Forget the midterm elections or the holiday season: The only thing worth discussing this fall is whose dead body is floating in the ocean in Season 2 of The White Lotus. Is it a character we’ve met, or someone who’s going to show up later? Are there other dead bodies littering the resort, as one of the staffers suggests? Does that mean there’s a psycho on the loose, or that someone mixed a bad batch of negronis?
These questions feel even more urgent because series creator Mike White spends the first episode dropping hints. It seems like every line, set piece, and stray mythical reference is meant to be a clue, and it’s a delicious thrill to be teased this way. Here are the juiciest carrots that get dangled in this week’s episode. Maybe one of them holds all the answers, and we just don’t know it yet!
The season begins with wealthy socialite Daphne (Meghann Fahy) chirpily telling some fellow guests at The White Lotus Sicily what a perfectly fabulous time she’s had. She’s not quite as enthusiastic, though, when her final swim in the Ionian Sea gets interrupted by a dead body floating past. All we see are the legs, pale and hairless. Does that mean they’re a woman’s legs? Maybe. But then again, some men don’t have much leg hair. To be safe, we should look closely at all the actors’ legs this season. For research purposes only, of course.
When he gets to his room, Ethan (Will Sharpe), a newly wealthy tech entrepreneur, asks about the ceramic heads he’s seen everywhere. A bellhop tells him they’re teste di moro, statues that represent a famous story about a young woman who beheaded her lover after she found out he had a wife and kids. Uh-oh! Those heads might be a warning that the upcoming deaths are the result of a sexcapade, and we’ve already got plenty to choose from! For one thing, Ethan and his wife Harper (Aubrey Plaza) are traveling with Cameron (Theo James) and Daphne, who’s Cameron’s wife. Ethan and Cameron were college roommates, but now there’s a weird vibe between them. It doesn’t help that when Harper loans Cameron one of Ethan’s swimsuits, he strips down right in front of her to put it on. Smells like the start of something inappropriate! Meanwhile, Hollywood bigshot Dominic (Michael Imperioli) has a liaison with Luci (Simona Tobasco), a local prostitute who surely doesn’t know he has an ex-wife and children back home. Could that provoke some teste di moro-style anger? Or what if Luci’s friend Mia (Beatrice Grannò), who wants to be a singer, somehow gets wrapped up with Dominic and feels betrayed? Heads could literally roll! Mike White has referred to this season as a “bedroom farce with teeth,” and there are plenty of teeth inside those ceramic busts.
The statue isn’t the only striking detail in Ethan’s room: It also shares a door with Cameron and Daphne’s place. The bellhop makes a point of mentioning that they can pop in on each other whenever they want, and you don’t just mention a detail like that unless it’s going to come back later. Who’s going to sneak into whose suite, and will it result in foul play?
Dominic and his son Albie (Adam DiMarco) have traveled to Sicily to help Dominic’s father Bert (F. Murray Abraham) connect with his Italian heritage. Bert is a total horndog and flirts with every woman in sight, which could cause him trouble later, but it’s an even bigger red flag that when he’s trying to get to the pool deck, he falls down the stairs. Plus, as soon as he gets to the White Lotus, resort manager Valentina (Sabrina Impacciatore) remarks that he’s awfully old to be making such a long journey. That’s a joke to demonstrate Valentina’s social awkwardness, but could it also be a signal that Bert’s not long for this world?
Harper doesn’t trust Cameron. She tells Ethan from the start that his old roommate seems like a user who didn’t care about him until he struck it rich. But what if Cameron’s not interested in Ethan at all? When the two couples are having drinks, we learn that Harper is an employment lawyer and that Cameron’s company is being sued. Is she representing someone who’s trying to bring Cameron down? Is it possible that he knows that but she doesn’t? What if he only invited them on this vacation to shake Harper down in some way? That could certainly end with a round of poisoned cocktails!
And let’s not forget our beloved Tanya (Jennifer Coolidge), who’s back from Season 1 and just as discombobulated as ever. This time, she’s traveling with her assistant Portia (Haley Lu Richardson) and her new husband Greg (John Gries), whom she met while she was in the Hawaiian White Lotus. There’s already trouble in paradise. Greg is mad that Portia’s even there, and he basically only says cruel things to Tonya. One night, she also finds him having a hushed phone call in the bathroom. That can’t be good. Who is on the phone, and why is he talking to them in secret? That’s obviously going to come up again, but no matter what he’s up to, he’d better not hurt Tanya. If he does, viewers might climb through the screen and dump him in the ocean themselves.
Mark Blankenship has been writing about arts and culture for twenty years, with bylines in The New York Times, Variety, Vulture, Fortune, and many others. You can hear him on the pop music podcast Mark and Sarah Talk About Songs.
TOPICS: The White Lotus, HBO, Adam DiMarco, Aubrey Plaza, Beatrice Granno, F. Murray Abraham, Haley Lu Richardson, Jennifer Coolidge, John Gries, Meghann Fahy, Michael Imperioli, Mike White, Sabrina Impacciatore, Simona Tobasco, Theo James, Will Sharpe