’The White Lotus’ Season 2, Episode 1 Recap and Review
Mike White is back with another edition of his social satire The White Lotus, which premiered on HBO over the weekend.
While the first episode of season 2 mirrors a lot of what the season 1 premiere did, the focus is now completely different. The setting has shifted from Hawaii to Sicily, the ensemble is almost entirely new, and the critique changed from racial privilege to sexual dynamics (albeit still being about absurdly rich, white people on vacation). Jennifer Coolidge and Jon Gries are the only actors and characters inherited from the first season, though for now, there have been zero connections to the plot of the previous entry. The two are now married, but there’s clearly more than meets the eye, judging from his behavior throughout this first episode.
Much like season 1, we open the new season with a murder mystery that will likely not be solved until the very last episode. We already know what the hotel experience will be like for one of the guests, as she talks to two guest stars from Survivor, but we have no idea who the victim is. Or I should say victims, as the hotel manager is quickly informed that multiple hotel guests have been murdered.
There are a lot of sexual dynamics going on in the first episode of The White Lotus season 2. Starting with Coolidge and Gries, there’s obviously a lot going on here. Coolidge seems to be in her honeymoon phase of the relationship, thinking that her husband is always thinking of her and all she sees are rainbows and flowers, while her husband is quite absent. After she prepares to have sex, the husband immediately runs away to get a shower, and later awkwardly pushes her away from a “phone call he’s taking in the bathroom”. There’s also the topic of the macaroons and her supposed plan to lose weight. Judging from everything else going on, it seems like this was his idea, and is now almost shaming her for her looks.
Coolidge’s Tanya has now brought along her assistant, Portia, a character that did not appear in the first season (it’s possible she’d been mentioned, though I do not recall it). She is played by Haley Lu Richardson, who was just looking to be “thrown around by a hot Italian guy”, but is now being locked away in her room after Tanya’s husband, Greg, finds out she came along for their romantic vacation. As much as Portia complains, though, she doesn’t exactly get out of the way immediately. She first hangs out by the pool, where she meets her romantic interest (more on him later), and is later seen at dinner by Tanya, though not her husband. It’s interesting how she could have just gone out of the hotel for the day and avoid any awkward encounters, and still enjoy her vacation in Italy. She probably didn’t think about that…?
Her hot American love interest is Albie Di Grasso (Adam DiMarco), whose family seems like will be the source of a lot of trouble at the hotel. For now, season 2 is mirroring a lot of what season 1 did in terms of characters, though the plot will certainly take completely new directions. Albie seems like this season’s Paula (Brittany O’Grady), a nice person who was forcefully brought on this vacation. I could also see some parallels between Portia and Paula, though. We shall see how the season progresses.
Albie’s father is Dominic Di Grasso (Michael Imperioli), a big deal over at Hollywood who is dealing with a lot right now. Besides his divorce, he has a weeklong vacation with his father, who could be arrested for sexual harassment any day now. Bert, played by F. Murray Abraham, is the reason why the three of them are on vacation and will certainly spike a lot of problems with the female staff at the hotel. Given Mike White’s writings in season 1, I certainly expect a lot of awkward moments coming up featuring the old man, his farts, and his incapability of staying quiet.
All of these characters will soon cross paths with this season’s dysfunctional “family”. Aubrey Plaza plays this season’s Olivia (Sydney Sweeney), a character constantly annoyed by the way her “family” members are acting. Her “family” is of course her husband and her husband’s friends — a seemingly happily married couple who are so rich they don’t think they need to know anything about the world around them. Her husband, played by Will Sharpe, recently stroke a major business deal, and is trying to keep a happy environment on the vacation they were invited to by his ex-college roommate, played by Theo James. James’ character, Cameron, and his wife Daphne (Meghann Fahy) are very much annoyed by pretty much everything Harper (Plaza) does, as it goes against their rich-people rules.
Season 2 will deal with sexual politics, and we already got a few glimpses of that in this episode. Cameron did not hesitate once to get naked inside Harper’s bedroom, something that seemingly annoyed her, though judging by her reaction at the moment, one could even think that she was aroused by it. I doubt that was a correct interpretation of Plaza’s performance at that moment, based on what she thinks of him and the type of series The White Lotus is, but I would certainly be interested in seeing Mike White’s take in the classic “haters lovers” storyline between Harper and Cameron. That would certainly contradict everything that was set up in this episode concerning both characters, so right now it seems like a stretch. But always count on The White Lotus to surprise the hell out of us.
There are a few more characters to talk about, and I think I’m leaving the best for last. Perhaps my favorite character to watch in the episode was the hotel manager, Valentina (Sabrina Impacciatore). White already delivered us the most memorable hotel manager in recent memory in season 1 of The White Lotus, but it seems like he may be doing it again here. Valentina expects perfection from her staff, despite the fact that she will be insulting her guests in front of them. It’s just so much fun to watch, and I hope we get as much from her as we got from Armond in season 1.
We also have a prostitute and her friend, who are the source of this episode’s main mystery — who hired Lucia (Simona Tabasco)? At the end of the day, there weren’t a lot of possible answers, and in retrospect, it was clear the answer would be Dominique. My theory, though, was that it would be someone we hadn’t met yet. In fact, Valentina says they are expecting 10 guests, but we only see 8 of them arrive by boat — we’ll meet the other two in the next episode, probably. It turns out that it was Dominique, probably the only option besides Dominique’s father, though that option was quickly crossed off after he says his “couple of locals” line at dinner.
Lucia’s friend, Mia (Beatrice Grannò), will probably have a very interesting character arc this season. Early on in the episode, she seemed curious about her friend’s lifestyle, and given her recent break-up, it’s possible that she will soon be charging for sex at the White Lotus after Lucia pulls her into the fold. Another possibility is that she will desperately fall in love with one of the guests or a member of the staff — an interesting option would be Dominique, given Lucia’s experiences with him. There is a lot of gasoline on the table waiting for a match to be lit.
For now, The White Lotus has just introduced the main players, and I’m already starving for more. So far, this is exactly what I expected — more of the same, but still feeling slightly different. Season 1 was one of my favorite seasons of television recently, and I have no doubt that Mike White will be able to match that with the second season.
Miguel Fernández is a Spanish student that has movies as his second passion in life. His favorite movie of all time is The Lord of the Rings, but he is also a huge Star Wars fan. However, fantasy movies are not his only cup of tea, as authors like Scorsese, Fincher, Kubrick or Hitchcock have been an obsession for him since he started to understand the language of filmmaking. He is that guy who will watch a black and white movie, just because it is in black and white.