The New Pope Popedown is a list of the five craziest and/or most notable things that happened in each episode of HBO’s ‘The New Pope,’ ranked from least to most crazy and/or notable. Like a countdown, but with popes.
5. Becoming Pope to spite your parents and meet Marilyn Manson
Well, it’s official. Sir John Brannox, punk rocker and eyeliner-wearing English aristocrat, fashion confidant of a duchess and dramatic couch lounger, is now Pope John Paul III, head of the Catholic Church and almost assuredly this fictional universe’s most influential Marilyn Manson fan. Huzzah and hooray and so on. Forgive me for my lack of ebullience about all this. It’s not that I’m not excited. I am. I would be excited about any situation that resulted in John Malkovich — real or in character — becoming the pope. But I’m more fascinated by the path he took to get there. As far as I can tell, his decision to become pope, like a table, was supported by four pillars:
– He became pope to spite his parents, who hate him for not being their favorite son, his deceased twin brother Adam, who was the one they had planned greatness for. You can tell your relationship with your family isn’t great when you’re accepting a job you don’t want in a furious rage while shouting, “You shall be condemned to be proud of me, you poor old bastards” at your ventilator-dependent parents as they stare at a ski-related memorial to your dead brother. One hundred therapists could try to unpack that for one hundred years and they’d never fully resolve it. He’d look great on their couches, though.
He became pope so Count Francois de Bourgainville, a Norman noble, could not become pope, which was all part of a ruse put in play by Voiello, who realized that Brannox’s vanity would be the right button to push. Nevermind the fact that the Count has been dead for years. Trivial matters. Voiello plays the long game.
– He became pope to meet his favorite celebrities, who include: Jack Nicholson, Sean Penn, Sharon Stone, and Marilyn Manson. It’s important to note here that Marilyn Manson and Sharon Stone were announced as guest stars before the season, which means, as far as I can tell, they will be appearing as themselves. Marilyn Manson, in the Vatican. What a gloriously unhinged television program.
– He became pope to free himself from Meghan Markle, who, and I must stress that I am not making this up, calls him dozens of times a day for fashion advice.
All valid and perfectly normal reasons to become pope. Also, I need to hammer this in somewhere to get it on the record and this is as good a place as any: I still think he killed his brother, Adam. You will never convince me otherwise.
4. Look at this freaking guy
This is Fabiano. We hate him, him and his stupid hair. He showed up at Ester’s son’s birthday party without a present, promptly bounced to go see the sunset, then showed up later with a belated gift in his hand and lust in his eyes, appeared to sleep with her in the room where her son’s crib is, then made her an indecent proposal involving sleeping with some rich lawyer’s “deformed” virgin son for $15-20,000.
Red flags galore here. Just red flags as far as the eye can see. A sea of them, really. First of all, it’s very suspicious that this guy — a friend of her priest — showed up moments after the priest informed her that she was about to lose her apartment. This suspicion doubled-up on itself when she went to the priest for guidance, conflicted about whether this amounted to prostitution, and the priest was like, “Nah, you should do it.” Turn this whole exercise 20 degrees to the left and it looks like Fabiano and the priest were working together with this rich lawyer to put her in a tough position. And I really don’t like Fabiano’s look or face or underpants. All of it screams weasel.
Also, as a personal note, as a person with a disability (spinal cord injury, wheelchair, the whole deal), I will say that the portrayal of the lawyer’s son as some sort of faceless grope-y monster was… less than ideal. I get the point the show was trying to make. Ester is desperate and alone but still principled enough to not humiliate herself by selling her body. Fine, great, point made. But the execution of it was kind of gross. I choose to blame this on Fabiano, too.
3. A few words about the writhing disco nuns
In the first season of this series, the nuns loved sports. Diane Keaton’s Sister Mary heaved up jump shots with the worst form you’ve ever seen, some nuns played tetherball, one even did a sick rainbow kick during an all-nun soccer game. This season, it appears the nuns have set sports aside in favor of another popular recreational activity: writhing around in sultry ecstasy as techno-infused pop music thumps and neon crosses glow red, green, and blue.
This is what happens every episode during the opening credits. Nuns, a whole mess of them, grinding against walls like there’s a rave in the convent. It’s… quite a way to start a television show. It really sets the mood. Although, it does make it weird when the nuns show up later to, like, ask a corrupt and potentially evil priest for 200 euros so one of the sisters can give her dying mother one last moment of joy. Because I’m watching them struggle with it all, the lack of money, the resistance from a guy who also acknowledges that another Vatican official just got a Bentley, that guy’s refusal to even bring up the request for money at his next meeting with Voiello, and all I can think is, “Why not just sell tickets to your next convent rave?” Five euros a person, forty people, bingo bango, problem solved.
2. WHAT. IS. IN. THE. POPE’S. SECRET. GOLDEN. BOX?
Upon accepting the gig as pope, Sir John Brannox took exactly two things with him from his castle: his dog and his mysterious gold box. The one he keeps next to his bed. The one the show has been teasing us with for two full episodes now. Folks, I must know what is in that box. I must know now, immediately, at once. And the frustrating — and exhilarating — thing about it all is that there could be anything in that sucker. Literally, anything. This is a show that brought a kangaroo to the Vatican and then had it murdered by disgruntled protestors. A show that appears to be going to great lengths to have Marilyn Manson appear as himself as a hero of the sitting pope. Again, anything.
None of these would surprise me at all:
– His brother Adam’s ashes
– A cross
– A cross filled with heroin
– A human thumb
– A little spinning ballerina with a music box that plays Carly Rae Jepsen
– A tiny golden duck
– The weapon he used to murder Adam
– Keys to a tank
– His best eyeliner
– A sweet memento from his painful childhood that brings him peace in moments of turmoil
– A second, slightly smaller gold box
– A Faberge egg
– A Faberge egg filled with heroin
– A flash drive with nuclear codes on it
– Blackmail on high-ranking officials
– A picture of Sharon Stone
– Dog treats
– A voodoo doll of Pope Lenny
– A full-sized, rolled-up poster of the cover art for The Young Pope Season 1
Tell me what’s in the box, Brannox.
1. I respect the restraint displayed by everyone involved to wait all the way until the first half of the third episode — almost two and a half hours! — to make an extremely groanworthy meta-joke about John Malkovich
But even more than this, I respect the restraint it showed to not have him look directly into the camera and wink at the audience as he said it, maybe with a little bell dinging to really drive it home. Maybe with confetti falling from the ceiling of the Brannox family castle and an entire marching band bursting into the room. Admirable, really.