White lotus

Cameron and Daphne Sullivan, portrayed by Theo James and Meghann Fahy, and Harper and Ethan Spiller, portrayed by Will Sharpe and Aubrey Plaza, are one of the traveling parties prominently featured in season two of “The White Lotus.”

 

 

Despite series creator Mike White initially pitching “The White Lotus” as a one-season limited series for HBO, a new season premiered this month, retaining many of the qualities that made the first season a hit.

The show’s original six-episode run last year spotlighted various travelers and workers at the fictitious White Lotus resort in Hawaii. The series was highly popular with critics and viewers alike, racking up 20 Emmy nominations and winning 10 of them.

Most impressively, the show blended together many different genres, such as murder mystery and comedic satire, to create a unique feel few shows have provided. The series’ willingness to explore and poke fun at wealth and classism drew significant praise. Additionally, nearly every bit of the season was shot on location in Hawaii, offering a beautiful backdrop that juxtaposed the chaotic events involving the characters.

While still well-acted, well-written and consistently entertaining, season two of "The White Lotus" lacks some of the originality that made the first season so transcendent. However, there are enough new wrinkles present in the first few episodes of this season to compensate for much of the repetitiveness.

Given the show has now been reinterpreted as an anthology, the new season takes place at another White Lotus resort location, this time in Sicily. Similar to the first season, episode one begins one week in the future, revealing multiple vacationers have died during their stay. Much like the death teased at the beginning of season one, the revelation is primed to hang over the remainder of the season.

This season also introduces a brand-new cast, one whose star power rivals last season’s. The most prominent traveling party features two married couples — Cameron and Daphne Sullivan, portrayed by Theo James and Meghann Fahy, and Ethan and Harper Spiller, portrayed by Will Sharpe and Aubrey Plaza.

Despite not having much in common with the Fahys, Ethan convinces his wife to make the trip, hoping she will realize they are the kind of people they will have to hang around more often following his recent windfall of income. Harper hilariously clashes with the Sullivans, primarily Cameron, who are not very socially conscious and at first glance do not appear to have any marital issues.

One of White’s biggest intentions in “The White Lotus” is to explore how wealth can contaminate relationships and reveal hypocrisy in people’s social values. That intention is most evident in scenes with the Sullivans and the Spillers.

While Harper believes the Sullivans are the embodiment of everything negative that comes from wealth and insulating oneself from real-world issues, the Sullivans’ seemingly perfect relationship with each other has a clear effect on how she views her just-adequate relationship with Ethan. It will be interesting to see how Harper’s values evolve over the course of the season.

Another traveling party, the Di Grassos, features an odd grouping of three family members from different generations. Dominic (Michael Imperioli), in the midst of a marital spat brought on by his serial cheating and sex addiction, plans a week-long getaway with his son, Albie (Adam DiMarco), and his father, Bert (F. Abraham Murray), under the guise of exploring the family’s Sicilian heritage. In fact, infidelity and monogamy are major themes explored with each of the traveling parties.

The family’s relationship is predictably complicated, with Dominic’s father revealed to also be a womanizer. While much of their behavior is deplorable, some of the season’s funniest moments thus far have come from Bert’s frequent attempts to hit on younger women, much to the embarrassment of the family. Dominic, meanwhile, is the ultimate hypocrite for using the trip as an opportunity to legally solicit local sex workers behind his family members’ backs.

The final travel group is the show’s only holdover from season one. Fan-favorite Tanya McQuoid (Jennifer Coolidge) has planned a getaway with her now-husband Greg (Jon Gries), but their relationship has begun to show signs of decay. Tanya also has brought along her assistant, Portia (Haley Lu Richardson), whom Greg orders Tanya to send away. While trying to avoid her bosses per Tanya’s orders, Portia strikes up a strange relationship with Albie.

Every performance is top-notch, just like in season one, and the actors have very rich material with which to work. Each of the married couples are very believable thanks to the actors’ chemistry. That is especially true of Plaza and Sharpe, who sell Harper and Ethan’s relationship discomfort.

The series was at its best in season one when it embraced a more comedic tone, given satirical humor was often needed to offset the unlikeability of the main characters. Season two retains that same level of intelligent humor, and if this season has any advantages over the last, the ensemble as a whole comes across as more likable, even with each character’s blatant flaws.

For viewers looking for a binge-worthy series that stands out from other similar show concepts, “The White Lotus” is a must-watch.

Where to watch: Sundays on HBO Max

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