The New Pope season 1, episode 8 recap – two popes, two stories, and lots of mojo

By Michael Frank
Published: March 3, 2020 (Last updated: December 2, 2023)
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The New Pope season 1, episode 8 recap - two popes, two stories, and lots of mojo


The penultimate episode of The New Pope finds each pope regaining his confidence and old friends returning to high places.

This recap of The New Pope Season 1, Episode 8 contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.

Throughout this season of The New Pope, one of the popes has always been low in confidence, low in health, or low in happiness. Paolo Sorrentino has kept one pope stronger than the other, though they haven’t met one another yet. There has been a continued power imbalance, a constant struggle to maintain any sort of stronghold within the Vatican. The New Pope Episode 8 fixed these problems.

Beginning the episode with the terrifying Bauer (Mark Ivanir) chatting with Cardinal Voiello (Silvio Orlando), Sorrentino’s show reverts back to the “All Along the Watchtower” credits with Pope Pius XIII (Jude Law) at the center. Bauer and his right-hand man, the eye-patched Essence (J. David Hinze), approach the father of the nun’s baby, currently imprisoned. This young boy might have been mixed up in one of the terrorist attacks, but other than that, this visit doesn’t add much.

Cardinal Assente (Maurizio Lombardi), now on a power trip as Secretary of State, demands that Gutierrez (Javier Cálmara) not see Pius and remain abstinent, immediately making out with Don Cavallo following this statement. He’s becoming less and less likable by the week, becoming more hated after revoking the sequestered nuns’ authorization to accept orphans. His time is coming, though, not even a full episode later.

With Pope Pius back in the picture, Pope John Paul III (John Malkovich) has become a depressed recluse following his dreadful TV interview. Vatican influential Sofia Dubois (Cecile de France) visits him, putting eyeliner on his face and going skiing with the sad pope. We finally learn of the details behind Brannox’s twin brother’s death: the twins were skiing together, Adam fell, and Brannox was too strung out on heroin to save his brother. Sharing intimate moment after intimate moment, Dubois gives Brannox his confidence back, simply by leaking punk photos to the tabloids and breathing onto the corner of his mouth. Trust me when I say that typing those words had far less of an impact that seeing them play out on screen. It’s a beautiful scene between two lonely and struggling souls.

Pius returns to Rome to find boxes of letters sent to him while he was in a coma. His friend Gutierrez reads him a special one, giving us a chance to experience the world without Pius even for a minute, a world that existed between The Young Pope and The New Pope. He chats with his old rival Voiello, and the two decide to team up, working behind the scenes and making a plan for Pius to spark a revolution upon his public return.

The most powerful aspect of the episode comes in the form of a funeral, one for Voiello’s disabled friend Girolamo. He gives a speech at his funeral that is a must-see for everyone, regardless if you’ve seen even a second of the series. Silvio Orlando remains the best actor and most interesting character in The New Pope universe, fluctuating in power but staying in command of every single scene he’s featured in. By the end of The New Pope Episode 8, Voiello is back as Secretary of State, has destroyed the heinous men attempting to blackmail Brannox, with a little help from vaping Bauer and Essence, and has sent another Cardinal to Kabul, Afghanistan as a punishment for their crimes against the church. Best Cardinal award? We think yes.

The New Pope Episode 8 ends with a soon-to-be meeting of the two popes, and a chance for Pius to view his white vestments standing naked in a swimming pool. Sorrentino never did follow convention or stick to any age-old rules. Though you might have thought these two people would have met halfway through the season, it’s clear that the creator wanted to make a series about individuals and less about an adversary or a competition. The New Pope focuses in on people that are struggling with crises of faith, confidence, and humanity. With only one episode left, who knows what Sorrentino has up his sleeve.

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