After three years, we finally got the revival of Paolo Sorrentino’s art-house tv series “The New Pope” – which was originally slated to be a miniseries but was revived by HBO for a second season.
Picking up from where we left off last season with Pope Pius XIII in a coma, the scheming Voiello ventures to find a replacement. He convinces John Brannox (played by John Malkovich), a well-off religious British who spends his days inside a mansion with his snobbish parents, to be the new pope (no pun intended).
The power play and drama revolves around him and Voiello as they try to clear the church of homosexual scandals and terrorism. The show has a lot of interesting political ideologies dressed in Roman Catholicism being portrayed on screen.
Sorrentino fills the screen with beautiful composition and visuals with double meaning when he’s not busy showcasing provocative soft-core nudity. Some, while really aesthetic and artsy, just don’t validate their long presence on-screen which gets in the way of the true essence of the show. The long conversations and speeches that build turn into satisfying revelations as the story unfolds.
I quite enjoyed how they explored fanaticism after a crowd of devoted followers flocked to the hospital where Pius was to camp and pray day and night. “A picture is a model of reality” – the Philosopher Wittgenstein has said before and we certainly see just how far some people will go to see a miracle. A newcomer of the show is Bauer who is played by Mark Ivanir. Intimidating, mysterious and as powerful if not more than Voiello, he presents the reality that the church faces and meets privately with Voiello. They scheme a lot and explain to each other the inner workings of cities and powerful figures while butting heads about political strategies.
John Brannox, who later changes his name to Pope John Paul III, is quite similar to Pius in that they both don’t have a lot of relationships with their parents. And while Pius can hold off his animalistic desires, John Paul III finds it quite difficult to do so. Malkovich’s speech pattern, although quite unique and charming, can sometimes feel gimmicky but his performance nonetheless was a marvel to see.
The real loss of the show for me was Pius’ absence. To me, he was the heart of the show that truly made things interesting in this world. I wanted to see more of his campaigns as well as his religious journey to heal people and give miracles. I wanted to see how his existence could change the perception of the world and how he could affect different religious practices and philosophies. Most of all, I wanted to see how world leaders would react to his presence and whether or not he can gain more followers. John Paul III was quite entertaining to see with his centrist campaign but he just wasn’t enough for me. His character faces what most beginner priests face. It’s like Pius was facing the level 3 of lust while Brannox was facing level 1. I’d gladly recommend the first season to newcomers and the second one to fans. If exploring the underbelly of Catholicism is your thing, then this one’s for you.
Overall, The New Pope gets a 7/10