This The White Lotus review contains spoilers.
The White Lotus Season 2 Episode 3
Allow me to wax philosophical with you for a few moments. Answer me this question: can human beings change the most internally integrated parts of their personalities? The qualities that define your morals, your ethics, or your everyday decision-making? Can a man who’s addicted to the touch of the female body suddenly escape the allure of constant sexual intercourse? Or maybe the better question would be the reversal of such a thought: can the temptation of a stable man’s most primal urges cloud his judgment, soiling the principles that make him the person he’s been his entire life?
The White Lotus boldly throws these same questions into viewers’ faces throughout the third episode of the second season, “Bull Elephants.” The hour essentially takes two of the most fascinating characters in the new season, Dominic and Ethan (Michael Imperioli and Will Sharpe), and puts them on a juxtaposed path of transformation. Both men have had their key tendencies etched out in hints during the previous two weeks.
Dom is a lonely man confined to his hotel room most of the time, his son and father looking down their noses at him for the tragic work he’s done to unwind a longtime marriage through a plethora of extramarital affairs. Ethan is someone who has finally caught his big financial break and entered the world of the super-wealthy, but his relationship with his wife, Harper (Aubrey Plaza), has seen its better day. They’re stuck in the type of rut that would hypothetically lead an ethically-compromised man to try out one of the other 31 flavors at the ice cream shop.
In a brilliantly parallel piece of storytelling, creator Mike White is able to set up a scenario where Dom and Ethan are being propelled to two divergent ends of the same timeline. Dom has already seen the light, his Judgment Day of sorts being played out on the telephone in the premiere when his wife (who we now know is being voiced with vigorous fire by the iconic Laura Dern) tells him to go get **bleeped**. He wants to regain the trust of his family, and he takes these efforts by begrudgingly telling Lucia and Mia (Samona Tabasco and Beatrice Grannò) to no longer visit his room at the end of each day. Frustrated and seemingly insulted by Dom’s refusal to continue their naughty escapades, the two dotting ladies turn their sites onto Ethan and Cameron (Theo James).
We already saw how easily swayed Cameron is by the prospects of a new woman in his life when he instantly turned Harper into a flirting buddy in the infamous dangling member scene from “Ciao”. Cameron is too far gone for his own good, but Ethan is hanging on by the threads of his underwear, desperate to remain loyal to Harper and endure a matrimony that has hit a fork in the road. The White Lotus resort is Ethan’s forbidden fruit. Attractive and sexually available women are literally throwing themselves at him, but he’s able to resist the apple and stay faithful to Harper. In a drugged up stupor, Ethan is incapable of picking up his phone when Harper calls, leaving her on the sour note that something illicit is occurring while away for the night with Daphne (Meghann Fahy).
The fact that both Dom and Ethan are able to conjure up the most steady semblance of ethics possible in this Sicillian hotbed of copulation is probably just the calm before the storm. We all know people like this don’t change for the better. The rich have an insatiable desire for whatever they feel they need at any given time, and no character represents this disgusting reality more than Tanya (Jennifer Coolidge). With Greg (Jon Gries) hitting the skies for what is presumed to be an affair, the emotionally unstable belle can’t shake her selfishness that has driven her husband away from her in the middle of a vacation. She forces Portia (Haley Lu Richardson) to leave the comforting confines of Albie (Adam DiMarco) to accompany her and a psychic back to her hotel room. When the oracle sees nothing but more agony and marital distress in Tanya’s future, she goes to bed mumbling about how everyone is so negative.
The irony that is so clear for everyone to see is that Tanya is never going to change. She has no control over her one-sided nature any longer, and the rest of the people at this White Lotus location are headed straight for the same fortune. To have it all in this world, you have to give up your soul, afterall. Or something like that, right?
New episodes of The White Lotus season 2 premiere Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and HBO Max.