In the aftermath of Angelo’s suicide on THE YOUNG POPE, Andrew and Lenny both have crises of conscious. Lenny receives a gift in the mail he believes to be from his parents, and Voiello and Caltanessetta conspire to get rid of Lenny and install Spencer as the new Pope.
Lenny’s strict policy about accepting or rejecting new candidates to become priests has run into a pretty tough problem. Andrew didn’t want to enforce the measures Lenny prescribed in the first place, since it was so incredibly strict, and now that he’s begun rejecting candidates based on their supposed moral problems, a tragedy has occurred. A young man named Angelo has jumped to his death in St. Peter’s square. The media has turned its attention on what led to the young man’s suicide, which means they’re even more critical of the Catholic Church at this time. Andrew feels like he basically murdered the poor boy, and falls into an epic despair. When he takes Lenny to the exact spot where Angelo jumped to tell him how responsible he feels, Lenny is cold and apathetic. Instead of feeling bad, or in any way responsible, Lenny tells Andrew that Angelo is lucky. He gets to speak to God and see how things really are. Lenny lacks pity, and has never matured enough to have empathy for anyone. It’s part of why he’s having such a terrible time being the Pope.
The only thing Lenny cares about at all is finding his parents. It’s his ultimate quest in life to find out why he was rejected and abandoned by them. In the pursuit of this knowledge, everything else gets sidelined. When the missing piece of his father’s pipe turns up in the mail without a note or a return address, Lenny feels hope for the very first time. If he can reunite with his parents will it somehow magically heal the wounds inside that have turned him into such a tyrant unable to love others? His parents arrive to see him for the first time in over thirty years, and Lenny is distracted and unaware of his surroundings. Sister Mary knows this is the perfect time to have Voiello give Lenny documents to sign, because Lenny will sign them without paying attention to what he’s lent his signature to. When the couple arrives, Lenny listens to them briefly, and then tells them to hold still. He smells the woman claiming to be his mother, but something is off. They are imposters playing at being his parents, but why, and who sent them?
Lenny is increasingly closed off and paranoid, so much so that at dinner he switches plates with Voiello in case someone is trying to poison his food. Between Andrew’s admonishment of Lenny’s lack of pity and Sister Mary telling him he needs to create less fear in people, Lenny starts to feel lost. He spends almost all of his free time with Esther and her husband taking care of their baby. It’s awkward to witness, so it has to be awkward for her husband Peter. He’s reveling in the miracle of birth he appears to have created through his intervention to God on Esther’s behalf. People still whisper about what’s going on between him and Esther, but he no longer cares. He wants to figure out who planted the imposter parents, and why? He asks Voiello if it was him, but Voiello tells him it wasn’t. Lenny knows he’s being truthful. He asks Voiello if he thinks “we” killed Angelo unintentionally. Voiello tells him, “No we didn’t kill him. You killed him.” This accusation finally has weight enough to make Lenny reconsider everything he’s done.
Andrew is so distressed by his responsibility in Angelo’s suicide, he not only laughs in the face of a woman throwing herself at him at a party he drunkenly attends, but fights off a driver’s attempts to rape him while he’s passed out drunk in the back of a car. Andrew escapes the Vatican and heads back to the one place he considers his home … Honduras. His girlfriend Maribeth meets Andrew at the airport, but there’s a problem, her husband is a drug kingpin and he’s found out about their affair. The man has been disrespected, so in turn he murders Andrew and leaves him on the side of a dusty road. Lenny has just lost another surrogate family member.
Lenny doesn’t know about Andrew, but he’s begun to realize what a disaster his papacy has been so far. While smoking cigarettes with Spencer, he confides he’s likely going to resign soon. Spencer is excited by the possibility he may yet become Pope. Voiello and Caltanessetta have already promised him once Lenny is gone he will be elevated to Lenny’s position, and we see him dress up in his finest and practice his first speech to Rome in his mirror. There’s a problem though. Sister Mary convinces Lenny not to resign when she learns of his intentions. He knows Sister Mary was behind his fake parents, and he thanks her for it. It helped Lenny to feel something he has not been able to feel in a long time … hope. Sister Mary believes Lenny is a saint, and wants the world to understand it as well. The first step was manipulating him to sign documents that eased the ability for those seeking the priesthood while he was distracted. Now he has to find a way to gain the public’s confidence again, or his papacy really is a lost cause.
There are a few issues still floating around in the background I believe will end up being important before the end of the season. The first is the disappearance of the faith healer Tonino Pettola. Did Lenny and the Cardinals do something to him to make him disappear? If so, why? The second is Cardinal Gutierrez’s investigation into the Kurtwell child abuse allegations. Will he rise to the occasion or end up embarrassing Lenny? Lastly, Don Tommaso knows Lenny doesn’t believe in God. He tells Sister Mary, Lenny, and some others the same thing. Will his knowledge be the Pope’s downfall, or will Lenny somehow find God before things spiral too far out of control?
Season 1, Episode 7 (S01E07)
The Young Pope airs Sundays and Mondays at 10PM on HBO
For six months out of the year Jeff is holed up in his home with nothing to do but shovel snow, watch television, write, and dream of warmer climates.
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Jeff Iblings | Contributor