Episode 1 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 2 -|Review Score – 4/5
Episode 3 -|Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 4 -|Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 5 -|Review Score – 5/5
Episode 6 -|Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 7 -|Review Score – 5/5
Season 2 of The White Lotus is finally over and no one thought it would end this way. See for yourself, you will be surprised! HBO has achieved a remarkable feat by outdoing its previous offering, which was unthinkable at the time. But they have gone ahead and done it.
Mike White returned as the showrunner and brought similar story elements and format. We got to see another gorgeous exotic location that came alive vividly in The White Lotus’ visual palette. But all that takes second place behind the teasing, probing, and deliciously expansive storytelling and ensemble performances that are filled with ironic charms and everyday film clichés. The first-rate execution and wealth of creative talent make it a compelling must-watch.
Like the first season, we saw groups of different people once again take center stage. The only difference this time was the watertight compartmentalization of those individuals. Hardly any occasion arose throughout the season when, say, Harper (Aubrey Plaza) and Tanya’s (the adorable Jennifer Coolidge) paths met. White made sure that they remained within his designs in the plot, each having its own theme, tenor, and pace. The foreplay – or the gestation period if you will – was longer in this season. But so was the payoff, as we see in episodes 6 and 7.
White’s layout of the characters was another interesting point. Every character seemed to have been connected to a theme, and the linkage continued with different relations as well. For instance, Albie saved a wounded bird (Lucia) and also sent a wounded bird (his mother) on the way to getting hurt again. People can argue over whether or not the latter happens (I feel it will not), but that connection is visible in White Lotus. This led to a sort of continuum and constant colliding of worlds in some way. So even with the strict division, we saw commonality in the universe.
There was also a sense of a symbiotic relationship between the terrain and the version of people we met in the resort. The synergies were aligned almost perfectly throughout. Emotions ebbed and flowed like tidal waves, with the same stills and silhouettes being used over and over to give perspective to viewers. All of this altruist imagination did not get in the writers’ way to ground their theses in reality. Very palpable issues like infidelity in relationships, emotional unavailability and manipulation (at times together), the hollowness of the “white savior complex”, and deviance emanating from greed and lifestyle mania were accounted for.
And they aren’t banged out in heavy metal style either. Season 2 provides compelling drama woven around those issues in a nuanced way. The cast, of course, did a tremendous favor to White by slowing down the processing of those ideas in the viewers’ minds to elongate the tension. Without the active involvement of the actors, White perhaps couldn’t have given this shape to the final product. More than character-building, it was mood-building. That structure in which the actors’ revel was the difficult part to nail and White certainly manages that well.
Personally, the best performance here comes from Meghann Fahy, and not only because of that 10 second long pause she took in the finale during a specific conversation with Ethan. Daphne was the most inert character on the show.
Fahy is sublime, and at such a young age, there is so much more to come from her. The review would not be complete without mentioning Coolidge and her immaculate, inadvertent, femme fatale brand of humor. Just the way she said “gays” every single time, in spite of what was going around her, was enough to crack you up. Sadly, she will not return for the third season. The twist ending was another Survivor-inspired surprise from White that did not feel underwhelming at all.
The White Lotus is a blockbuster brand for HBO. If such decorated creative talent can be wielded like this, there will be many more seasons to come. Season 2 raises the standard even more for the third (which has been confirmed, by the way) and was a delight to cover.
Verdict - 9/10