Review: ‘The White Lotus’ | Critical

A week after the end of the first season of his high fantasy flagship serieson October 30, 2022, HBO returned with the second season of its new anthology “The White Lotus”.

While the show was originally ordered during the pandemic as a limited series, the success of the first season led HBO to turn “The White Lotus” into an anthology. The eponymous station in the series thus became a chain of stations.

The second season of “The White Lotus” transports us from the Hawaiian location of the first season and into the Old World, our American characters vacationing in Sicily, Italy. Like the first season’s cold open, a dead man opens the show, setting up a thriller before the show returns a week to the arrival of the guests… We, the audience, have to pick up the pieces, meet the actors keys and embark. during a whirlwind ride on a Vespa.

“The White Lotus” transports audiences to its exotic location to reveal the dark underbelly of the tourism industry. The series explores the gap between wealthy tourists spending their holidays and locals employed by the tourism industry, both in an official and unofficial capacity, contrasting the great carelessness of the former with the precariousness of the latter.

This class conflict culminates in the first season with the death of Armond, the hotel manager, at the hands of Shane Patton, one of the resort’s guests. This is not unlike Gatsby’s death at the hands of George Wilson due to the Buchanans’ negligence. As Nick Carraway once said, “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they broke things and…then retired to their money…and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”

Season two’s Sicilian adventure begins with the camera trained on well-to-do patrons and initially seems less preoccupied with the local plight than season one. Although it’s too early in the series to take stock, the second season has an opportunity to course-correct where the first season took a few wrong turns. Perhaps by focusing on the crowds, the show could better contrast the 9-5 monotony of the station staff later on.

None of the cast from the first season are returning except for Tanya McQuoid-Hunt, played by Jennifer Coolidge, and Greg Hunt, played by Jon Gries, her now husband. We are introduced to two contrasting couples, the Stillers and the Sullivans, and an intergenerational Italian-American family, the Di Grassos, who make up the high society the series focuses on.

Focusing on guests, at least for the first two episodes, wasn’t a bad time. In fact, I would say that by doing this, the show leans into escapism as the North Star. We are given a five star resort experience, complete with the sights, sounds and fame. Theo James, playing Cameron Sullivan, has already inspired thirst online after a semi-frontal scene of dubious context with Aubrey Plaza, playing Harper Spiller.

“The White Lotus” makes the age-old claim that all that glitters isn’t gold. Despite their material wealth and the escapism it provides, the problems of wealthy customers hang over them and cast a dark shadow. Tanya, for example, seems to have found love last season only to slowly realize that her feelings aren’t reciprocated. She pushes the feeling down with food and wine, but neither can fill the gaping hole inside her. Tanya’s mess is here to stay, no matter where she is.

Speaking of mess, you can’t talk about White Lotus without talking about its creator, Mike White. The son of an ex-evangelical who later came out as a gay man and dedicated his life to advancing LGBTQ+ rights, White has made a name for himself in his own right. He wrote the screenplay for ‘School of Rock’, appeared on both ‘The Amazing Race’ and ‘Survivor’ and he also wrote the screenplay for ‘Pitch Perfect 3’ prior to his work on ‘The White Lotus’.

Needless to say, White is an interesting man. It created a pandemic phenomenon that transported us from our dull surroundings to a dark tropical paradise. As we move from a pandemic to an endemic era, buoyed by the success of the first season, “The White Lotus” must now live up to the expectations it has set for itself.

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