“The White Lotus” season two follows trouble in Sicilian paradise

By Mikayla Silcox

Elm Staff Writer

Following a successful first season, the HBO original series “The White Lotus” returned for its second season on Oct. 30.

Airing weekly on Sundays, the show is expected to live up to the praise of its preceding season, which earned 20 Emmy nominations and five awards during last month’s ceremony.

While “The White Lotus” is an anthology series, its premise follows the woes of affluent tourists and the resort workers that serve them. According to The New Yorker, showrunner Mike White exaggerates the character’s flaws in order to play up the satirical messages about wealth and privilege.

After a successful first season, which starred Jennifer Coolidge, Sydney Sweeney, and Murray Bartlett among others, HBO renewed this comedy for a second season. 

With an expanded cast filled with notable actors, including Aubrey Plaza and Theo James, the opening of the new season rings similar to the events that preceded it.

At the top of S2E1 “Ciao,” the lives of the wealthy guests of a Sicilian hotel are interrupted by tragedy.

“Italy is so romantic, you are gonna die. They will have to drag you out of here,” Daphne Sullivan (Meghann Fahy) said to two sunbathing tourists just moments before stumbling upon a dead body in the water. 

As the mystery unravels, the episode tracks back to the beginning of the vacation to follow the lives of Daphne and her husband, Cameron Sullivan (Theo James), who are on vacation with Will and Harper Spiller (Ethan Sharpe and Aubrey Plaza). 

Tensions are evident as the Spillers, who are newly wealthy, struggle to fit in with the Sullivans, who have been comfortably rich their entire lives. 

Harper, a labor lawyer, is exasperated after finding out Daphne and Cameron do not vote, and viewers see the friction between the couples come to a head. Daphne responds to Harper’s stress about the world with her niche fascinations, including stories about women killing their husbands, which sparks suspicion.

The dichotomy of the Spillers and the Sullivans is played for laughs, poking fun at the moral indignity of Harper and the uncritical wastefulness of Daphne and Cameron.

After following the couples, the episode pans to two other families at the resort.

One is the Di Grasso family, a group of men traveling to their ancestral home in Sicily. 

The family is rounded out by Bert (F. Murray Abraham), a promiscuous grandfather, Dominic (Michael Imperioli), Bert’s impatient older son, and Albie (Adam DiMarco), Bert’s overly forgiving grandson. Each man’s flaw serves as a critique for the generational strains accrued by disfunction.

Bert is a source of comedic relief, as he flirts with every young woman he meets on the trip. The audience is expected to view Dominic’s pessimism as pathetic, especially as he explains to his mistress, Lucia (Simona Tabasco), the mess of his life and marriage. 

While season two of “The White Lotus” follows a similar formula to season one, the only characters from the former season that make a re-appearance are Tanya (Jennifer Coolidge) and Greg (Jon Gries). 

After Greg outlives the diagnosis of a terminal illness, he turns into a harsh and controlling man. Where the couple was previously joyous and impulsive, season two paints Tanya and Greg into a portrait of how trauma can alter a marriage, wearing the viewers down after following the awkward, humorous neuroses of the other characters.

Overall, the first episode of season two of “The White Lotus” bounced through an expansive group of characters, all a magnification of issues among the white, upper middle class. 

Viewers can choose to watch the show and laugh at the foul behaviors of the characters, or they can turn their eyes toward the critiques of society and the exploitative tourist industry buried within it.

To unravel the mystery of the Sicilian resort, tune into “The White Lotus” on HBO or HBOMax on Sundays at 9 p.m.

Photo caption: Aubrey Plaza, who stars in season two of “The White Lotus,” is known for her breakout role in the NBC comedy “Parks and Recreation,” in which she played the brooding April Ludgate.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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