Sit back and relax, because a few people are going to die on vacation. “They’re gonna have to drag you out of here,” Daphne, played by The Bold Type’s Meghann Fahy says to new guests at The White Lotus – Sicily in the opening scene of the second season of The White Lotus. Satisfied with her description of the resort to strangers, Daphne goes into the ocean for a swim where she stumbles upon something in the water, which turns out to be one of “a few” dead bodies.
The bright and stylish second season of The White Lotus (five episodes were given to press to review) is not the same as the staggering first season. It’s an improvement on itself: a deeply erotic, deeply human, and deeply funny but thought-provoking exploration of human desire that is also an incredibly good time.
Season one’s frantic energy, thriller-like pace, and visual style reminiscent of horror suggested that at any moment, anything could happen. Rather than build up to the worst, season two gets its mystery out of the way immediately. With the whole “people are going to die” thing out of the way, the series starts off fresh and can relax a little bit. Guests at The White Lotus – Sicily are more likely to venture off the resort grounds for a day, making the tone of the show and its characters less claustrophobic, and more relaxed. Even the theme song, a more upbeat version of the show’s whistling tune that might inspire you to get off your ass and dance like no one’s watching, establishes that this is something different.
Without the need to make the audience feel edgy — because we already are after seeing Murray Bartlett’s Armond take a sh*t in a suitcase and subsequently get stabbed in the Pineapple Suite — series creator, Survivor finalist, and absolute genius Mike White has more room to sit with his characters. In season two, the characters — all new with the exception of Jennifer Coolidge’s Tanya and Jon Gries’ Greg — feel more lived in, more authentic, rather than representations of generations or classes. The characters from season one were infuriating by design, whereas the characters in season two are endearing despite their glaring flaws.
Every actor in season two of The White Lotus — from Michael Imperioli to Aubrey Plaza to Theo James — gives career-best work, but the standouts include F. Murray Abraham as the gross but delightful Bert, and Italian actors Beatrice Grannó and Simona Tabasco. As local Sicilians Mia and Lucia, they provide a majority of the show’s laugh-out-loud moments, all while being the emotional heart of the cast.
Season two of HBO’s The White Lotus wasn’t supposed to exist, yet it feels more essential and intentional than anything else on television this year. The excellent, biting first season was a sharp, uncomfortable by-design analysis of class dynamics in America. Rather than doing the same thing twice, White took his perfect formula and made something new with it. Season two is still about class, but within that, it is also about relationships both professional, familial, platonic, and romantic. But more than anything it is a study of the human impulse.
In season one of The White Lotus, anyone could die. In season two, people will die, but anyone could f**k.
Season two of ‘The White Lotus’ kicks off on Sunday, October 30th via HBO and HBO Max.