The White Lotus Season 2: Slouching towards Sicily

If there is one thing The White Lotus will surely make you think, it’s the number of murders that can be committed at a luxury resort before someone walks in to explore.

Or you can just shake off your investigative worries. After all, one of the main themes of The White Lotus is the ability of the rich to get away with anything; This season they try their hand at murder.

The first season of The White Lotus became a runaway hit for its sharp satire on the wealthy, which combines humor with trenchant comments on race, class and modern colonialism. After a group of one percents staying at a fictional luxury resort in Hawaii called the White Lotus and the staff who had to clean up their mess, creator Mike White turned this show into more than just an up and down comedy. This is a testament to White’s relentless focus on showing how the privilege of the rich makes them self-obsessed, cruel, corrupt, and endlessly greedy. Even paradise is not enough.

This new season takes us from the White Lotus Resort in Hawaii to the sweaty and sexy beaches of Sicily. The cast (with the exception of Jennifer Coolidge’s recurring character Tanya and her new husband) is brand new. Haley Lu Richardson stars as Portia, Tanya’s wacky personal assistant. Theo James and Meghann Fahy, who play married couple Cameron and Daphne, are on vacation with old friends: Will Sharpe’s Ethan and Aubrey Plaza’s Harper. The smoldering resentments between both couples push these new episodes into their most deliciously uncomfortable places. F. Murray Abraham, Michael Imperioli and Adam DiMarco play three generations of men in one family; Bert, Dominic and Albie DiGrasso. Sabrina Impacciatore is Valentina, the manager, although White is mostly dropping the main staff characters this season. Instead, he introduces us to Lucia and Mia (Simona Tabasco and Beatrice Grannò), two young Sicilian women who do part-time sex work and run a full-time charm offensive against the resort’s men. Her addition fills in a blank last season, which explored how the rich corrupt everything around them, but without touching on the role of sex work in these glossy paradises.

This injection of sex is very intentional as there is a lot more than murder going on at this new resort. The new theme of this show is sex. Who has it, who wants it and who could kill because of it.

This thematic change works most of the time. The shift from racial and class politics to sexual politics fits the new season’s heightened, soapy tone. White said he wanted this season to feel like “an opera” in service of the new Italian setting, and he certainly achieved some elements of dramatic Italian opera. Namely their body count. There was a body lying on the beach in the first season, and now there are several floating in the water.

But this new tone doesn’t work everywhere; our recurring main character, Coolidge’s Tanya, sadly feels out of place. While last season’s splendor made Tanya honest in her efforts to grieve and find a real connection, this time she’s a lot more monotonous. It may be a blessing to have Coolidge’s presence on our screens, but it’s a disappointment to see Tanya fall from the high point of season one to the low point of season two.

It could just be that Tanya doesn’t fit the new, sinister tone that White created in the show’s second season. The camera spins like a shark around their targets and the threat of sexual treason hangs in the air. statues of testa di moro (which is helpful white lotus Staff explain that traditional sculptures (of a man cutting off his head because his mistress didn’t mention his actual family) lurk around every corner.

Without the perspective of the staff looking back at their guests, we inevitably fall back on the way the rich tease each other. White seems to particularly enjoy the jealousy and aggression that reigns between the young couples. Aubrey Plaza’s Harper taunts the other couple as shallow and ridiculous. Cameron is a pillar of toxic masculinity and Daphne is a fool who doesn’t know how to vote. Harper thinks she captured them perfectly. Is she out of touch with the world? Didn’t she and Ethan donate money to charity? When Cameron and Daphne aren’t so materialistic, they taunt them throughout the series.

It’s fair to say that Plaza is the standout performance, infusing bitterness, arrogance and envy into her role; Harper can’t face the simple fact that Daphne and Cameron are happier than she and Ethan are (and that their sex life is definitely more fulfilling).

Every single conversation in the pilot reveals more shades of misery. The extremely talented Hailey Lu Richardson has a minor role here as Portia, but she steals every scene she’s in while her anxious desires break a smug surface. Family quarrels between the men of the Di Grasso family underscore a lurking misogyny: the older men are entitled and predatory; the younger son is a classic “nice guy”. White’s talent for writing performative dialogue is outstanding. No conversation goes by without hints of what these horrible people really want. And asking what the rich want is the least easy thing on this show.

As so many characters mention, sex is transactional. “It’s a good feeling when you realize someone has money. Because then you don’t have to worry about them wanting yours,” Tanya laments. Whether you have it or not, money is Sex.

Ultimately, this new season revolves around sex, to point out that the true tragedy of these ultra-rich people is that they can never know anything real: no real desire, no real love, not even real hate. It’s all just another product that money can buy.

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