The Worst Thing About the Final Episode of The Young Pope: That We’ve Come to the End

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Good-bye for now, sweet pope. Photo: Courtesy of HBO

It’s hard to choose which part of HBO’s The Young Pope I dislike most, so in a column called Young Nope, I share the worst thing from that week’s episode.

There is a well-known and much beloved song by the apparently still active disco-rock band the Killers that goes like this:

Are we human or are we dancer?
My sign is vital, my hands are cold
And I’m on my knees looking for the answer
Are we human or are we dancer?

It’s never been quite clear to me why the lyrics aren’t “Are we human or are we dancers?”, but then again most mysteries are better left unsolved. Anyway, that’s not the point.

In the last, the final, the ultimo episode of HBO’s Pope Show, Pius gives a homily in Venice, his spiritual home. It goes a little something like this:

Are we tired or are we vigorous?
Are we healthy or are we sick?
Are we good or are we bad?
Do we still have time or has it run out?
Are we young or are we old?
Are we human or are we dancer?

Okay he doesn’t say the last line but what a homily it was — a homily clearly inspired by the late-’00s rock-disco band the Killers, whose lead singer is a famous Mormon. In European-history class in high school, I believe I started an essay in a similar fashion. “Are we good or are we bad? That is the question many people asked during World War II.”

The entire world is phenomenally moved by Pius’s speech; we see them all glued to their televisions in one long final scene, which will seem familiar to you if you’ve ever watched any blockbuster movie about aliens. I half expected Billy Bob Thornton to appear at the pulpit to announce, solemnly, that aliens had breached Earth. Had I performed my high-school essay on WWII with the same solemnity as Pius, instead of getting a bad grade, might I have become pope, too? Hm.

Poorly written and juvenile homilies and essays aside, I felt a distinct sense of loss when the episode ended (Pius faints, sees God, then … we zoom out above Earth … for some reason …). While writing is clearly not Lenny’s strong suit, cutting insults are — and it pains me to think of how I will miss enjoying them like a fresh hot bag of zeppole every week, licking the powdered sugar from every finger after devouring each one. The show’s producers have claimed that they are developing a second season, but we’ve been waiting a hell of long time for the second coming of the Lord — and well, don’t hold your breath.

But in times of darkness and sorrow, the lord implores you to be patient, and ask yourself only this: Are we human … or are we dancer?

Until next season (?), this has been Young Nope.

Here’s the Worst Thing About Episode 10 of The Young Pope