Rogue Recommends: The Young Pope

The bizarre HBO miniseries delivers genuine emotion amidst an excess of papal camp.

by Philbert Dy

Here is the thing: they aren’t actually showing Paolo Sorrentino’s TV miniseries in the Philippines. It appears as though the higher ups over at HBO Asia didn’t think that a show about papal intrigue that portrayed the Vatican as a place of dirty politics would play well in a country that still identifies as staunchly Catholic.

Here’s the other thing: every joke that could be made about The Young Pope has already been made. People were baffled when HBO started rolling the promos for this show. They took one look at the promos and decided that the show was too ridiculous to even consider.


But it is the kind of ridiculous that is worth seeking out. It is a brash piece of televised insanity that in its absurdities touches on something truly sublime.


It would be worth it just to watch Jude Law in this role, completely hamming it up. He never just delivers a line in this series. He rolls the dialogue around in his mouth, tasting every word, imbuing the language with the vast, largely unseen history of his character. There is gravity in the way he says the most mundane things, the paradoxical sense of his genuine belief and utter disdain for most of humanity. It is as though he despises the very act of existence, his character dead set on bringing his absent vision of heaven to the earthly realm.

It would be worth it just to see the single best use of LMFAO’s I’m Sexy and I Know It in the history of all media. It is a scene so beautifully and bafflingly conceived that Redfoo should just come out and declare that the song is never to be used again. It has achieved artistic heights it was never designed for, elevated by a montage so utterly ridiculous in design that the only proper response is a standing ovation.


See, the thing is, the show knows that it is ridiculous. It has the DNA of similarly bizarre shows like Hannibal, reveling in outré sensibilities that only serve to highlight the genuinely moving human moments that these scripts inexplicably deliver. In the midst of all the papal regalia, as the show allows its star to consume the screen, there is still somehow room for an earnest depiction of faith at its purest, the supporting characters given voice to express some of the most beautiful portrayals of belief that have ever been put on screen.

So check out The Young Pope. You probably won’t go to hell for it.