The New Pope: Third Episode
January 27, 2020 9:36 PM - Season 1, Episode 3 - Subscribe

Conflicts, conclave, and crises abound.

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HBO Summary: Still considering the offer of Supreme Pontiff, Brannox reflects on his past, while Voiello makes clear his commitment to his mission's success. After being elected pope and taking the name "John Paul III," Brannox preaches the importance of family, truth and love in his first public homily and to the cardinals. Ester bonds with Fabiano, a widower and new member of the parish, who offers an unusual solution to her money woes. The Abbess of St. Therese and an anguished Sister Lisette are disheartened when their financial pleas fall on deaf ears.

Recaps:
- Vulture: Passion Play
- A.V. Club: The New Pope might not be young, but he's definitely childish
- Papal Bull: Resurrection 3 – Social Linking With God (w/ Chris Wade & Molly O’Brien)
posted by rather be jorting (8 comments total)
 
I felt like Brannox's big speech was kind of incoherent.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 9:45 PM on January 27


Which one? The one to the Brother Cardinals:
It frightens me to think what I am for you, but what I am with you consoles me. For you, I am the Bishop of Rome, with you, I am a Christian.

Welcome, brother cardinals.

We only have one problem. I don't know of any other. The problem is love.

You will come to me and you will say: Holy Father, idolatry is taking root in the form of a cult devoted to Pius XIII, there are worrisome currents of terrorism at work within Islam, depressing business concerns weighing on the Curia, aberrations of sexual behavior, crises of work and ethics, men who murder women, women who murder their children. You will come to me and you will tell me all this suffering in the world. And I will say to you: they are all hysterias of love. Distortions of our ability to love. The problem, brothers, is love.

The question, then, is: how are we to love? This is my way: with tenderness, without passion. Passion is the eternal enemy of humility. Christian humility, which is frugal, is just and is necessary. Love is an abstraction, like intelligence, like happiness. Every time our judgment is beclouded by the ardent passions that consume us, we give love a dangerous concreteness, a scandalous concreteness, an illegal concreteness.

In short, we are causing pain. To ourselves, and to others. Replace that concrete love with tenderness.

Or else, my beloved brothers, to my deep regret, I shall be force to replace you. God does not want that. Only God knows hows right and necessary it is for our Church to remain united. Jesus explained to us what love is, but we do not have his equilibrium, nor his wisdom, but, we must try, my brothers, together. I can be a father to you, but you must know that fathers are to be obeyed even when they make mistakes. My beloved cardinals, perhaps we cannot fully express our faith but we can express our tenderness. It is our hope and our ambition.
Or his first public speech:
Thank you, brothers and sisters.

I look upon you and I see a hidden grace, which is a truth. That is what you are.

You look upon me and you see a fragile old man with a beard. That is what I am.

Now you are thinking: so this is the pope, the new bishop of Rome! He must know so much! No! That is not true.
I do not know. That is why I want to learn.

Let us learn together, brothers and sisters. Me, here, in my new home, and you, together with your families. We must never forget the beauty and the strength of family.

Whenever we cannot manage to see the beauty, it is because the truth has been hidden. Let us uncover that truth, place it on the kitchen table and your family will grow stronger. That is who you are.

And let us try to eliminate prejudices. Those who have prejudices do not know the facts. That is not who you are. Let us grow in the tenderness of our intimacy and in the intimacy of our tenderness. That is who you are.

And do not think, brothers and sisters, we must not think. The Church must not think. It needs only to protect the fragile. Our mission is to recognize, preserve and value fragility. That fragility which hides in the opaque cold of night or in the crystalline cold of midday. Wherever there is fragility, there is the Church. That is who we are. We are a truth.
[Copied and reformatted from this rough transcript]

Both are a bit of word salad, lots of feelings and not much clear (call to) actions.

Echoing adrianhon's mis-placed comment in the prior episode post:

- Rather cruel dig(s!) at Meghan Markle

- Classic "I like John Malkovich" reference, why not


With the digs at Meghan, and the creepy AF second "miracle" for Ester finding a charming, widowed pimp (let's be honest, he's pimping her out, even if he's not getting a cut), I'm worried that this show isn't pointing out how shitty the Church is towards to nuns, but it's actually misogynistic. I hope that's not the case.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:20 AM on January 28 [2 favorites]


You're right that both of them are a mess, but I was thinking particularly of the public speech. There's maybe something there, but like, the theology of it is severely underdeveloped if so. Themes seem to be:

1) dispassionate care in place of passionate engagement
2) anti-intellectualism
3) protection of fragility
4) humility

This is not the worst starting point for a theology, but the show hasn't really done any work to tie them together, and the rhetorical tropes deployed in the speeches did little to either clarify or add weight to those themes. Popes Francis and Pius were both much better at this, which I suppose means it's a character failure rather than a writer's failure, but nobody in the show seemed to be reacting the way I'd expect for a speech that bad.

