Daphne Sullivan is the first character we meet at the resort during the opening of episode 1 for The White Lotus season 2. The opening scene is set about one week from the timeline that will be in focus this year. She is about to leave the resort that day and greets the guests beside her who have just arrived. She goes for one last swim. As she is about to get started in the water, she notices a body floating. Valentina, the manager of the White Lotus resort in Sicily, Italy arrives on scene. Rocco, another employee of the resort, tells her that several bodies of guests at the resort have been found. Trouble might soon come for them at the resort in form of liabilities.
One week before, we see the happy guests arrive on a boat to the resort. Valentina stands with her staff and waves at them in unison, much like the welcome in season 1. Rocco, though, hasn’t brought enough wine glasses, drawing her ire. From the town, Mia and Lucia, two friends, make their way to the harbour. The latter is an escort but Mia isn’t. She is sullen over her boyfriend courting another girl and is desperately in love with him. Lucia insists they go to the guests and she reluctantly agrees.
The guests include, the Spiller couple – Harper (Plaza) and Ethan (), the Sullivan couple – Cameron and Daphne, Tanya McQuoid Hunt (Coolidge), and the Di Grassos – Albie, Dominic, and Bert. They are greeted by Valentina. Isabella, one of the staff, is flirted with by Bert, who constantly steps out of line despite his old age, through the episode with the female staff. Tanya’s husband, Greg (both from season 1), has already arrived at the resort. Tanya has also brought along her assistant, Portia, which angers Greg who had specifically asked her to drop Portia home.
The Spillers and Sullivans know each other. Ethan and Cameron were together in college. The former has just sold his company for a fortune. The couples take rooms next to each other, but Harper has he reservations about mixing in too much with them. The rooms overlook the Mount Etna, dressed lavishly with wood panel wall boards and chic renaissance paintings. Bert keeps flirting with Isabella when she takes them to their rooms and in conversation, the purpose of their visit is also revealed. They have come to visit distant relatives, the grandmother of Bert in a village called Testa del acquo. Dominic intervenes and sends away Isabella.
He is having family problems, having cheated on his wife. He is Bert’s son and Albie’s father. On the phone, we hear Dom’s wife angrily tell him never to talk to her again and leave their daughter, Cara, alone too. Harper is skeptical of the Sullivans and loathes the prospect of sending more time with them on the vacation.
Lucia and Mia arrive at the hotel but Valentina spots them and ejects them from the premises. Portia is fed up because of Tanya’s unstable behaviour and she meets Albie, who is taking a swim. The two start talking before Bert takes a stumble on the nearby staircase and the two rush to pick him up.
At brunch, the Spillers learn that the Sullivans are living in a bubble of their own. They are very different people than the Spillers. If you want an analogy, take the film Vacation Friends. Spillers are like the black couple and Sullivans are like the white couple. That is the distribution of energy here. When Harper takes Cameron back to their room to give him Ethan’s swimsuit, he deliberately changes in front of the mirror from where Harper can see him naked. Tanya has a weird vision while making love with Greg, throwing him off a bit. The two share a very fragile relationship and Tanya is still quite volatile personality wise despite not being alone in season 2.
That night, Lucia and Mia dress up to sneak into the resort. Lucia has a client and Mia accompanies her just for that and not for engaging with her. Tanya sees Portia at the dinner table and freaks out. She had strict instructions for her to stay indoors as Greg would be infuriated if he saw her. She dodges that bullet somehow.
The Di Grassos have a weird conversation about Bert’s sexual prowess and it does not lead anywhere. There is some tension between the Spillers and Sullivans too. The latter quietly laugh and exchange looks when Harer would not let Ethan order fish because she does not like it. She notices them and orders it for Ethan to save the situation.
All the guests retire to their rooms and Lucia heads towards someone’s room. Albie sees her in the hallway but does not know that she is going into his father’s room. Giuseppe, the pianist for the night, approaches Mia. At first, she is excited to meet him as she too wants to become a musician. But when he asks her “the price for the night”, she gets offended and walks away.
The Spillers hear Cameron and Daphne make love in the other room, while retiring themselves for the night. A contrast says a thousand words and we will see more of this in the upcoming episodes.
The Episode Review
The premiere of season 2 of White Lotus hints at a very similar narrative approach as season 1. The tone and tenor is the exact same. The larger ensemble too reflects similar personnel with some unique character twists that seem promising. However, despite the familiar treatment and handling of the themes, episode 1 of season 2 does not suffer from the legacy issues of season 1.
It seems to have a mind of its own and it is upon us to make sure we separate the two stories. Jennifer Coolidge is a refreshing sight and her comic talents in this kind of setting are truly unmatched. She is the highlight of the opener for me. Season 2 seems like another tempting invitation into vacation debauchery and adult shenanigans.