With Pope Pius XIII (Jude Law) in a coma after the events of The Young Pope, in comes a new pope: British aristocrat Sir John Brannox (John Malkovich), who receives the name of John Paul III.

It’s been over three years since Jude Law lent his blue-eyed charms to Oscar-winner Paolo Sorrentino’s mini-series The Young Pope, and it appears there’s still an appetite for its sumptuously trashy take on the Holy See. The New Pope picks up where its predecessor left off, with Law’s Pius XIII in what can only be described as a sexy coma – immobile save for the occasional head tilt or suggestive moan.

Enter hasty replacement Sir John Braddox played with unabashed relish by John Malkovich. First shown in head-to-toe indigo and eyeliner, Malkovich is every inch the camp, confident replacement for the first American pope. Like Pius, he has his traits: he enjoys Easy Rider, he plays the harp, he admires certain celebrities, some of whom pop up in lavishly staged cameos. Around him, season regulars from The Young Pope return, but as with most of Sorrentino’s work its female cast are used gratuitously. Nuns wait until lights out to undulate under a neon cross, while the two female leads are objectified beyond the point where it serves narrative purpose.

As a plus, the subject of the church’s vast issue of sexual misconduct is once again addressed bracingly, as is its stance on homosexuality. “Can’t The Bible be updated?” asks one of the aforementioned cameos. “Unfortunately The Bible is not an iPhone,” comes the measured response. It’s also almost obscenely decadent, the ten-hour total runtime padded out with glacial shots of intricate interiors cut with the tacky exuberance of a wealthy stag do hosted at Vatican City. If only the same care were afforded to its female cast, this could be an even stronger show still.

As always Paolo Sorrentino’s depiction of women is criminally stunted, but John Malkovich brings punk-stained prowess to his supreme pontiff, proving a worthy alternative to Jude Law’s comatose hunk.

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