‘White Lotus’ keeps momentum in its second season

The show continues to build on its strong foundations


Courtesy of IMDb

“White Lotus'” strength is in the authenticity of its characters, writes Virginia Noone.

Virginia Noone, Photography Editor

More than 4.1 million people viewed the finale of HBO’s second season of “The White Lotus” upon airing on Dec. 11. Mike White’s Emmy-winning series follows wealthy resort guests as they explore Sicily, Italy and interact with the locals. This season was revamped with an almost entirely new cast of high-profile actors, excluding the award-winning Jennifer Coolidge, who returned from last season. The cast included actors such as Theo James, Aubrey Plaza, Michael Imperioli, Haley Lu Richardson and other recognizable names.

Maintaining the form of the previous season, the first scene reveals that a murder has taken place but does not reveal who was murdered. On a deeper level, the dramedy explores complex relationship dynamics between the guests and their families. This season’s plot lines revolved around sex and gender and their relation to power dynamics rather than merely class and privilege like before.

The allure of the series stems from its authenticity of characters — there’s something for everyone.

There is no altruistic character or likable protagonist in the entire series. Instead, the characters are all rather unlikeable — each having serious flaws. They hurt each other and themselves, despite caring about each other. Audiences are drawn to these characters because they feel more real than standard good versus evil tropes. In many ways, the cast is relatable in the same way that characters from “The Office” are relatable. Every office has a Dwight, and every resort has an obnoxious family.

Between all of the plot lines, the one that resonated with me the most was the relationship between the college roommates and their wives. Harper and Ethan are smart, serious and don’t really know how to have fun. Cameron and Daphne are hot, easy-going and wholly immature. As the trip evolves, it’s revealed that Cameron is a serial cheater as he hits on Harper despite her disdain for him. It is also revealed that Cameron has a long-standing habit of alpha-dogging Ethan. Harper views Daphne as an airhead without any substance.

Throughout the season, Daphne befriends Harper and shares that she struggles with female friendships. With their friendship, she also shares that the secret to her and Cameron’s romantic spark is their affinity for cheating on and lying to each other.

Harper believes that her husband, Ethan, has cheated on her with a local prostitute during the trip. In an attempt to even the playing field, she disappears with Cameron into a room. White, the creator of the show, omitted this scene from the episode, so it’s unclear as to whether anything happened between the two characters. Instead, viewers are left with Ethan’s point of view, which is driven by suspicion and paranoia.

This is masterfully done as it leaves viewers to resonate with the raw emotions of Ethan’s character. He will never know what exactly happened, and neither will the audience. This same ominous scene is mirrored when Ethan and Daphne walk off alone together to an abandoned island to presumably have sex. Yet, the viewers don’t know because it remains unseen. This tension is realistic to how real relationships that operate under falsehoods feel.

Meghann Fahy delivers a powerful performance when she’s confronted with the truth of her husband’s infidelity. She says to Ethan, “We never know what really goes on in people’s minds, or what they do.”

This concept is at the core of the series. What little lies are we willing to tell ourselves to make sense of our lives? What sacrifices are we willing to make for a certain lifestyle?

The show’s wealthy characters originally come off as frivolous and even laughable, but the more insight the audience gains into their lives, the darker their reality becomes. In many ways, this season makes a strong argument for the merits of noble lies.

A son lies to his mother about his father’s infidelity in order to help a younger woman he meets in Italy. A couple lies to each other about the solidity of their relationship. Two sex workers lie about the state of their safety in order to obtain more money. In the end, the audience is left to decide for themselves the morality of these characters’ decisions.

White masterfully entices the audience through a combination of hidden Easter eggs and dialogue that is up to personal interpretation. By bringing such an array of personalities and experiences to light on the screen, he hits different nerves for everyone.

Luckily, “The White Lotus” has been renewed for a third season this coming November. It’s been hinted that the location will be in Kyoto, Japan.

“The first season kind of highlighted money, and then, the second season is sex,” White commented about the potential focus of the upcoming season. “And I think the third season, it would be maybe a kind of satirical and funny look at death and Eastern religion and spirituality. And it feels like it could be a rich tapestry to do another round at White Lotus.”

Along with millions of others, I’ll be waiting anxiously to see where White takes his audience next.