Does he or doesn't he believe in God?
That seems to be the question of the hour on The Young Pope Season 1 Episode 3 as Lenny asserts his control and will over the Church, while Voiello and the other Cardinals try to take it away or at least try to temper it a bit.
If they only knew.
I loved the contradiction between the opening and closing of this hour.
In the beginning we are treated to a self-absorbed, power-hungry Pope who seems to think he's God, but by the end of the hour this same Pope bares part of his soul to Gutierrez and shares that he's not sure he even believes.
So which is it?
Who is the real Lenny Belardo?
I love myself more than my neighbor. More than God. I believe only in myself. I am the Lord omnipotent.Lenny
We get a hint in the new opening credit where Lenny winks and smirks at the camera as if he's telling us it's all a joke. That he knows he's fooling everyone except those he lets in on his little secrets?
Or maybe it's a wink to the audience to tell us not to take it all so seriously. That the entire thing is nothing but a joke? (There has to be something to the addition of "All Along the Watchtower" in the opening credits, right?)
And there's certainly plenty of tongue in cheek and sarcastic moments throughout.
However you look at it, The Young Pope is open to much interpretation.
If you wanted to be serious, you could say that Lenny is a reflection of us all as we too have crises of faith. Does God really exist? If he does, why doesn't he show himself?
Even if we don't believe in God, we all still have little moments of doubts in ourselves. Are we really as good as we think we are? Are we good parents, daughters, sons, people?
For Lenny, nothing is enough. No matter what he does bad or good, it's not going to be enough.
He is haunted by his parents abandoning him. He even has dreams about it. He thinks about it constantly. It's something that rules his head and heart.
It consumes him.
I'm an orphan, and orphans are never young.Lenny
His "spiritual" parents Sister Mary and Spencer know this too.
Somehow Sister Mary thinks she can manipulate Lenny like she did when he was a child, but it's not working as easily as it did when he was a malleable child.
She knows she cannot influence him alone. That's why she keeps going to Spencer for help even though he keeps rejecting the idea of it.
It wasn't until the Elder Cardinal Catalanssetta and Voiello visited that he finally decided to help Lenny. The older priest was able to convince Spencer to let go of his bitterness for the good of the Church.
That's what we priests do. We give God wings.Cardinal Caltanessetta
But Spencer had been too mean too many times, and Lenny wasn't having any of his apologies.
Who could blame him?
This is a guy he looked to as a surrogate father. He didn't expect the nastiness to continue, but it did. Lenny had forgiven Spencer, but when Lenny visited him at his invitation, he didn't expect his mentor to continue his outrage.
Spencer needed to get over it, but it was too little too late.
At least for now. We all know that children get mad at their parents all the time, some for longer periods than others, but most eventually come around to forgiving their parents for whatever their parents did. Especially little kids.
And Lenny is nothing more than a child trying to find his way.
I prayed some more. Harder this time. I was praying so hard I nearly shit my pants. I glued my ass to my chair so not to make a mess.Lenny
Voiello didn't make any headway this hour as he almost lost his job.
Does Voiello even wonder how Lenny gets his information? He didn't even seem surprised when Lenny brought up his resignation which the Cardinals had discussed with him.
Voiello is so caught up in his own struggle for power, he's too dumb to realize Lenny is several steps ahead of him.
I doubt that Lenny would have really deposed of him. Lenny just wanted to know what he already knew. He wants to rule by fear, not tolerance, just like he told Spencer. And what better way to inflict fear in someone than to threaten to take away their power.
It was interesting to learn the Lenny might have been a nice guy when he was a Cardinal. But that seems to have been a farce just like everything in Lenny's life.
He seems to change with the wind. To whatever might make him feel better that day. It's almost like he was a fair weather Cardinal. Like Whatever everyone wanted him to be that day, he was.
Voiello: Holy Father, you are as handsome as Jesus, but you are not actually Jesus.
Lenny: I'm actually more handsome. Keep that to yourself.
While Lenny continued to make enemies, he made a new friend this hour.
Ester couldn't possibly have been the only one who loved Lenny's homily, but she was the only one that stood out in St. Peter's Square practically wishing Lenny would see her and acknowledge her for her beliefs.
But what is the real reason he summoned her? Was curious about her and why she was standing out there or did she remind him of someone?
She sort of looks like his mother (or what he imagines his mother to look like), but then again could she have been a reminder of his week-long girlfriend in California?
It sort of seemed that way considering he told Gutierrez the story of the "homely" girl he won over by juggling oranges. I was waiting for him to drop the bomb that he slept with the girl, but it never came.
It wouldn't have been surprising. He had a free week before he went to seminary. He was a teenager. It makes sense.
I don't believe in my thoughts. I don't believe in my will. I don't believe in my abilities.Lenny
If so, does he plan on having an affair with Ester? She's obviously into priests. And is it telling that he happened to pass out in her arms.
She seems to be the first person to have validated his whole existence.
Little does he know that Ester is dangerous. Because of her, Voiello may have found a way back to the power he so desires.
It's funny how my feelings about the show directly parallels the show itself. I'm baffled, yet intrigued. I just can't turn away. Not yet, anyway.
What did you think of "Third Episode"? Is The Young Pope meeting your expectations? What do you think the series is trying to say? Are you baffled or intrigued?
Hit the comments and share your thoughts!
The Young Pope continues with "Fourth Episode tomorrow night, Monday, January 23 at 9/8c on HBO.
Lisa Babick is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.