity.
This recap of The New Pope Season 1, Episode 7 contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
For 12 months, the world within The New Pope has been waiting. Nuns have been waiting. Cardinals have been waiting. Believers have been waiting. Most importantly, though, audiences have patiently been waiting.
The first six episodes of The New Pope focused on Sir John Brannox (John Malkovich) and the politics within the Vatican and its inhabitants. The show looked less at individual faith and doubt, and more at the Catholic Church as a whole and how it operates for a host of different stakeholders. Foregoing any sort of pre-credit scenes, the seventh episode of HBO’s follow-up to The Young Pope jumps directly into its opening sequence.
Rather than continuing its new tradition of showing the dancing, sequestered nuns by a neon cross moving to electronic music, creator Paolo Sorrentino goes back to his old theme music and enigmatic central figure: Pope Pius XIII (Jude Law). Pius emerges from the ocean to a bikini-wearing Esther (Ludivine Sagnier). He takes a cigarette out of a cross dangling from her neck and kisses her forehead, while a number of other women, including Sofia Dubois (Cécile de France) watch the old pope walk along the beach. He walks through lines of women playing volleyball and does his signature wink into the camera, signaling that this episode will be in the hands of Pius XIII.
Before launching into the main storyline of episode seven, which is Pius-related, there are a few housekeeping items. New Secretary of State Cardinal Assente (Maurizio Lombardi) begins by throwing out the refugee father of the sequestered nun’s baby. Esther and the hooded believers decide to leave the building of Pius XIII and purify themselves by walking into the ocean, completely naked of course. A terrorist attack rocks the Vatican and Pope John Paul III, killing his dog and causing him to stay in his room and seclude himself from the world. Sofia even visits Cardinal Voiello (Silvio Orlando), now retired and gardening his days away, though he likely (and hopefully) will come back with a vengeance.
Once Pius wakes up from his coma and takes off his mask, he immediately begins praying and asking God why he came back to life. He requests a Cherry Coke Zero and goes to stay at his cardiologist’s home in Venice to lay low until he’s ready to head back to Rome. He recites to the doctor’s surprise that he knows he and his wife have a terminally ill son. He’s a saint after all.
After a few walks and lots of adamant refusal to visit the son, Pope Pius XIII visits young Eric while he’s sleeping, whispering in his ear a detailed description of heaven, causing the boy to shed a single tear. The song “Come and See” by Lean Year plays overhead, with the lyric “**** off the old world” playing in repetition. The power of the pope continues.
Though the doctor’s wife, the boy’s mother, hardly believes in God anymore, she does believe in Pius. He tells the parents to take the night off and he goes to Eric’s bedside to pray, asking God to “make him a man”. In his signature stance, Pius’s prayers do nothing, leading him to say, “I do not perform miracles. I simply find myself at the center of coincidences.” The New Pope remains full of papal doubt, the kind of doubt that makes this show so interesting.
After the mother draws a bath, sitting in the same way as Mary in the Pietà in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pius prays in front of the boy once again. This time, he yells at God to “MAKE HIM A MAN!” over and over again. Eric raises his frail arm for a few seconds and drops it back onto the bed, dying at that instant.
Before Pius can return to Rome, he wants to show the parents a miracle. He grabs their hands, they all close their eyes, and he shows them Eric’s spirit leaving his body and rising up into heaven. Lean Year’s ballad of f**king off the old world plays you into the darkness. It must be said that Law brings his best as the pope, and as a figure so enigmatic that he’s hard to trust. He wavers between doubtful and miraculous and at any moment can change his mind about God’s existence. When The New Pope deals with crises of faith, it transforms into top-tier television. It becomes a show that matters far beyond the screen, and it fills your mind for moments throughout the day and week until the next episode premieres. With only two episodes left in the season, Pius’s miracles look to be far from over and his papacy remains as interesting as ever.
We are fast becoming the number one independent website for streaming coverage. Please support Ready Steady Cut today. Secure its future — we need you!
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.