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If the world of the show otherwise follows reality, I suppose we can extrapolate that the Sussexes left for Canada as a result of losing Brannox as confidant? No way the show planned for that, but like, oof. Those were cruel to start but only got more obviously ugly in light of more recent events.

--

I hope Lenny wakes up soon. I miss him and his bombast.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 11:04 AM on January 28 [1 favorite]


Yeah, as much as I enjoyed quite a significant portion of the episode (pontificating speeches! the elaborate hammer for checking that Tomasso was "asleep"! "God doesn't like you") , the way the show fixates on women's bodies via the male gaze has been consistently off-putting for me, which is disappointing given how much I adore the rest of the show most of the time. Ester in particular keeps getting used more like some kind of prop for a sort of symbolic fallen tragic femininity, I guess, and it's extra disappointing in this season with the noticeable absence of Sister Mary, or really just any other notable female speaking role besides Sofia, but I'm not really digging the way the season's been developing her as well.

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The Markle mentions fell super flat for me - and on preview, I think vibratory manner of working covers an additional level of discomfort I have if we're entertaining the thought of this all occurring in a parallel contemporary reality - but on a meta-level, I was as entertained as the Papal Bull podcast hosts over how the references are now already outdated. I'll guess they seemed like a delightful item for the writers back in August 2019 or whenever the script was written.

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The split-second shift between Brannox's wizened father telling him "God doesn't like you" to his twin brother (and, in a sense, his own reflection?) doing so - wow.

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I miss Lenny! The brief glimpses we've been getting of him in this and the past episode, as a ghostlike figure who sometimes manifests and sometimes doesn't, aren't nearly enough. Loved that brief monologue at the grave, though. "God didn't like me, too." I also hope he wakes up soon.
posted by rather be jorting at 11:14 AM on January 28


I'll give them credit, they know their Catholic history and theology. Maybe those speeches were a bit incongruous, but they had Newman written all over them. The false humility but seemingly sincere gestures toward fragility and poverty. Tenderness. Woven through with veiled threats. They might not have seemed momentous, but they leaned on their imperfection to make a point. A contrived naturalism. And they seemed to have their audiences in the palm of their hand. This show could have called itself The Newman Pope.
posted by Stanczyk at 2:40 PM on January 30


Speaking of the show's engagement with Catholicism and depicting how the Church and papacy has to adjust to modern times, I thought a really interesting point from the Papal Bull podcast is that Voiello keeps getting depicted as having an unexpected set of principles, despite his preoccupation with maintaining power (and, in a sense, maintaining the Church).

I'm finishing up the corresponding recap episode for this ep before the new (to the U.S.) episode releases later today, and wanted to pullquote this last paragraph from the AV Club recap (written by one of the podcast hosts):
The adult in the room is, it turns out, Voiello, who has emerged as a shockingly consistent voice of firm, yet pragmatic moral clarity. He allows Faisal to keep living in the Vatican. He asserts that Hernández cannot be pope, because of his past covering up sexual abuse. And though he is not informed of the plight of the nuns, it’s hard not to imagine him doing something to help them. Instead, the nuns are pissed—and they are, as the episode ends, giving each other ominous tattoos of a nun with a raised fist. John Paul III might be entering his spiritual adulthood, but he’s walking into a churchyard brawl.
Season 1 Voiello didn't really strike me as having any notable moral clarity, pragmatic or not, but it's certainly been more present this season, developed here and there in small moments rather than any grandstanding-type scene. Keeping an eye on whether this continues to develop further, and whether it'll be overshadowed by any other 👍-equivalent hits.
posted by rather be jorting at 7:45 AM on February 3


ok also this bit from the Papal Bull recap cracked me up:
Brannox is like, "I know the opinion you've formed of me, that I'm a socialite," and Gutierrez is like, "Socializing is important. Think of all the things that happened to Jesus during the Last Supper. That was a social event."
posted by rather be jorting at 4:47 PM on February 3


It bothered me that Gutierrez's response to "socialite" was The Last Supper. I can see the joke, but there was a better comparison available. Jesus socialized with all sorts. Not only did he famously dine with the prostitutes and tax collectors, he also sometimes met with those of a much higher station. Gutierrez would have easily known this, and could have responded with something in that vein with a pointed observation. Jesus was a socialite. He would break bread with the rich. He would share a meager meal with someone who had nothing. He moved effortlessly between worlds. Can you say the same, Brannox?

In terms of the name-dropping (and photo dropping), I'd like to think Brannox and Tahani Al-Jamil (The Good Place) exist in the same universe. Both made wealthy by their family but this is tempered by rejection from their parents. Rejection in favor of a sibling. Both striving constantly for a sort of approval. Both insecure enough to think they need to mention their famous connections to others.

It's fun imagining them interacting at one of Tahani's many charity balls. They'd never be friends. Rivals of a sort. But they would have a strange connection neither one of them could explain. And then, much later, Tahani could occasionally peek down from heaven to see how her old frenemy is doing. She'd be thrilled she knows the Pope personally, but wishes she could tell him all the ways his theology gets it wrong.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 2:49 AM on February 13


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