The Young Pope Episode 10: Well, That Ending Was Unexpected

Photo: Gianni Fiorito/HBO.
It's interesting that Pope Pius (Jude Law) says early on in The Young Pope season finale that all he remembers about his childhood is that "one day it wasn't there anymore." Because while little Lenny Belardo certainly had to grow up fast when his parents abandoned him, in a lot of ways he's still that abandoned young boy. He never grew up, until the events of the first season of this show.

Lenny's reign as pope may have been tumultuous for... well, pretty much everyone around him, and Catholics the world over, but for Lenny, it's been nothing short of his chance to grow up, deal with his baggage and become an adult who is ready to lead his flock. He even says to Gutierrez (Javier Camara) upon asking the monsignor to be his personal secretary, "The child pope has become a man. Who once needed a motherly presence now needs a colleague."

So Lenny says goodbye to the only mother he's known since he was a kid, sending Sister Mary (Diane Keaton) to Africa to take over for the corrupt Antonia in managing the Villages of Good.

He also manages to find it in his heart to show mercy to Kurtwell (Guy Boyd), something that Lenny certainly couldn't have done at the start of the season. Now, showing mercy to a pedophile abuser is a controversial move, to be sure, but it is in line with the teachings of Jesus, so it's perhaps the right choice for a man of the cloth? That's certainly a debate to be had, but it is indicative of how much Lenny has changed. Also, it did come out that Kurtwell himself was sexually abused as a young boy, which does color the situation with a slightly different hue.

Either way, Pius still has a smirky trick up his sleeve by telling Kurtwell, who has a debilitating condition that causes his hands to shake, that if he can touch New York City on the globe, he can go home. Kurtwell cannot, of course, so it's off to Alaska for him.

There is also a bit of tying up loose ends with Cardinal Voiello (Silvio Orlando), as he almost confesses to his young, handicapped friend just what the pope and the cardinals did to Tonino Pettola (Franco Pinelli). He can't bring himself to do it, but it's implied they killed him. Just another example of how far the pope has come season.

And Voiello also admits he was in love with Sister Mary, which was a weirdly sweet side-plot of the season. Let's hope that even though the love will probably remain unrequited, he can go see her in Africa.

But after all the wrapping up of plotlines, the big finale involves Lenny going to Venice to find his parents. It is pointed out to him that the reason they may not have reached out to him since he became pope is that they're hippies, and presumably take umbrage with the hard line Pius has decreed as pope.

So that is what finally gets Lenny to see the error of his ways — though it's really the final straw. This has been coming all season.

Lenny goes to Venice and makes his first public address, which is almost entirely about Juana, the sainted girl from South America who reportedly healed sick children with her fairytales. As he speaks of Juana, the show flashes on all the people Pius has touched since the season began.

And after his speech about love and acceptance and happiness, Lenny scans the crowd and thinks he sees his parents, gray-haired and wrinkled, there in the crowd. Whether that was real or a figment of Lenny's wishful thinking is left up to the audience to decide.

But it has such a profound effect on him that he keels over, clutching his chest. Whether or not Lenny JUST DIED remains open ended.

If he is dead, it seems like he perhaps died from the opposite of a broken heart. (Think of The Grinch, whose heart grows three sizes bigger by the end of the story.) They say that people can die from a broken heart, but in Lenny's case, it's more like his heart has been broken for decades and now that his parents came to see him speak, it was healed and so full of love that he couldn't handle it, the way that sometimes you can be so happy that you feel like your heart might burst.

That sounds a bit mystical, yes, but The Young Pope has not actually shied away from the mystical or the unexplainable. So if Lenny is actually dead, he died of a loving, full heart.

Of course, Season 2 of The Young Pope is already in the works, so it seems unlikely that the title character has been killed off. But maybe that's exactly what happened and the second season will be about a different young pope. A younger pope?

We're a little torn about whether Lenny's journey should continue or if his story has been fully told. What motivates him now that he has worked through his parental issues? Watching him be a loving, accepting pope might not be the most interesting second season, so what would turn him away from God again? What's the major conflict in a second season featuring Pope Pius XIII?

Perhaps it would be more interesting to watch a political battle for the open seat, if both Lenny and Michael Spencer (James Cromwell) are dead.

But either way, we have no doubt that creator Paolo Sorrentino will come up with some just as crazy. And we'll be there for the ride.
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