The HBO Series The Young Pope – Featuring Jude Law
HBO is resurrecting the back to back night mini-series with a week long daily dose of hot pontiff Jude Law and hoping audiences tune in to see what the essence of this unusual show might be. Besides the well known main actors the creator, director of the series Paolo Sorrentino who is having this dual credit toted on the billboards as significant as the tagline for the show despite a lack of being a household name.
As the title refers this is a show about a papal protagonist and is not an historic biopic of a teenage Benedict IX but a fictitious Pius XIII set in modern 21st Century and assumes Law can portray a character at the age of 47, some greys are applied to enhance this effect. The last Roman Catholic Pope to hold the name Pius was Pius XII during the 1940’s. But in the late 1990’s an offshoot cult calling themselves the True Catholic Church proclaimed their leader Pope Pius XIII in the backwoods of the state of Washington. This series is in no way based on that Waco inspired “true church” Seattle spinoff but set in modern day Rome as an alter universe with a radical new Pope who is enforcing some absurdly vengeful and sinister ex cathedra commands.
Italian auteur Sorrentino has found some success in the world of American cult films with This Must Be the Place (2011) and Youth (2015). Known for his erotic and magic realism styles both visually and thematically The Young Pope is already living up to his reputation. Episode II of the series involves a kangaroo being hypnotized by the motion of the pontiff’s hands. The high definition visual aspect is stunning with the lime and rust emanating from the iron of the dome on Saint Peter’s Basilica. A puppetry like detail to mechanical props on the set is highlighted with perched mannequin owls seen in a close-up shot to be bobbleheads with no further guess to their function than a cuckoo clock averian who can’t tell time.
This series might have been pitched as The Leftovers (2014) meets The Pope Must Die (1991) in relation to this being a drama series rooted in reality but with a mysterious, unexplained moment that spurns the show and with a papal setting begging to tell the story of a huge “what if” scenario.
As the story unfolds the audience does not have to wait the usual weekly hiatus but can marathon the episodes to a daily effect while staying up to date or do a weekend binge and finish the series on time. Tagging this film a “Limited” series guarantees a definitive ending to this 6 hour movie with five 23 hour intermissions. Audiences seem to appreciate a storyline that has been developed the whole way through since its introduction.