A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The New Pope is a continuation of The Young Pope, with Jude Law's Pius XIII down for the count and a new Pope (John Malkovich) on the papal throne. Like the first series, this miniseries seems designed to showcase the empty pageantry and hypocrisy in the Vatican City, and most characters are duplicitous and power hungry, though a few appear to have the needs of the faithful and the downtrodden in mind. Fantasy sequences, often set to pop music, may show female buttocks or breasts, and may incorporate religious symbols such as crosses and images of Jesus and the Virgin Mary. A nun gives the Pope a sponge bath (his private parts are covered, but we see the rest of his nude body) and then appears to masturbate; we see her face as she experiences some sort of release but don't see what's causing the release. Characters smoke cigarettes and a pipe, and violence includes a gory heart transplant in which we see the heart actually being put into the recipient's body, and one in which a character dies of a heart attack. Language is infrequent but "damn," "hell," and "f--k" (in Italian, subtitled) are heard. The Church's wealth is on display, with lots of visual imagery on elaborate furniture, large expensively decorated rooms, complicated vestments. Viewers may have questions about the Church and how it operates after watching; they may feel more cynical about the papal system or religion in general.
What's the story?
After collapsing at the end of The Young Pope, hunky young American Pope Pius XIII (Jude Law) is in a coma, making it time for the Vatican's cardinals to choose THE NEW POPE. But the first pontiff elected makes bigger waves than the Church expected and soon dies of a mysterious heart attack that enigmatic Holy See fixer Bauer (Mark Ivanir) seems wrapped up in. And so Cardinal Voiello (Silvio Orlando), the Vatican’s secretary of state, schemes to put into place a new Pope he thinks he can control: Sir John Brannox (John Malkovich).
Is it any good?
As thunderingly gorgeous as its predecessor, this new series mines plenty of intrigue from the church's pageantry and power and Malkovich is a suitably gravitas-wielding sub for Law. The Young Pope already acquainted most viewers with a candy-colored pop version of the papal system and a vision of the Pope as a brand just as much as a holy man. With Pius XIII out of the way and a new Pope on the throne, director Sorrentino seems to be doubling down on his points about the emptiness of both the office and its officers, a world in which powerful men scheme for even more power, are double-crossed, and then find a sneaky way to steal that power right back again, like a ponderous version of The Sopranos with a lot more headgear.
The New Pope is also as slow-moving as The Young Pope, with entire scenes consisting of church officials in vestments advancing slowly through elaborate chambers, or fantasy sequences of hot young nuns in white nightgowns writhing around a neon cross. It's hard to know what Sorrentino is trying to say about the church with such imagery, and hard to understand why we need a painfully long scene in the first episode in which we watch cardinals trying to elect a new Pope, which requires a two-thirds majority. Over and over again they submit their votes, over and over again, the tallies are announced -- listen, the audience could understand what looks like a tortured process without being tortured in the process. The New Pope sure is nice to look at, even without Jude Law's polished presence, but it should hurry up and get where it's going faster.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about power struggles in huge institutions, such as churches, governments, and corporations and those on The New Pope. Why do people in high places often fight for even more power?
Talk about Cardinal Voiello. Is he a "good guy" or a "bad guy?" How did he get power? How does he stay in power? What does Bauer do for the Church? Is his character positive or negative? Realistic or unrealistic?
Does watching this series make you think differently about the Catholic church? How? Do you think that's the purpose of this drama?
Our editors recommend
For kids who love drama
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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