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‘The White Lotus’ Review: Season Two Arrives in Sicily

Aubrey Plaza, Meghann Fahy, Theo James, Will Sharpe in the Season Two premiere of HBO’s “The White Lotus.”
Aubrey Plaza, Meghann Fahy, Theo James, Will Sharpe in the Season Two premiere of HBO’s “The White Lotus.” By Courtesy of Fabio Lovino/HBO
By Jamila R. O'Hara, Crimson Staff Writer

The Season Two premiere of “The White Lotus” begins at the end of a week in paradise with a gorgeous Mediterranean beach, free-flowing Prosecco, and the discovery of a potential murder, or perhaps several.

Following the formula of its previous season’s pilot (which began with a closed body bag and little context), the HBO comedy-drama’s new installment jumps back in time after this jarring cold open — thus establishing the apparently grim destination of the season’s seven-episode run. For now, however, viewers are left to get acquainted with the assorted group of ultra-privileged guests beginning their stay at the exclusive and endlessly luxurious White Lotus resort.

The critically-acclaimed satire first premiered in July 2021 and was originally intended to be a six-part limited series; however, its popularity quickly led to a renewal by HBO. The first season — which received 20 Emmy nominations and took home 10 wins including Outstanding Limited Series — detailed a week in the life at a Hawaiian location of the fictional global resort chain, following a handful of dysfunctional guests, overworked staff, and disgruntled resort manager Armond (an excellent Murray Bartlett.) In a clever expansion of its original premise, the show’s distinctive brand of dark humor and biting exploration of social themes continues with a new cast at The White Lotus: Sicily.

This time around, the boat of new arrivals includes Dominic Di Grasso (Michael Imperioli), a Hollywood director traveling with his father Bert (F. Murray Abraham) and son Albie (Adam DiMarco) to visit his grandmother’s village. Generational differences are quickly brought to the forefront as Dom and Albie, a mild-mannered recent Stanford grad, attempt to curb Bert’s completely inappropriate, outdated approach to interacting with the women around him. This familial grouping allows for a clever exploration of masculinity across generations, exposing Dom’s own hypocrisy: Viewers are given glimpses into the reality of his personal life, where his actions and familial relationships don’t necessarily align with his ideals (“I’m a feminist. I mean, I didn’t marry some subservient wife”).

Jennifer Coolidge reprises her role as Tanya McQuoid-Hunt, a troubled woman who frequents White Lotus resorts around the world (she’s now a member of the Blossom Circle!). Returning alongside Tanya is her now-husband Greg (Jon Gries), another guest at the White Lotus Hawaii, where the two began their whirlwind romance. This year, the couple is joined on vacation by Tanya’s trendy young assistant Portia (Haley Lu Richardson), much to Greg’s dismay. Shirking Greg’s angry request to send Portia home, Tanya instead secretly exiles Portia to her room — leaving this season’s Gen Z mouthpiece to dodge both Tanya and Greg for the duration of the trip.

Arriving alongside the DiGrassos and McQuoid-Hunts are two married couples who seem to share a strained friendship: the newly-rich tech engineer Ethan (Will Sharpe) and employment lawyer Harper (Aubrey Plaza) have been invited to join Ethan’s pompous college roommate Cameron (Theo James) and his wife Daphne (Meghann Fahy) on vacation. While Ethan and Harper seem relatively grounded compared to several of the show’s more overtly crooked characters, Cameron and Daphne are, as Harper puts it, are “People that brag about taking helicopters to the Hamptons and being friends with Jeff Bezos.”

Rounding out the season’s main cast (so far) are Lucí (Simona Tabasco), a local hustler and sex worker, and Mia (Beatrice Grannò), an aspiring musician. The girls’ schemes to catch the attention of wealthy vacationers are constantly thwarted by Valentina (Sabrina Impacciatore), the resort’s demanding manager, and certainly another key player.

A major strength of the show’s first season was its ability to weave together the stories of its ensemble, as the paths and fates of guests, staff, and locals overlapped and intertwined — and the Season Two premiere is undoubtedly promising on this front. Its cast of characters are both individually and collectively compelling, representing a spectrum of experiences and perspectives. Furthermore, the premiere offers several delicious peeks into the cracks forming in existing relationships. The show retains its idiosyncratic and sardonic sense of humor, and Aubrey Plaza’s characteristically deadpan delivery makes her a comedic standout, especially as Harper navigates interactions with Cameron and Daphne — a couple whose willful ignorance is both hilarious, and, unfortunately, very believable. (“I’m so over the whole news cycle!”)

The sun-soaked premiere also subtly hints at the many narrative and tonal layers that will be peeled back as the season inevitably shifts into increasingly dark themes. Just as each character brings their own baggage, the resort, too, seems to carry something sinister within its walls: Beneath this idyllic scenery runs an ominous undercurrent that reveals itself in lulls and moments of uncertainty — and the resort’s beautiful, historic decor appears distorted and unsettling to the characters themselves at times.

With a compelling cast, novel picturesque setting, and the promise of several interesting slow-burn story arcs, “The White Lotus” is off to a strong start in Sicily. Time will tell if the show’s revival as an anthology series will ultimately feel redundant — or refreshing as an Aperol Spritz.

—Staff Writer Jamila R. O’Hara can be reached at jamila.o’

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