The White Lotus has reopened its doors, beckoning viewers back for another season of acidic satire, breathtaking vistas, and rich people who remain blithely uninterested in the world around them. Season 2 of the HBO "limited" series moves the action to Sicily, where a new group of VIPs — played by Aubrey Plaza, Michael Imperioli, Haley Lu Richardson, Theo James, a returning Jennifer Coolidge, and more — is ready to indulge in everything except perhaps a little self-awareness.
Series creator Mike White — who once more handles all writing and directing duties — has said Season 2 will be more of a "bedroom farce with teeth," exploring the inner workings of marriages, like those of the Spillers (Plaza and Will Sharpe) and their frenemies, the Babcocks (James and Meghan Fahy). Though we might not be able to count on seeing copies of Discourse on Colonialism in the wild, the mystery element has carried over from Season 1. Instead of wondering which guest introduced in the premiere, "Ciao," isn't long for this world, though, we'll spend the new season wondering which guests aren't making it out of scenic Sicily alive.
Along with our weekly coverage of Season 2, the Primetimer staff is gathering around the virtual water cooler with our theories for who bites it this year. With "In the Sandbox," we've reached the midseason point, and some theories are holding stronger than others.
[Editor's Note: We'll continue to update this post until the Season 2 finale on December 11.]
Claire: It took five weeks, but we finally saw a new side of Ethan (Will Sharpe) in Episode 5 – and it’s one that could spell his doom. Tired of being walked over by everyone in his life, Ethan offers up a half-apology to Harper (Aubrey Plaza) for his night out with Cameron (Theo James), but refuses to admit he was wrong to lie about it. If Ethan had taken ownership for his role in the evening — and if his tone at all implied that he was truly sorry — maybe Harper would be more inclined to believe that he didn’t actually cheat; instead, she’s left imagining the worst about what happened, even as Daphne (Meghann Fahy) encourages her to “do what you have to do to make yourself feel better about it.”
The question then becomes: what will Harper do to make herself feel better about it? Harper doesn’t seem to have Daphne’s ability to compartmentalize and ignore her husband’s infidelity, so at the very least, we can expect some kind of negative reaction. I don’t think Harper is the killing kind, but with all those teste di moro statues hanging around, it’s possible she finds herself whipped into a frenzy that manifests in paranoid anger.
Joe: Welcome to the pool of shapely ankles we're considering for our floating corpse, Jack from Essex (Leo Woodall)! After romancing Portia (Haley Lu Richardson) for the better part of two episodes, Jack was revealed to be having fairly rambunctious sex with Quentin (Tom Hollander), who has at least been passing himself off as Jack's uncle. It doesn't seem like Portia has fallen for Jack in a serious enough way that would lead her to murder, but if the theme of this season — as dictated by that teste di moro story — is that deception and sexual jealousy can lead to murder, this one's a pretty big deception. (This applies to Quentin as well, but Jack seems like just the type of guileless hottie to get caught up in the metaphorical — or literal — crossfire.)
Claire: Given Mike White’s fondness for the character, I haven’t been particularly concerned about Tanya (Jennifer Coolidge), but the past two episodes have me rethinking this position. Last week, Tanya’s “very negative” tarot card reading and Portia’s sarcastic remark about her current state — “I feel like if I murdered my boss, I could argue it was euthanasia” — seemed to portend a grim end for Coolidge’s character, a feeling that’s only strengthened after watching Episode 4.
Quentin’s (Tom Hollander) invitation to his village seems too good to be true: As we’ve seen, leaving the resort is often a fraught experience (the Di Grasso clan’s trip to The Godfather filming location comes to mind), and it’s hard not to feel that Quentin’s group has some kind of ulterior motive for inviting Tanya and Portia (Haley Lu Richardson). HBO’s Episode 5 preview also features a shot of a Guardia di Finanza boat crashing through the waves, a clue that instantly registers as ominous: the Italian police unit is responsible for investigating financial crime and drug smuggling. We know absolutely nothing about where Quentin’s wealth comes from, and Tanya’s “heiress billionaire” status is equally vague. Could either of these two be involved in smuggling or the drug trade (in Tanya’s case, maybe even without her knowledge)? Quentin and Tanya may be fast friends, but I wouldn’t put it past him to discard her — just as she did to Belinda (Natasha Rothwell) in Season 1 — when she no longer serves his needs.
Mark: It’s not looking good for Portia (Haley Lu Richardson). Structurally speaking, she is the guest with the least power: She’s only at the White Lotus because of her boss, and she has to rely on other people to take her places around Sicity. Thus, all these characters might think she owes them something, and if she hurts their little egos, then they could lash out. For instance, I suspect that despite his efforts to be a thoughtful feminist, Albie (Adam DiMarco) could be a big old misogynist if he gets upset enough about Portia ditching him to go sleep with Jack (Leo Woodall). And who is Jack, by the way? He’s connected to a group of wealthy gay men… and what else? He clearly has a secret, which could make him dangerous. Then there’s Tanya’s increasing desperation to be wanted. At any second, she could take her insecurities out on Portia.
Plus, The White Lotus is fundamentally a series about class and power. In real life, people like Portia – intelligent, capable, economically “weak” – are often exploited by the wealthy, so it would be darkly fitting if she died at their hands. Finally, we’ve already seen Portia standing in front of a mannequin that represents a woman getting killed, and we’ve seen her in a swan shirt that echoes the violence of the opening credits. When the structure and the symbols are against you, then you’re in trouble.
