Look, no one’s denying the premise isn’t silly: Take a super conservative and convoluted world leader and make him young, in all the subversive, bloated meaning of that word. And no one’s denying you must buy it: Establishing a show with an opening shot of a pile of babies—questionably dead or alive—regardless of what’s really going on, sort of demands viewers either accept this unreliable, madhouse world immediately or not. And no one’s even saying this makes any sense: How did Patrick Bateman become the Pope? Would the Catholic Church leaders really give up this power so freely? Did he have to be American?
But all those delirious, demented circumstances is what made any of us curious in the first place. Because in this content overload environment we’re all trapped in, anything approaching normal is just plain boring. It’s not enough. Any of it, but especially a basic power struggle drama where an antihero character unqualified and undeserving sits on the throne. Correction: In these times, that might’ve been too much.
So the Pope’s young, what does that mean? What kind of youthful stereotype are they twisting? Is it generational? What type of ramifications will being young—hip young, plays-it-loose young, temperamental young, silly young, YUNG young—bear on the Papal Palace?
All important questions. Thankfully for you, we have answers. (Quick warning: If it wasn’t obvious, this post will be spoilers heavy.)
What happened: Lenny Belardo climbed out of, or possibly through, or maybe dove headfirst and swam a few laps in a pile of babies. Some were kicking and some were Casper. Regardless, the Young Pope emerged from this toddler town.
What does this mean: The Young Pope misdirects with its opening shot, kind of going dream-within-a-dream sequence on us. But within this show—three words: Cherry Coke Zero (we’ll get to it)—anything truly is possible. Maybe Belardo read Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal and thought, “Your mans was up to something,” and tried it out. Who knows?
Young Rating: Babies. Birth. Belardo. Can’t get more Young than those three right there.
What happened: In a dream, Lenny Belardo envisions delivering a speech that promotes gay marriage, body acceptance, and sexual desires. Archbishops faint, the church loses its mind, young kids in the crowd cheer.
What does this mean: Being the Catholic Church and all, we’re going with repressed sexual desires. But also, a show farcically replacing the Pope with Young Guy, this would be all the joking predictions a viewer could make. Nothing’s more stereotypically young like hip, cool, and above all, sexy.
Young Rating: Millennial blogger. Someone who submitted personal diary entries to Thought Catalog or Elite Daily and demands no one questions their sexual anything.
Cherry Coke Zero
What happened: Presented with an immaculate breakfast buffet, the Pope asserts he only drinks a Cherry Coke Zero for breakfast. A butler offers him a Diet Coke as temporary solution, and the young Pope responds, “It is death to settle for things in life.”
What this means: Dickie Greenleaf gets what he wants. But we should’ve known that already.
Young Rating: Cherry Coke Zero is youthful perfection repackaged for a millennial audience. I was discussing Lenny’s choice, though the description fits both. Judging by Lenny’s age, it’s actually a kind of hip Gen Xer who knows the lingo and keeps up with the pop culture trying to show off to a younger crowd he still gets it.
What happened: Lenny Belardo smoked in the Papal Palace. When confronted that smoking is prohibited, the Young Pope asked who created such rules. “John Paul II,” is the reply, which Lenny points out, was the Pope, which is what he is now. As is the case, he makes the rules now.
What this means: As the act of smoking always is, a power move by giving the finger to death.
Young Rating: Gen X, Gen X, Gen X. Moving on.
Not Believing In God
What happened: The Young Pope confesses to Tomasso near episode’s end and declares, “God does not exist.” When this sends poor, gentle Tomasso into hysteria, a quick retraction of “just kidding” is uttered. The look on Lenny’s face tells otherwise.
What this means: This could be the whole dilemma of The Young Pope, exploring the absurdism of faith, and the absurdism of not believing in anything.
Young Rating: Lack of faith, leaning into atheism but not embracing it, serious abandonment issues, never fulling revealing his true position on an issue? No question. Total sucker for a millennial.