The Young Pope Episode 3 Recap: Mommy Issues

Photo: Gianni Fiorito/HBO.
With “Episode 3” of The Young Pope, it feels as though we're finally getting somewhere in terms of learning what exactly the titular pontiff (Jude Law) is up to, or at least the motivations behind his actions.

Meanwhile, Cardinal Voiello (Silvio Orlando) may have finally found his way to bring down Pope Pius XIII — and he has truly revealed just how far he is willing to go to do so.

But first, let's talk about what we learn about Lenny in this episode. As with so many things in life, it all comes back to the mother and father.

While walking the grounds, Lenny spies Esther (Ludivine Sagnier), the young, blonde wife of one of Vatican City's Swiss guards. She previously had an affair with Father Valente (Ignazio Oliva), one of the pope’s assistants, and is obviously interested in the new pope, though she couches that in the idea that she simply loved his homily. Mmm hmm. That's probably what all the girls say to a priest with Jude Law good looks.

While speaking with her, Lenny collapses and has another one of his telling dreams. This time, he is a young boy chasing his parents through the streets, calling out to them as they escape on a boat. His father is there, but his mother takes center stage, her blonde hair gleaming under the street lights — it cannot be a coincidence that Lenny's mother bears a passing resemblance to Esther, and if we ever see Lenny’s past girlfriend in a flashback, we’d bet money she’ll look like a mix of Esther and Mama Belardo.

Anyway, nothing sexual happens between Lenny and Esther, but it feels like it's only a matter of time before something does. Maybe Lenny can work through some of his Freudian issues? Or maybe he'll surprise us all and not give in to the temptation of Esther?

Either way, she's a good stand-in for his mother, since his actual maternal figure, Sister Mary (Diane Keaton), doesn't feel like someone he's going to work through any issues with.

Lenny's father figure comes into play in the form of mentor Cardinal Spencer (James Cromwell), who gives Lenny quite the dressing down after his ridiculous first homily as Pope Pius and his unwillingness to be seen in public.

"You've never budged from the front gate of that orphanage, where, one fine day, without explanation, your parents abandoned you," Spencer rails away. "You want to make the world pay for the wrong it did you. You'll be a terrible pope. The worst. And the most dangerous in modern times. And I don't intend to waste the few years I have remaining being an accomplice to a vindictive little boy."

And that is the crux of Lenny's whole situation. He's terribly broken from being abandoned by his parents, he was raised by strict Catholic nuns and priests, and now he's taking everything out on Catholics everywhere by treating them like disobedient children who must be brought to heel. He relishes the power, telling more than one person in episode 3 that the cardinals made a grave mistake thinking he would be their puppet, a bridge between the conservative and liberal views within the church.

Lenny is also getting quite the enjoyment out of punishing his parental figures, Spencer and Sister Mary. Spencer may be feeling more slighted because he desperately wanted to be pope, but it is actually Mary who is bearing the harshest retribution.

Lenny forces her to get up in front of the press and issue a dictator-like statement on his behalf, which includes telling his critics, "[I] wish to inform you of my total indifference to your doubts and criticism in light of which I deem it necessary to reiterate my infallibility, in contrast to your human fallibility."

As Sister Mary is hustled from the room after the press pool's shocked-bordering-on-hostile response to the statement, one reporter shouts out, "Who is Sister Mary?"

Yes, who is Sister Mary? If anyone could possibly bring Lenny under control, it seems like it would be her, but it seems as though she agrees with him half the time. The other half she's simply too afraid to go against him. So for now, at least, it looks as though the pope is going to reign unfettered.

It'll be interesting to watch this Freudian nightmare play out between Lenny, Mary and Spencer. We can't wait until his pseudo-sibling, Cardinal Andrew Dussolier (Scott Shepherd) gets involved, especially with the introduction of a sex scandal in episode 3.

It seems Archbishop Kurtwell (Guy Boyd), an American priest, is accused of sexually abusing several young children. This episode doesn’t get too heavily into the details, but the gist so far is that Pius is in no hurry to assign someone to look into it, insisting that he’ll “handle it.” Plus, Sister Mary explains to Voiello that Kurtwell is responsible for 40 percent of new priests in North America, as if that is perhaps a reason not to investigate or to cover up the scandal.

It makes one wonder just what connections Lenny and/or Andrew have to Kurtwell. Why is Lenny so reticent to investigate? Was he or Andrew ever abused? Or, did they have knowledge of others being abused? There is definitely more going on here than viewers have been show so far and we’re intrigued (and probably eventually horrified) to find out exactly what it is.

Meanwhile, Voiello has started moving the pieces in place to get Pius ousted as pope. It remains to be seen if Monsignor Gutierrez (Javier Camara) is willing to spy on Pius, or if his loyalty to the pope is unwavering even in the face of Voiello's blackmail.

But the plot against Pius is definitely afoot and he knows it.

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