During the holiday break, a meme of a bawling Jennifer Coolidge shooting a pistol in a boat cabin filled my Twitter feed. Though I’m usually one to resist the online hype for the latest fads and trends, the clip was too intriguing to be ignored. The scene encapsulated the perfect mix of comedy and drama that I knew I needed in my life. So, as the exam season ended, I delved deep into the world of The White Lotus (2021), the HBO anthology series created by Mike White.
I binged the entirety of seasons one and two during the winter break. Initially released as a seven-episode limited series, The White Lotus returned for a second season on November 16, 2022. The show takes place on a resort known as “The White Lotus” and follows the lives of several wealthy guests.
Season two takes places in Sicily, Italy with a whole new cast—apart from Coolidge, who plays Tanya McQuoid-Hunt, a wealthy, recently-wedded woman. Mirroring the first season, the audience is presented with a mysterious death, as a body is discovered on the resort’s beach. It’s later revealed that more bodies are discovered on a boat nearby, immediately increasing the stakes of the second season.
On the surface, season two presents itself as the same general murder story with new faces and locations. However, the interactions between the characters reveal that there is much more to explore. Early in the season, it is apparent that the story is taking an interesting spin. In addition to the new main characters that arrive on the island, we are introduced to local sex worker Lucia (Simona Tabasco)—who uses the hotel’s guests as a source of clientele—and her friend Mia (Beatrice Grannò), an aspiring singer. As conflicts arise and motivations clash, these characters—among others—add an empowering and comical tone to the plot. Despite an impending death, the show is much more than a murder mystery.
The White Lotus’s first season introduces viewers to some of the main themes of the series: privilege, unconscious bias, and the effects of materialism—among others. Set in Hawaii, the characters directly interact with their environment, acknowledging the island’s colonial history in the latter half of episodes. While the second season continues to explore such themes, it also focuses heavily on the sexual intimacy between the characters. Every sexual encounter—or each perception of one—leaves viewers questioning each character’s true intentions. As the vacationers grapple with betrayal and deceit, the story unveils critical symbols while foreshadowing what might come next.
In short, The White Lotus is a case study on power. Hierarchies of class, race, and gender are all mixed and mashed until someone ends up dead. However, to characterize the series as one that only investigates the lives of the rich completely misses the mirror it holds up to our society. While most who watch shows like The White Lotus probably do not enjoy the same amount of wealth that the characters do, we all understand the same power structures that these characters use to their advantage.
Undeniably, the attention that The White Lotus has garnered over the last two years is well deserved. At the 80th Annual Golden Globe Awards, the series won “Best Limited Series, Anthology Series or Television Motion Picture” and “Best Supporting Actress – Television Limited Series/Motion Picture” was given to Coolidge for her performance. As Tanya’s two-season arc comes to a close, Coolidge’s acceptance speech was an iconic send off to an iconic character.
While there is no official information on cast or location, it has been confirmed that The White Lotus has been renewed for a third season. I’m excited for what the next season has in store.