After wrapping up much of the behind-the-scenes drama in the penultimate episode, providing Cardinal Voiello (the great Silvio Orlando) with a chance to take down his many rivals and closing the loop on the (often confusing) financial corruption plotline, Sorrentino shifted his gaze back to Pius and John Paul III. This season was all about delayed gratification: Pius spent multiple episodes in a coma, only making the occasional ghost-like intrusion on the action, and, even after he returned, he didn't meet John Paul III until the very last episode. Having waited so long, you might expect some real fireworks when the two finally confront one another and vie for power.
The stage was set for a knock-down, drag-out fight. With the Church facing an international crisis, Pius arrives in John Paul III's chambers dressed in a priest's simple black garb while the sitting Pope sports the more opulent uniform of his office. Instead of an explosive exchange, Pius -- or let's just call him by his given name here, Lenny -- quickly got the upper hand from the more diminutive John Paul III, who offered up his ring to be kissed and was immediately rebuked. Lenny is a man of action and he insists that they find a way to rescue the young students and teacher being held hostage on the island of Ventotene. "We have six children and a priest to save," says Lenny. "This is not a job for the police. This is a job for the church."
To convince John Paul III of his power, Lenny reveals that he heard what the older pope said at his brother's grave. Again, it's an acknowledgement that Lenny does possess a saint-like gift; there's nothing ambiguous about his supernatural abilities. But he's not a completely flawless, egoless Superman-like figure either -- even if he does end up rescuing the children in Ventotene by simply showing up, causing the terrorists to reveal their true identities. No, it's not Islamic fundamentalists. It's Esther and the other members of the Lenny-obsessed group that waited outside the hospital for weeks while he was in his coma. They only wanted to catch a glimpse of their savior, which he had withheld from the public since his first days of taking the papacy.
With that ticking time-bomb of a plot issue resolved, the episode is free to do normal New Pope things, like having characters give lengthy public speeches and partake in wordy exchanges about matters of faith. Of those scenes, Lenny's address to the public, which includes an acknowledgement that "God has the answers," and his subsequent Christ-like crowd-surfing, has the most visual and thematic potency. The way the music ended and the scene continued, the rustling of outstretched hands providing the only soundtrack, perfectly encapsulates the appeal of Sorrentino's heightened dramaic style.