Moderator / Reviewer
- Apr 4, 2017
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The Young Pope: Season 1
HBO was basically the inventor of the adult cable television phenomenon that we have today. True Blood, Game of Thrones and several others have paved the way for the absolute glut of “mature” shows that seem to have become the norm today. As a result, it’s harder and harder to find something unique and new amongst the constant deluge of shows that seem more similar than different nowadays. We’ve had political intrigue, debauchery, swords and sorcery, guns and backstabbing, blackmail and sex. You name it, but we’ve never had those shows revolve around something like organized religion until now. Or more accurately, around the Catholic church and the papacy. Almost a strange hybrid of House of Cards meets Dan Brown, The Young Pope takes on a fictionalized American pope taking power and a political thunderstorm of backlash that comes from a highly structuralized religo/political social structure coming to a vicious head.
It’s modern times, and a new Pope has been elected by the Cardinals. Pope Lenny Berlardo (Jude Law) has taken power by a scheming group of cardinals who feel that the young man will be easily malleable in their hands and create puppet “king” who will bend to their will, allowing for a rule from behind the curtain. However, Pope Berlardo is not exactly the pushover that the powers that be thought he would be. Instead he is a hard lining Pope that has a scheming mind of his own that allows for a battle of wills that was unprecedented before this time. Lenny is not your average old man who has risen up through the ranks over years of service. He is comparatively young, and was an orphaned boy who was raised by Sister Mary (Diane Keaton) and has a whole host of demons that he is struggling with. Demons and a past that makes his ascension all the more crucial in dealing with the backstabbing and duplicitous college or cardinals who are upset that their power play is being interrupted.
The show is never light hearted and takes itself WAY too seriously for its own good. The conspiracies and backstabbing’s are taken to an entirely different plane with overly ridiculous villains who twirl their mustaches the entire time while laughing into the camera. It feels very much like what happens when you have Dan Brown try to write an episode of House of Cards, with a pope who is pretty much teetering on the edge of religious fervor and outright agnosticism, and a political power structure that rivals even the most Machiavellian political structures. There’s a strange sense of disparity between Lenny and the real world Pope of today. Lenny is actually quite conservative in some aspects, and is WILDLY different than the liberal social justice infused Pope that we are familiar with this decade. As such it’s interesting to note that Lenny is also much harsher and less willing to bend to his political and religious colleagues then we might be used to.
I had to give a chuckle more times than not, as the melodrama and over the top “dun dun dun!!!!!” musical numbers gave The Young Pope elements of a soap opera rather than a serious drama. Despite the fact the show has next to NO levity, and takes itself ridiculously serious. Almost to the point of humor in and of itself. Jude Law is great as Lenny, hamming it up to the nth degree, and the supporting cast do an amazing job. Diane Keaton is great as the hard as nails Sister Mary, but once again, she feels la bit miscast in the role of a nun. I don’t know why, and I can’t place my finger on it, but she stood out like a sore thumb amidst all of the other Italian based Catholic based clergy.
• An Invitation to the Set
• The Making of The Young Pope
The Young Pope is a strange and bizarrely “Lynchian” show that doesn’t really catch enough steam to be believable. the political machinations are straight out of House of Cards and the conspiracy theories can almost feel comical at times. You can tell that Paulo Sorrentini was trying to make a commentary on, and do a slice and dice job on some of the religious sensibilities that is prevalent in the modern political structure of the catholic church, but the constant lack of even the mildest of droll humor left the series overly serious and weighted down with too much melodrama (not to mention some hilariously over the top smarmy and sleazy interludes that are used to try and blackmail the Pope). The audio is FANTASTIC and the video is great, and I was actually impressed with the amount extras HBO put on the disc. Still, it’s not going to be one of the higher rated HBO shows for a reason, and at this time I can only recommend checking it out as a rental.
Starring: Jude Law, Diane Keaton, Silvio Orlando
Created by: Paolo Sorrentino
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Spanish DTS 2.0
Runtime: 600 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: June 6th, 2017