HBO; NBC

The Young Pope Faces Law & Order: SVU In The Battle Of The Exotic Animal Arrivals

Two very different shows feature scenes in which human characters memorably meet furry mammals. Which did it better?

Which show featured an exotic animal surprising an opening-credits cast member first?

The Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode "Wildlife," revolving around the smuggling of exotic pets, first aired November 18, 2008 (and, I will estimate, has aired again in syndication approximately 5000 times since then). The Young Pope's second episode first aired in Europe October 20, 2016.

Winner: SVU.

Which show revealed its exotic animal in a more dramatic context?

In the second episode of The Young Pope, the titular young pope Lenny is in a Vatican archive, where cardinals (clergymen, not birds -- given our subject today, I felt it important to make that distinction) are showing him some of the gifts he's received. The kids' paintings are fine and everything, but can they really compare to Lenny's gift from the Australian government?

Previously.TV

Previously.TV

It's nice to see that the Pontiff has a St. Francis of Assisi quality about him as he gently brings his kangaroo friend to the front of her cage. But it's pretty subdued compared to the action behind the scenes at an airport that as far as we know is absolutely riddled with lower primates hiding in sports equipment.

Winner: SVU.

Which show devotes more screen time to exotic animals?

No contest! "Wildlife" is all about the dangers of acquiring, keeping, and cohabitating with animals who are definitely not bred to be pets for humans. "Episode 2" of The Young Pope gives us more James Cromwell than kangaroo. WHAT A WASTE.

Winner: SVU.

Which show portrays a more affectionate relationship between the exotic animal and the human caring for it?

Don Cragen hugs the monkey he rescues, whereas the Pope, before decreeing that it will be set free in the Vatican's gardens, doesn't so much as scritch his kangaroo. KangaRUDE.

Winner: SVU.

Which show's exotic animal handler is more likable outside his interaction with said animal?

Don Cragen may not have been anointed by God to lead the members of a centuries-old world religion, but he's a dedicated public servant, a caring manager, and a beacon of recovering sobriety. Lenny Belardo, on the other hand, is a brusque, judgmental egotist. While we don't know for sure whether Don has a button built into his desk that he can push to call for an underling to interrupt any meeting with which he's grown uncomfortable or weary -- as Lenny does -- we may be fairly certain that if he did, the captain of the NYPD's Special Victims Unit wouldn't use it after making a cardinal in front of him admit that he's gay. LENNY.

Winner: SVU.

Verdict

Just one day after the American début of The Young Pope, it's impossible to say whether it will take hold of the public imagination such that the USA Network will run multiple marathons of it every week. (Just kidding: that absolutely will not happen.) But while I can't predict everything about The Young Pope's future, I feel confident stating that nothing it does will ever be as iconic as this.

That's right, I'm putting the clip into the same post twice. IT'S A GODDAMN MONKEY IN A BASKETBALL, what am I, an idiot?!

Winner: SVU.

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