Danette: I might just be repeating myself for the remainder of this poll, because Tanya still appears to be on the chopping block. Quentin’s coming on a little too strong; he’s a little too eager to make new friends for someone who’s clearly traveling with his own coterie. My guess is that he learned about the traveling heiress — Tanya did brag in the premiere that she’s been on so many trips, she’s managed to work her way up to Lotus status — and wants her to back some scheme. She’ll either be so hurt by the betrayal that she’ll harm herself, or Quentin will off her to cover his tracks.
Still, I don’t think we can write off Greg as the culprit just yet, or the possibility of an accident (or what appears to be an accident) caused by Portia. More than any other VIP at the Sicilian resort, Tanya seems to be skirting disaster, and I just don’t see how she overcomes those odds. If this season is about to take a turn for the operatic, she makes for a helluva central tragic figure.
Mark: I’m worried for Greg (Jon Gries). He spends this episode being just horrible to Tanya (Jennifer Coolidge), and even though she might seem like a flibbertigibbet, we know from the couples’ dinnertime fight that she had the presence of mind to get a prenup. We also know she’s good at manipulating people and discarding anyone who displeases her. So isn’t it possible that after this jerk ruins her Italian movie fantasy and has the audacity to call his secret lover in the middle of the night, she’ll hire someone to kill him? Why assume that all the dead bodies are connected, you know? It’s perfectly plausible that Greg is floating in the ocean because Tanya finally snapped, while a couple of other characters died after eating bad shrimp.
Danette: I’m glad you brought up Tanya’s less savory (less Coolidge-esque) qualities, Mark! Greg is absolutely taking advantage of her, but Season 1 proved Tanya is also a user. Just look at poor Portia (Haley Lu Richardson), who’s expected to stay in her room the entire time they’re in Sicily. Tanya could absolutely murder Greg and leave him to “sleep with the fishes” — I endured a rewatch of their sex scene in “Ciao” to get a better look at his legs, which are skinny and fairly hairless. Those could be his limbs bobbing around in the Ionian Sea in the Season 2 premiere.
I’m going to stick to my guns on the guests found in the hotel, though: Lucia (Simona Tabasco), Mia (Beatrice Grannò), and Dominic are either going to have a bad night of partying or face the wrath of Dominic’s wife, who we recently learned is played by Laura Dern. Woe to anyone who dares to cross a Laura Dern character.
Danette Chavez: At the risk of incurring the wrath of the internet, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Tanya McQuoid-Hunt won’t be checking into any future White Lotus locations… or doing much of anything else.
There’s something very sketchy about her new husband Greg (Jon Gries), who suddenly seems repulsed by her. Tanya is worth half a billion dollars, and there’s been no mention yet of a prenup. As Daphne notes, husbands have been known to off their wives on vacation — and it was Greg who pushed for the getaway, insisting that Tanya leave her assistant Portia (Haley Lu Richardson) at home (she did not). Mike White’s made sure that the odds look even for any character to bite the dust this season. But off screen, he’s made much of the potential for Coolidge to return in future seasons. Note that he says “Jennifer,” not “Tanya,” could be back — that might mean the actor would return in a new role once this self-destructive and self-pitying heiress runs out of luck.
As for the other dead bodies found in the hotel, my prediction is that Dominic (Michael Imperioli), Lucia (Simona Tabasco) and Mia (Beatrice Grannò) are going to have a disastrous night together sometime in the very near future.
Mark Blankenship: It’s got to be a guest this season, right? There’s no way they’d kill another hotel staff member after Armond (Murray Bartlett) croaked last year, and offing a Sicilian local would essentially make the same point about how privilege destroys the less fortunate. Plus, the vibe of the first episode already suggests that somebody’s lust (for money, for sex, for all of the above) is going to do them in, which makes me think it’s going to be someone from the two main couples. As of today, my money is on Ethan Spiller (Will Sharpe) being the body in the ocean, since he seems the most clueless about the duplicity of everyone around him. And since we still haven’t met the characters played by Tom Hollander and Leo Woodall, I’m guessing they’re the “other bodies” that were found somewhere on the resort. Major characters who arrive late tend to shake up the status quo, and dying is a good way to do that!
Claire Spellberg Lustig: This may be a crackpot theory, but I think the first shot of the premiere offers a major clue about the victim Daphne Babcock (Meghann Fahy) finds in the water just minutes later. When we first see Daphne, she’s sitting on the beach liberally spraying sunscreen — something Harper Spiller (Aubrey Plaza) is preoccupied with throughout the episode, and the reason she finds herself in an uncomfortable situation with Cameron (Theo James) in her hotel room. Could those be Harper’s SPF-laden legs floating in the Ionian Sea?
And if Dateline-loving Daphne is the lens through which I’m interpreting Mike White’s clues, it’s possible her husband Cameron Babcock meets a similar fate. Between Daphne’s love of sordid murder tales, the teste di moro symbolism, and his behavior in the Season 2 preview, Cameron seems not long for this world.
Joe Reid: In parsing that opening scene for clues, I made note that Rocco (Federico Ferrante) told Valentina (Sabrina Impacciatore) that a guest was found dead in the water and that other guests had died. I also Zaprudered the hell out of those legs floating by and, while out of focus, they didn't seem hairy, which leads me away from options like Cameron or Dominic or Albie (Adam DiMarco), at least until I can get a better look at their calves. If the floating victim is a woman, Harper does seem like the most likely candidate, though I'm not ruling out Portia (Haley Lu Richardson), Tanya's assistant who was so cruelly ordered to stay in her room and thus any misadventure that might befall her outside the safety of that room would qualify as sad irony. My biggest question, however, is why Daphne was so chattily complimentary of her time at the White Lotus when talking to Kara and Angelina from Survivor. Given the wringer that we know a season of The White Lotus puts her characters through, I can't imagine Daphne would be so bubbly about the resort's charms. Another mystery!