The Young Pope Episode 5 Recap: He's Sexy & He Knows It

Photo: Gianni Fiorito/HBO.
In episode 5, The Young Pope is once again a study in the dual nature of the title character — in fact, this episode shows the pope as both the most likable and most unlikable as we've seen in the series thus far.

The good pope

The first half of episode 5 showcases Lenny (Jude Law) as we've never really seen him. Extended flashbacks give us some insight into his days at the orphanage with Andrew and Sister Mary, and they reinforce how hard it was on him when his parents abandoned him.

The flashback shows young Lenny and Andrew breaking out of the orphanage in order to find Lenny's parents, which really means they just set off running and have no plan or idea where they're going.

Andrew eventually realizes how foolish their idea was and turns back, but Lenny trudges on — at least for a while. He eventually goes back too, though it's unclear if it's because he realizes there's nowhere else to go, or because he decides to follow Andrew to make sure his friend is OK.

We're going to bet it's because Lenny realized he had nowhere else to go, though you never know — the present-day storyline between Lenny and Andrew features a much greater friendship than we could have ever imagined between them.

The two grown men take off in the middle of the night and go traipsing around Rome, looking for cigarettes and interacting with a high-end prostitute in a hotel. It's the most normal we've ever seen Lenny behave, and it's particularly nice to see how chagrined he and Andrew both look when Sister Mary confronts them as they return at daybreak, exchanging sideways glances and small smiles like they are little boys caught being naughty by their mother.

Speaking of mothers, the recurring dream about chasing his parents to a boat and watching them sail away continues, with Lenny admitting to Sister Mary that he is not content with only seeing his parents again after he dies. This is such a painful aspect to Lenny's backstory that we sincerely wish he would get a chance to meet his parents, even if that seems highly unlikely and would not fit in with The Young Pope's narrative at all.

But this interlude, where viewers see the actual day Lenny was left at the orphanage gates by his parents, bridges the two halves of the episode neatly, since in the second half he is ready to punish anything and everyone in his path.
The bad pope

Of course, before the bad pope can preach his fire and brimstone to the cardinals, he needs a getting-ready montage — because the pope is a man and, like all of us, nothing gets you more pumped up for a big event than donning your sharpest ensemble and getting your strut on to funky pop music.

This pope is sexy and he knows it, courtesy of LMFAO. It’s a humorous scene — because seriously, what is that papal tiara? It’s like the world’s most terrifying Easter egg — which lies in sharp contrast to the speech Pius is about to give to his minions.

"What I want is absolute love and total devotion to God. Should that mean a church only for the few? That's a hypothesis and a hypothesis isn't the same as a reality," says Pope Pius to the cardinals. "But even this hypothesis isn't so scandalous. I say better to have a few that are reliable than to have a great many that are distractible but indifferent."

It's not hard to draw the parallel between Lenny's anger toward his parents and his attitude toward God. After being abandoned, Lenny turned to God, who was, as Lenny says, "a God who never leaves me and who always leaves me."

Lenny's relationship with God is obviously complicated, but he wants human beings to revere God as they would their own parents (or their own children).

The same speech could be applied to families everywhere — wouldn't it better to have fewer but reliable parents than to have parents who are indifferent? The famous Elie Wiesel quote says that the opposite of love isn't hate, it's indifference, which could not be more true in Lenny's case.

So in lieu of having a healthy, functional relationship with either his parents or his God, Lenny has decided Pius takes a hard line on faith ... and then insists all of his cardinals come kiss his actual slipper.

"I know you will obey because you've already figured out that this pope isn't afraid to lose the faithful if they've been even slightly unfaithful and that means this pope does not negotiate -- on anything and with anyone. And this pope cannot be blackmailed," Pius tells his clergy, a pointed reminder to Cardinal Voiello (Silvio Orlando).

Earlier, Lenny sussed out all of Voiello's plans and either sincerely, or as a ploy, convinced Voiello that he is a righteous man, a saint even. It caused Voiello to break down in tears, begging for forgiveness in a scene that was exquisitely shot from so low to the ground that Pius positively towered over the cowering Voiello.

So it would seem that the pope's main opposition has been thwarted — but we're only halfway through the season. So what else will be springing up for him to fight against? Because surely we aren't going to spend the next five episodes watching the pope make his cardinals and flock do radical and possibly demeaning things in the name of God.

Perhaps the foe will come in the form of Tonino Pettola (Franco Pinelli), the shepherd who claims to have healing powers and the stigmata on is hands. At episode's end, Pius and his cohorts visited Tonino's home to do something about the outspoken shepherd "busting [their] balls."

This comes on the heels of a brief mention of a possible miracle Lenny performed as a boy, healing a terminally ill woman at the orphanage. We definitely want to hear more about that, so hopefully as the action shifts to Tonino we'll dig into Lenny's sainthood a little more.

And perhaps with Pius' hard line on devotion and faith, Tonino will become a rallying point for people who think religion should be easier and more fun than Pius' description of "hard work" where sin is "no longer forgive at will."
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