The Young Pope Episode 4 Recap: Awkward Sex & Crying Nuns

Photo: Gianni Fiorito/HBO.
The Young Pope's fourth episode might be the weirdest yet — and that is saying something.

In terms of plot, very little happens to advance the story. Instead, this episode is made up of a lot of little random things strung together, some of which we assume are going to come back into play in subsequent episodes.

The biggest turn of events is most certainly the pope (Jude Law) rebuffing Esther's (Ludivine Sagnier) advances, to which we say, "Good on you, Pius."

We really thought the show was going to go the other way with that, so it's nice not to see it devolve completely into soap opera territory.

Esther insists to Voiello (Silvio Orlando) that the pope has a good heart, and only cares about her eternal soul, but Voiello tells her she's deluding herself. We're inclined to side with Voiello here, though credit where credit is due — it really felt like the pope was going to start having an affair with Esther, so at least there's that.

However, it's still super weird and off-putting to watch Esther and her husband, Peter (Biagio Forestieri), having sex up against the window of their house while the pope watches, dropping to his knees to pray for the Virgin Mary to give them a child, chanting "You must, you must." as Peter thrusts against his wife and everything culminates in ... well, you know what it culminates in.

In other, more David Lynchian plots, the prime minister of Greenland (Carolina Carlsson) is visiting the Vatican and seems to serve no other purpose than giving the pope someone new to lord his authority over. He compares the Catholics in Greenland to the Native Americans, and then muses that perhaps under all that Greenland ice is where God resides. The prime minister doesn't know whether he's joking or not, so she simply sits there smiling awkwardly at him — which is a valid choice with Pius. More people should probably respond to his ravings that way.

Oh, and the episode ends with what looks like the prime minister dancing alone in a large room to a record she brought the pope as a gift. It's very Audrey Horne of her.

But speaking of the pope's ravings, this is the episode that features the often-mentioned subplot of the pope flying a nun's deceased sister's body to the Vatican for burial and then berating the nun for crying over the body. A lot of reviews cited this as an example of the pope's cruelty and while he certainly could have been nicer in his delivery, this incident is actually one of the least weird things he's ever done.

The pope insists that true believers stop crying at funerals, which completely jives with Catholicism's view of the afterlife. If you're a true believer and so are your family members, then death is is the ultimate goal because it means you get to be with God. The idea here is that people left behind shouldn't be sad, they should be celebrating that their loved one is in Heaven — though, like we said, the pope could have perhaps conveyed all of this without screaming at a crying nun.

Speaking of screaming, this episode features a shepherd named Tonino (Franco Pinelli) who claims to have the stigmata on his hands, and to be able to heal people. Catholics are coming from all over to witness his preaching and feel his powers, but the pope is so far completely ignoring Tonino and his letters to the Church. In a television interview, Tonino declares that if the pope won't speak with him about his abilities, Tonino will be forced to start his own religion.

Pius is sure to be totally OK with that, right? Well, it didn't lead to anything in this episode, but we suspect this is not the last we've seen of Tonino.

Finally, this episode sees a bit of movement on the Kurtwell case front, though the pope's motivations are completely misguided. He decides first that the church needs to root out all the homosexuals, despite Voiello's insistence that homosexuality and pedophilia are two completely different things (and he's right).

That in and of itself is not the most surprising thing the pope could have done. To those of us who aren't super into religion, it of course seems awful and wrong, but coming from a pope who has shown himself to be uber-conservative, it's not a shocking turn of events.

What is a little surprising is that Pius decides to send Monsignor Gutierrez (Javier Camara) to New York to investigate, despite the monsignor's pleas not to be sent away.

It makes you wonder if the pope realized Voiello's plot regarding Esther and figured it could only have come from Gutierrez's information about Lenny's one-time girlfriend, because up until now Gutierrez has seemed like one of the pope's trusted advisors. Is Pius sending Gutierrez away to thwart Voiello's plans?

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