young_popeI finally slogged my way through HBO’s The Young Pope.  “Slogged”, I say, firstly because it is a weekly series.   Next, because as the series dragged on I gradually lost interest.  Lastly, as it came to “The End” at The End, I was glad that it was The End.

I wrote about the series when I started watching it: HERE

I don’t have much to add after what I originally wrote.   I still think that the series was, “visually rich, cynical, creepy, weird, unpredictable, sacrilegious and clever.”  And that it was like “Fellini’s Roma morphed by Quentin Tarantino (who belongs in jail) with House of Cards.”  Furthermore, I still “suspect that part of the underlying motives for making the show is to mock the Church.  The major motive, however, was probably the desire to make a surreal show with intrigue against a truly gorgeous backdrop.”

There were moments which nearly had me doing fist pumps in the air.  At other times, I rolled my eyes in disbelief that the makers could be so inept.  At still other times, I went to the kitchen and made a sandwich… without clicking the pause button.

At about the 8th episode (of 10) the thing went off the rails a bit.  After that, I sensed that the makers were trying to figure out how to end it.  That suggests to me that they weren’t entirely sure why they made it except for the fact that they got to have great scenery with alluring characters (churchmen, etc), and a potential for scandalous and salacious twists.  There are only a few of the later and, in the last analysis, they fail to titillate.

And then there are the scenes that are inexplicable non-sequiturs, just plain weird.

There are plenty of clips from the show on YouTube if you don’t want to shell out shekels for the show.  They will give you a taste.  And that will probably be enough.  They would have been for me.

Someday I hope someone will produce a good series, a kind of The West Wing in the Vatican.  That could be good if properly handled.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Lucas says:

    I’m not going to lie, I enjoyed it. I looked it as House of Cards meets the Vatican. Sure, many things left me rolling my eyes and as you said the last couple episodes got real goofy.

    But overall I liked it.

  2. HighMass says:

    From what I have read, the “Young Popes” actions regarding Holy Mass are a dream come true. Going back to the Mass in the E.F. totally, again I could be misinformed as we do not have HBO.
    Not sure if this is true could someone shed some light, to clarify.

    Thank You

  3. Prayerful says:

    If a Pope suppressed the Novus Ordo Missae, then foibles and oddities like a pet kangaroo or problematic friendships could be forgiven.

  4. You are a better man than I, Father. I couldn’t get through the first two episodes thinking “well, there’s a couple hours I’ll never get back”.

    Creepy show, IMHO. Even creepier characters. ***shudder***

    And I’m a fan of “24” and “Doctor Who”…neither of which can be claimed to be sweetness and light. This was just “meh”.

  5. Prayerful says: kangaroo

    I can’t help thinking that the kangaroo was an homage to Tony Soprano’s ducks.

  6. Caesar says:

    Still better than the Netflix series, Call me Francis.

  7. Caesar says: Call me Francis

    Seriously? There is such a series?

  8. VexillaRegis says:

    Fr Z said: Caesar says: Call me Francis
    Seriously? There is such a series?

    Yes, unfortunately there is.

  9. iamlucky13 says:

    “There are only a few of the later and, in the last analysis, they fail to titillate.”

    Fail to titillate, or perhaps thankfully were not taken far enough to titillate?

    I’ve only seen a little of the West Wing, but it has been interesting. It successfully inspires optimism and a belief the administration’s motives are honest even when it deals with matters I would disagree with the president on. They had a fine line to walk of presenting controversies without alienating viewers, and they seem to have done it well. A show that presents to secular viewers a similar portrayal of the Church could inspire some positive questions and discussions.

  10. Dan says:

    I still stick with my original assessment of this show. I warn people off it for the fear of being trapped into watching pornography, sure maybe it is only a little porn, but non-the-less.
    I know there are people who will call it art, a good story line and unfortunate that they included that. Meanwhile they will stand up outraged over sex trafficking and the like.
    Sure the woman in the show got paid a fair wage, and with her own free will decided that it would be worth it to take her clothes off and pretend to f#$% a cardinal and another man. But can we call a spade a spade?
    If you have not been over to liturgy guy lately check our his latest post. Words Matter! Actions Matter. Not exactly related but relevant. If we slip in the small ways allowing secularism and relativism to win we will slip in the large ways as well.
    The actors in these shows are not the characters they betray but people who make decisions to behave a certain way for certain reasons. I love a good show, 24, the walking dead, Dr. who, but we have to also consider what we may be sacrificing for the sake of a good story. Are we willing to sacrifice our own soul, or the soul of the person that put themselves in the situation being portrayed?
    I don’t mean to come off overly harsh because I do enjoy a good show, but HBO crosses the line not occasionally but with nearly EVERY series they put out. If you watch their trash is it not a matter of if but when they put a pornographic scene in front of your eyes.

  11. Robbie says:

    I genuinely enjoyed “The Young Pope”. Yes, it was odd in parts and tended to meander, but I thought the show was unique. The goal may have been to mock the idea of a conservative papacy, but I thought the show ended leaving the viewers with the impression the Pope’s unorthodox ways had worked. And to play off a phrase that became popular in America, the show “Made Clerical Wear Great Again”!

