White Lotus–Season 2
In the opening scene of The White Lotus, season 2, Daphne (Meghann Fahy), a Hollywood blonde with the highlights of the extremely pampered, is a guest at the White Lotus luxury resort in Taormina, Sicily. Gushing to the two women sitting next to her in cabana chairs under blue-and-white sunbrellas, Daphne lets them know that: “You’re gonna die…They’re going to have to drag you out of here”, because the resort is paradise. Sauntering into the Ionian Sea after spraying sunscreen on her exquisitely toned legs, Daphne breast-strokes into the waters reserved exclusively for the uber-wealthy resort guests, to be suddenly affronted by a bloated corpse, surfacing on the waves. She screams, the police arrive and more bodies pop up. Who are they?
So begins the second season of White Lotus. Who is going to get murdered? And what consequences will that death (or deaths) have on the other guests…and hotel staff? Like season one, White Lotus is all about trying to figure out which of the mostly unsympathetic characters is going to be the victim or victims? And there are many characters the viewer wishes would die.
Only Tanya (the comedic genius Jennifer Coolidge), a billionaire looking for love and friends, recurs in this season. She has an assistant, Portia (Haley Lu Richardson), who wants to be “satisfied with life”, but is misguided and incredibly naive when it comes to guys her age. The newly successful tech-mogul, Ethan (Will Sharpe), seems grossly neglectful towards his wife, Harper (Aubrey Plaza), who pleads for his attention in bed. And Ethan’s former college friend, Cameron (Theo James), Daphne’s husband, begrudges Ethan’s success.
That is just the major plot. There are at least two subplots with a host of additional characters. A Palermo-based gay coterie of men seemingly welcome Tanya onto their yacht and into their hearts. Quentin (Tom Hollander) and his Mafia cohort have questionable motives for befriending Tanya. Other self-absorbed guests: the philandering, callous father Dom (Michael Imperioli of “The Sopranos”), the delusional grandfather Bert (F. Murray Abraham), and the virginal Stanford student Albie (Adam DiMarco) are in Sicily purportedly to discover and connect to unknown relatives. However, father and grandfather become more involved in debauchery than family togetherness. Beautiful young sex workers, Lucia (Simona Tabasco) and her friend Mia ( Beatrice Grannò) offer their favors to most of the hotel guests. With a dozen guests and multiple hotel staff and Sicilian residents grifting for everything they can grab, it is truly anyone’s guess who the hell is going to die here.
And that is perhaps what is both most entertaining as well as most frustrating about this season of White Lotus. The characters are almost entirely unsympathetic, with perhaps Albie the only exception. Unlike the first season in which class differences were the main theme driving who would be murdered, in this season it is the even more searing theme of social relationships being, without exception, transactional. Every move on the chessboard is to gain at another’s expense. No one is guiltless.
A thoroughly enjoyable season, –in some ways even more so than the first. But leaving the murder until the last episode seems like toying with the viewer and results in a sometimes saggy middle to the drama.