- 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
Warning: Reviews of The White Lotus season 2 will contain spoilers.
Sex can cloud our judgment, and it’s a lesson that almost everyone has come to learn this season, and especially during Arrivederci. Except Daphne. She seems to be the only person this season who knows who she is, what her station in life is, and how she can control it. Meghann Fahy has put forth a captivating performance all season, making a character that could easily come off as shallow and uninteresting, into someone with a ton of nuance and mystery. Her reaction when Ethan reveals his suspicions about Harper and Cameron is pitch-perfect and reveals much more about her than what’s on the surface. This season will have no shortage of Emmy nominees and potential winners, and I hope that Fahy receives the recognition she deserves.
Mike White must have an impeccable foresight into the internet’s theories about the corpses, and he used virtually all of the season finale to tease someone’s impending doom. But the real master stroke of the episode is how he subverts our expectations. At the end of Abductions, Tanya and Portia seemed most likely to be killed, being so isolated from everyone else, and the darkly creepy nature of Quentin, Jack, and everyone in their orbits. Tanya did do a bunch of coke and have sex with a mafia figurehead, after all. She probably should have seen the darkness coming, but was too distracted by her sadness over Greg. And the misdirection with Jack doesn’t entirely let Portia off the hook; she only “woke up” after the freshness of hooking up with him wore off.
In the end, Tanya’s death feels of a piece with The White Lotus overall. To have the show shift into a kind of Taken mode would have certainly been interesting, but the way White executed everything fits right in with what season two has been building towards. Tanya’s death was a perfect blend of intrigue and comedy, and Jennifer Coolidge gave her best performance of the season throughout the entire episode. How much of Tanya’s theories about Greg were correct, and how much were a product of her own fabrication? It’ll remain a mystery, but the way her paranoia got the best of her was built up perfectly.
The same can be said for Ethan, who continues to have paranoid fantasies about Harper and Cameron. Harper and Ethan began the season as believing they were above Cameron and Daphne in their relationship, and the way White has slowly and methodically dragged them down to their level may be the smartest bit of writing of the season. Of course, the season has to leave some mysteries open, and now the question will be whether anything occurred between Ethan and Daphne after they steal away on the beach together. Maybe sex will continue to cloud Ethan and Harper’s judgement going forward, but in a different way. Yes, they finally have sex on their last night together, but how much of that will fix what was clearly damaged or broken before arriving at the White Lotus?
At least things are looking up for Albie and Dominic, though they’ve both had a tough road to get to their conclusions. Predictably, Albie ponies up for Lucia’s “debt” in the hopes she follows him to Los Angeles. But not before getting a little dirty with his father and hitting him in his soft spot: trying to resurrect his fractured relationship with his wife. Though it doesn’t seem that any of the Di Grasso men will learn their lesson. Just look at how all three of them instinctually leer at the sexy woman at the airport, a point that White hammers home, if a little heavily. But White writes Dominic’s rekindling with his wife nicely, not explicitly stating that she had a sudden change of heart, but implying that there can be a path to redemption.
I worried after Ciao how much season two would mirror season one, and I think the show exhibited some real growth from White overall. Whereas season one felt a little cynical in its themes (especially in the wrap-up to Rachel and Shane’s storyline, and the death of Murray Bartlett’s Armond), this season sees most of its characters with sunnier outlooks as they board their plane. Or is that just the sheen of a glitzy vacation obscuring everything? I already touched on Ethan, Harper, and the Di Grasso’s, but Portia will definitely be scarred for a while after her ordeal – not to mention she clearly believes that Tanya was, in fact, murdered. Cameron and Daphne will carry on as usual, blissfully ignoring the faults in their marriage. Even Valentina, though she’s a little gutted after Mia doesn’t fall head over heels for her in the same way, is free to be open with herself and everyone else. And of course, the one person whose judgment was not clouded by sex (Lucia) was the person who uses sex to make a living, and she perhaps makes it out the best out of everyone.
The beauty of The White Lotus, and this season, is that every good story has a bad edge. Mike White has shown that he’s adept at leaving even the most conclusive stories open to interpretation. In my eyes, season two was an improvement in almost every way to season one and, with a third season on the horizon, the sky is the limit.
Season Two Grade: A-