  12. Geoffrey says:

    “Someday I hope someone will produce a good series, a kind of The West Wing in the Vatican. That could be good if properly handled.”

    And it should have the style and elegance of Netflix’s “The Crown”, which I highly recommend. The first season was great, and I cannot wait for season 2.

  13. Kukla65th says:

    In my view, this show takes a “little bit from here, and a little bit from there” in devising its plot and arcs within it. For example, as someone else noted, the show is creepy; I agree. The show clearly asserts that Vatican life is lonely not only for the pope, but for all living there. In some sense all of the men among the clergy depicted are islands with their own agendas and stories, even when they have similarities they seem to know little about others with those same issues/pasts, etc. Further, in some sense the plots do indeed mock the Church by having undercurrents among nearly all clergy depicted except for the pope, that are at best heterodox positions on immovable Truths of the Faith. For example, the show had a preoccupation with homosexuality among priests: the pope took an active role in combating it while other clerics admitted to being gay upon being asked or without being asked. Of course who could forget Gutierrez after playing the loyal and seemingly orthodox servant taking on the pope about homosexuality in one of the last episodes upon being asked to be his personal secretary (I just knew something like that would come from that character eventually.) Likewise we had the dialogue between the pope and his mentor about leniency on forgiving abortions, to which the pope resisted advice. Again, the pope seemed solidly orthodox, but of course, the depiction was that he was a virtual robot without a heart (something that so many in real life love portraying good priests unafraid to take secularly unpopular positions as). Liturgically, the show never commented really on the Mass and its forms; rather, every single depiction, few as they were, seemed to be at least ad orientem if not pre-conciliar in form, which was interesting. In the end I felt the show had both sympathy and perhaps even a hidden agreement with solid doctrinal teaching, while at the same time giving sympathy to heresy and heterodoxy in Church teaching and clerical conduct. Perhaps the intent was to remind viewers that both, whether we like it or not, are existent in the Church of the present (and maybe always were). That’s the greatest mystery of the show: just how pro-Catholic doctrine was it against a backdrop of wobbly clergy and iniquity; or how heretical was much of the show’s doctrinal assertions against a backdrop of presumed Vatican orthodoxy on the part of those that don’t pay much attention to Church affairs.

  14. Dan says:

    @Geoffrey, I second “The Crown” very well made and entertaining.

  15. John Grammaticus says:

    a) I loved the Kangaroo

    b) I genuinely enjoyed it, especially the secretary of state’s opening scene when he says that his sins concern high finance and diplomacy, and the part where the pope’s informant tells him that lots of senior clerics are trying to save their skins by confessing sin of the flesh with women.

    c) I loved the Kangaroo

    d) If I were elected Pope I’d be pursuing a lot of Pius XIII’s policies, albeit with a gentler tone

    e) The Kangaroo summed up the entire series for me.

  16. Curley says:

    The picture where his eyes are closed looks like Eminem was pope.

  17. Charles E Flynn says:

    From What We Talk About When We Talk About The Young Pope, by Tyler Blanks, for Crisis Magazine:

    Those who take comfort in cheap polyester vestments, stripped altars, and whitewashed sanctuaries coordinated to “the spirit of Vatican II” will be disappointed to find such an exhibition of Catholic regalia and garish signs of power in The Young Pope. The fact of the matter is, if you do not like towering cathedrals, magnificent statuary, stained-glass windows, golden monstrances, ornate altar linens, shimmering miters, towering papal tiaras, or Piscatory rings, you might not like being Catholic. The Church’s theology of stuff is anything but iconoclastic. The reason priests dress like kings is to remind the congregation that they serve Christ the King, and that the priest is in persona Christi. The young vicar of Christ loves the opulent costumes and pageantry of Catholicism, but every detail is shot through with meaning. For example, the traditional red shoes are the color red to symbolize the blood of the martyrs.

  18. CPT TOM says:

    Not sure spend the time watching “the Young Pope”. Of course I can handle the time for this “House of Cardinals.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RT0wyjCWphw

    [I could kick myself for not coming up with that one. Still, I wish the video were better made. Sheesh. Is that all they could do? It’s the same old story. They ruin the satire.]

  19. I enjoyed the series for the most part. I also liked the kangaroo as a pet in the gardens. The vestments, the depictions of the Mass, the papal regalia, were all wonderful and made me long for a Holy Father who would embrace the Church’s heritage in that manner. PiusXIII’s struggle with faith was also an interesting twist to the story line; yet he would turn to prayer trusting God would answer – and He did![SPOILER REMOVED]

  20. Titus says:

    Is there an episode where it explains why the pope is wearing a Byzantine chasuble in the Sistine Chapel?

    [Popes can wear what they want to wear, where they want to wear it.]

  21. aquinas138 says:

    Titus, I’m less concerned about the beautiful phelonion than I am about the hideous Paul VI tiara!

  22. IloveJesus says:

    I agree. No one should commit a sin for my entertainment.

    If we were on set, we would leave.

    If it were a play, we would leave.

    CCC 2354 Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties.

    The actress is someone’s sister, daughter or (gasp!) mother. Would you watch and encourage others to do so if it was yours?

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