The New Pope

Dept. of Sects, Sex, and Sacrilege


So, I have two confessions to make. One: As per my name, I am a Muslim. And two: I don’t know many Italians.

The reason I bring these two points up is because as I sat to watch the new Sky Atlantic, HBO, and Canal+ series The New Pope, two thoughts crossed my mind. One: I wonder how followers of the Christian faith feel about this show, and two: this feels like a show only an Italian can make.

But first, a primer. The New Pope is a follow up (albeit with a different title) to 2016’s The Young Pope, which tells the story of, well, a young pope. Played exquisitely by Jude Law, the series follows the disruptive, non-traditionalist cardinal Lenny Belardo, who through a quirk in the machinations of the papal conclave, takes the big job and becomes the disruptive, non-traditionalist Pope Pius XIII. 

Although it’s been four years since the release of the original series, The New Pope picks up immediately following a dramatic end, as the Vatican finds itself in a precarious position. Much like The Young Pope, the series is a show about palace intrigue, secrets, and ego. And much like the original series, The New Pope has got itself a healthy dollop of blasphemy. The opening scene of The New Pope is of a young nun, washing the comatose virile young pope, and then pleasuring herself to this Catholic rock star of a man. The series’ opening credits is of cloistered nuns in white night gowns dancing and writhing seductively in their shared dorm as a 10 foot tall crucifix pulses bright neon lights in time to the music.

The New Pope goes right to the heart of organised religion’s biggest problem: humanity. The series is one big reality check. Men of the frock reluctantly and painfully giving up their signs of wealth – the gold rings and bejewelled crucifixes – only to pick it all up again when the order is rescinded. A woman is approached to offer up her body as comfort for a mentally challenged young man as christian charity. All this done in the name of God. Yes, all of this makes for great fiction, but as a Muslim I can attest to the horrors of human action done in the name of God. 

The New Pope and the original series that precedes it are of course great TV, and you would expect nothing less from a trio co-production of Sky Atlantic, HBO, and Canal+. It is beautifully set and beautifully shot, with just a touch of Italian flair in its camera work and shot blocking. The series is an amazingly written drama, with characters from around the Christian world, with dialogue mostly in English but a lot of Italian thrown in (good subtitles are a must). It has an amazing cast with John Malkovich joining Jude Law and the international cast of Italians, French and, South American actors that most of us will have never heard of.

Yes, the series is very risqué, and maybe even blasphemous to the point of going “too far” (Muslims can’t even get around to the idea of a historical fiction series of the Ottoman Empire without pulling out the fatwas), but I believe there is a deeper message here.

Despite what it may seem at first, despite the cynical lens that you or I may watch the series through, despite its veneer of politics and greed and ego, Paolo Sorrentino’s The Young Pope and The New Pope is filled with moments of love. That God is love, and that regardless of what else is going on in the world, to choose love is the Christian thing to do. It is easy to be cynical. But to love, is divine. Love to God. Love for your fellow man. Love of your lover, regardless of gender.

Both shows, but maybe even more so in the newer series are filled with moments to remind you to love. Moments that try and impart on to you, the audience, that like the four apostles John, Paul, George, and Ringo once said: “all you need is love”.

The New Pope
HBO, Season 2, 9 Episodes
Director: Paolo Sorrentino
Writers: Stefano Bises, Umberto Contarello, and Paolo Sorrentino
Cast: Jude Law, John Malkovich, Silvio Orlando, Cécile de France, Javier Cámara, Ludivine Sagnier, Maurizio Lombardi, Mark Ivanir, Henry Goodman, Massimo Ghini, and Ulrich Thomsen

Bahir likes to review movies because he can watch them at special screenings and not have to interact with large groups of people who may not agree with his idea of what a movie going experience is. Bahir likes jazz, documentaries, Ken Burns, and summer blockbuster movies. He really hopes that the HBO MAX Green Lantern series will help the character be cool again. Also don’t get him started on Jason Momoa’s Aquaman (#NotMyArthurCurry).

Previous Story

Bloodshot Ticket Giveaway

Ian, Barley, and half their dad in Pixar's Onward.
Next Story


Latest from TV