The Atlantic

What The Young Pope Preached About Love

The first season of HBO’s Vatican dramedy portrayed a journey from amplifying suffering to easing it.
Source: Gianni Fiorito/HBO

In the final moments of The Young Pope’s first season, the elusive Pope Pius XIII finally showed his face to the world for a sermon in Venice that addressed one question: “Who is God?”

This is a central question of religion, but it is not the central question of The Young Pope. Over 10 episodes, Paolo Sorrentino’s daring and hypnotic HBO series instead asked: Who are people? Why is anyone the way they are? Or more specifically in this show, and perhaps more urgently in this era: What drives someone who acts erratically and cruelly in a position of power? Why would someone use their charisma and influence to exclude and degrade? Are the most inscrutable people born

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