Esther has sinned, and she’s one of the few people on the show capable of being cowed by that fact. This makes her susceptible to Voiello’s lies (exaggerations) in their next meeting that the pope has had “dozens of girlfriends,” and it makes her more likely to try to do something drastic in order to save the church. Still, Esther’s naïveté leads her to claim to that she can get through to the pope, because “he respects me,” to which Silvio Orlando responds with a masterful, uncomfortable, very funny acting moment of Voiello stifling his instinctive laughter, followed by this gem: “I was about to laugh but I stopped myself because I have a certain class.”


Voiello’s mockery of Esther is ironic, since he lionizes the same qualities in Girolamo, in one of the show’s most genuinely uncomfortable scenes to date. He characterizes the boy’s cognitive impairment as a “hem of holiness” because of his lack of knowledge, which is, frankly, lame as hell. I’ll talk more about these scenes as they take on more importance for Voiello’s character, but for now, it’s enough to say that it’s pretty frustrating to watch Girolamo used solely as a character development prop. Thankfully, Voiello endures even more humiliation from the pope when he tries to present Lenny with a gift—something that the pope notes “are supposed to be worse for you than real cigarettes.” Yes, that’s right: Voiello tried to buy Lenny a vape. Praise The Young Pope.

Still, Voiello’s ploy with Esther doesn’t seem to be coming out of left field: during one of their strolls, Lenny compares Esther to his old girlfriend. During this scene, she reveals that she and Peter are sterile, and much of the episode is given over to her (and Lenny) praying to the Virgin Mary to that end. (As the camera floats up to the statue of Mary—in a mirroring of a shot later in the episode where Lenny leaves Voiello without answering the question of how, exactly, he was called to the priesthood—Lenny says: “Now you’re praying.”) Though she makes half-hearted efforts to give her “beauty” to the pope—and later has sex against the window of her apartment while he creepily watches and fervently prays to Mary to give her children—Lenny is pretty resolute, cutting her off before she can do anything she might regret later.


One thing the pope already regrets: having to baptize all of the babies. He has a routine—Gutierrez whispers the name of the baby, then the pope performs the sacrament while saying “She takes after you,” repeating himself until he encounters a clearly adopted black baby and spits out, “Yes, it’s perfectly clear she’s been adopted. That doesn’t change a thing.” Escaping from the annoying parents, the pope finds Sofia hanging out in the bathroom, and they continue to develop their friendly rapport. This is one of my favorite relationships on the show, because it’s lightly flirtatious without ever really suggesting a romantic pairing, and because the pope seems to genuinely like and respect Sofia—particularly when she displays surprising discretion. The pope marvels at why the tall, handsome assistant to the prime minister of Greenland has gotten so much more attention than the prime minister, who is a beautiful woman, and Sofia responds: “I know exactly how to answer that question. With silence.”

Silence is also the approach taken by the prime minister, who spends much of her meeting with Lenny looking at him expectantly, waiting for some form of agreeable rapport that never comes. In fact, the pope kicks off the conversation with the incredible line, “I know. I’m incredibly handsome. But please, let’s try to forget about that.” Is there anyone Lenny can’t insult and get away with it? We’re already in full “mocking world leaders” mode. And the prime minister is kind of a doormat, rolling over as Lenny mostly ignores her gifts, compares Greenland’s Catholics to Native Americans, and claims that God could be hidden under all of the ice.

The prime minister presents a song as one of the gifts, and everyone has to listen to it and react at the same time. (I don’t blame Lenny for being uncomfortable with this—having someone randomly play a mixtape they made for you in front of a bunch of people is one of the most excruciating things I can imagine.) The members of Greenland’s delegation turn and smile at each other. Caltanissetta covers his hand with his face. Voiello haplessly tries to bop along. And the pope sits, motionless. (All of this cut with Suree’s sister’s body being placed on a freighter to be delivered to the Vatican.)


And, at the end of the episode, the pope listens to the song (titled “Senza Un Perché”), remembers his mother, looks out into the square (where children and playing with lights), and then turns to the camera, where one of the absolute weirdest things on the show happens. The prime minister of Greenland dances seductively at the end of a hallway in the Vatican while some text straight out of a “The More You Know” PSA plays, explaining some facts about Greenland.

Greenland, “Land Of Men,” is an island off the American continent located in the far north of the Atlantic Ocean. The main productive activities in Greenland are shrimp and halibut fishing. Greenlanders, like South Americans, are known worldwide for their uncontainable passion for dancing.


Huh. I don’t have a ton of thoughts about this, other than that I love how insane it is. When was the last time you saw this kind of direct intervention in the narrative of an HBO show? Talk about bluntness.

Stray observations: