The White Lotus: Season 2, “Italian Dream” – TV Review

“Italian Dream”

  • Creator: Mike White
  • Starring: Jennifer Coolidge, Aubrey Plaza, Michael Imperioli, F. Murray Abraham, Haley Lu Richardson, Meghann Fahy, Theo James, Will Sharpe, Beatrice Grannò, Tom Hollander, Simona Tabasco

Grade: B

Warning: Reviews of The White Lotus season 2 will contain spoilers.

If it’s not clear already, The White Lotus is a show about power. In its first iteration, it was about how wealth equals power. While that sentiment isn’t gone entirely this time around – it would be kinda hard to sweep it under the rug in a show about an international five-star resort – Mike White has noticeably shifted the focus from material power to sexual power. It was there in last week’s episode, and in Italian Dream, it comes bursting to the surface by informing a majority of the character’s choices.

My biggest knock against the first season was in its aimlessness: it’s one thing to drop a handful of characters (dynamic as they may be) and stir up some chaos, but the status quo largely remains the same by the end of it. Nothing really changes for any of the characters from the beginning of Italian Dream to the end, though perhaps that’s expected since this is only the second episode of seven. The goal of this week’s episode is mainly to learn more about these characters, which is juicy as always, but I’ll need some kind of increased stakes before too long.

The White Lotus; HBO Max

Let’s start with Mia and Lucia, who are the season’s most tangible personifications of sexual power. After starting the season on the outside looking in, Mia manages to use her sexuality to manipulate Dominic into getting their names on the room and spending the day living the life of luxury. And while I have no doubt that Dominic and his family can afford what will surely be a steep hotel bill, I do get the sense that his money isn’t as liquid as we’d initially believe. 

Dominic gets perhaps the saddest arc of all this week, as he’s constantly badgered by his father because his wife and granddaughter aren’t with them. It’s not until after a frank conversation with Bert about indiscretions that makes him want to change and hopefully resurrect whatever is left of his crumbling marriage. Which makes the episode’s final moments all the more heartbreaking as he’s unable to turn away from his basest impulses.

The White Lotus; HBO Max

We get more sweet moments between Portia and Albie, though they clearly seem to want different things in the present moment. Whereas Albie is looking for someone to spend a long time with, Portia simply wants to get laid (she said as much to her friend last week when she coincidentally locked eyes with Albie). It could be easy to besmirch White for leading us on for another week, but it makes sense on a character level why Albie wouldn’t just hop into bed with her; most people don’t go into an international vacation looking for something long-term. Haley Lu Richardson plays Portia’s sexual frustration to perfection, especially after he leaves her at the end of the night. It makes me wonder how much longer she’ll be willing to play innocent and jump him.

Speaking of which, Harper’s clearly still reeling from seeing Cameron undressing last week, and I wonder how much longer she’ll put up with being sexually frustrated. She gets the double whammy of interrupting Ethan while he masturbates, and gets turned down by him at the end of the night. They’re clearly a match for each other in every other aspect, including their dinner conversation about having children, but something’s gotta give in this melting pot of sexuality.

The White Lotus; HBO Max

Another part of the show that has me lingering is in Cameron and Daphne’s dynamic. Surely White has something up his sleeve to reveal about them before too long. For starters, it doesn’t make for great drama to have two characters that are literally perfect, but their perfection has been hammered home in one way or another almost every time we’ve seen them. Perhaps White is utilizing them purely as contrasts to Harper and Ethan, but why spend so much time with them if they’re nothing more than a mirror?

Tanya’s goal for Italian Dream is to create the perfect Sicilian day, and it’s certainly sweet of Greg to give it to her – bugs and all – but the episode’s ending reveals he likely has an ulterior motive. Ciao showed that the bloom was likely off the rose in Tanya and Greg’s marriage, and just when White makes us believe Greg has good intentions but is likely stressed from something else going on, he pulls the rug out from under us. But then again, who goes into a vacation expecting a long-term romance?

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