What makes this young pope so special?
Yes, this pope is young for a pope, but that doesn't mean he's young for a human. Judging from some partial nudity in the first episode, the Supreme Pontiff being played by the 44-year-old Jude Law has a supremely toned butt, but don't let the show's title fool you: this isn't The Millennial Pope. He's not replacing the Communion wine with La Croix or swapping out the papal Mitre with a hat from Supreme. But The Generation X Pope probably doesn't fit on posters.
No matter his age, Law's Pope Piux XIII -- an orphan named Lenny Belardo from Brooklyn -- is a bit of a paranoid, reactionary jerk. After the show's dreamy opening, which includes a fiery speech from Lenny about taking the Church away from some of its conservative principles, we see a series of scenes where the new pope teases, embarrasses, and humiliates the spiritual leaders around him as he goes about preparing for his first major address to the public. He doesn't suffer fools -- or elaborate breakfasts.
Luckily, he has some of his own people around to help him. The curious nun who raised him (played by a stern but playful Diane Keaton) arrives to provide guidance. His mentor Cardinal Michael Spencer (James Cromwell) lurks in the background. If this sounds a bit like The West Wing set in the Vatican, rest assured that it's not. Besides a few scenes of Cardinals bickering, the show doesn't seem to be especially interested in explaining how exactly someone as young as Lenny became the Young Pope. He just did.
"I'm a contradiction like God," says Lenny, and the series around him is no less perplexing. Sorrentino, who directed every episode, knows how absurd some of this material is -- and so does Law -- and together they lean into the ridiculous pomp, garish pageantry, and winking excess of the Catholic Church with an often intoxicating swagger. Occasionally, they over-step -- a moment in the pilot where Lenny lights a cigarette and says, "There's a new pope now," feels like a bad Twitter joke brought to life -- but for the most part they keep from falling into self-parody. At the very least, there are no popemobile jokes in the first episode.