“The White Lotus” season 2: A Romp through Italy with your Sarcastic Friend in the Backseat


Photo by Fabio Lovino

The White Lotus season 2

The second season of the White Lotus, like the first, begins with a death. Carefree, fun-loving Daphne wades her way through the Mediterranean in hopes of a final swim before her departure from the resort. Suddenly, she catches sight of a dead body floating in the crystal, aqua waters. Havoc erupts and police sirens are heard in the distance. The question is… who died?
The writer and director of HBO’s award-winning White Lotus, Mike White, has yet again ensnared his audience in the intrigue, discomfort, and beauty he creates on screen in this dark comedy. By revealing a murder at the start of the season, we are instantly hooked as piece by piece, the picture comes together.
The story revolves around eight main characters: dysfunctional couple Harper and Ethan; their polar opposites, Daphne and Cameron; Tanya and her assistant, Portia; as well as Albie and his father, Dom. Each character has their own set of problems and storylines. Some are coping with broken families, others with loveless marriages. To give the story its suspense, White brilliantly sets each character up with the potential of being that dead body floating along the coast – whether it be due to an enemy out to get them or their internal struggles turning sinister.
Last season featured the White Lotus resort on the dreamy, tropical island of Maui, Hawaii. This season, we follow guests to another luxury location – Taormina, Italy. Once more, ridiculously privileged, colorful characters navigate challenges of morals, relationships, and money. Although the season begins with a death, the show itself is less of a whodunnit murder mystery. The real point of White’s satire is to comment on the gaps between the rich and the poor, as well as the humor of human behavior.
But despite its biting social commentary, the White Lotus is not a cynical show. However flawed the characters may be, the show is a testament to the work each one puts into their development as they experience an array of emotions over the course of the season and struggle with the disadvantages of their personalities. The show has (somewhat seriously) been referred to as a Greek tragedy by the media, and it makes perfect sense. From the main to side characters, White focuses on one potentially fatal flaw to the next. For Tanya and Albie, this flaw is their naivety, for Ethan, his possessiveness, and Harper, her insecurity. That hamartia then becomes the underlying theme of that character and every action they make.
Toxic masculinity is a big theme this season, as Ethan and Cameron compete to show their dominance over each other, and Albie tries to distinguish himself from his philandering father and grandfather. Speaking of, infidelity and the lack of trust is a strong undercurrent to the action in the story. Towards the end of the season, after an incident that may or may not involve certain married couples, I was left wondering who was telling the truth and who was lying. White intentionally leaves big questions like these unanswered this season, which proves to be surprisingly satisfying.
The acting is genius. Jennifer Coolidge is especially comical, no doubt receiving praise for her unforgettable performance as clumsy, hilarious, crass Tanya. Other honorable mentions would be Aubrey Plaza, terrific as tortured and sarcastic Harper, or Theo James as Cameron, nailing the cocky womanizer to a tee. You also can’t help but appreciate the wit of the writing – I was enthralled and beside myself with laughter.
For anyone looking for a relationship with trust, this show may be uncomfortable to watch – trust is broken in every direction. Good characters are punished, bad people are often rewarded. And as for the identity of the body floating in the Mediterranean, that’s for you to find out.