This The White Lotus review contains spoilers.
The White Lotus Season 2 Episode 5
One of the tough things about starting a new show for the first time is having to constantly answer this question: what do these characters stand for? When it comes to The White Lotus, this is an even more arduous quest for knowledge. The anthology style gives us only a select few weeks to live in the skin of these fictional people, and the writers and actors bringing the story to life have to quickly, but purposefully fulfill their roles to create a show worth remembering.
As we begin the final episodes of the season, the lives of the Sicilian beachgoers and hotel-dwellers are starting to mix and mingle way more than at the beginning. Characters start to indirectly impact one another in ways they can’t conceive of, which is the perfect tipping point for what likely will cause the impending death that was ever-so-slightly shown in the opening scene back in “Ciao.” None of these wealthy snobs seems to have the type of malevolence that would lead to an intentional homicide, but they do have the ignorance to put this Italian Rube Goldberg machine into fatal motion.
The quartet that has the most heat boiling under the surface is clearly Cameron and Daphne Sullivan (Theo James and Meghann Fahy) and Ethan and Harper Spiller (Will Sharpe and Aubrey Plaza). The final person on that list is the one who has almost enjoyed being miserable throughout her vacation, sabotaging every opportunity for fun with a dose of conspiracy. She knows there’s something fishy about Cameron and Daphne’s relationship, she just doesn’t know exactly what it is yet. Everything is a contest for Harper, a tug-of-war between the disdain of the Sullivan marriage and dissatisfaction with her own.
Harper is able to finally get Ethan to admit to an affair Cameron had on their couch a couple of episodes back, an opened condom wrapper being the piece of evidence she needed to propel the conflict forward. Ethan never lied about what happened, he simply omitted information, but this doesn’t mend fences with Harper. This revelation is enough for Ethan to finally start souring on his bro-ship with Cameron, an interesting plot that has been teased for a while now. Cameron can’t stand Ethan having something he doesn’t (this sounds similar to Harper, doesn’t it?) and has been toying with Harper since he dropped his drawers in front of her back in the first episode. The potential for infidelity seems imminent, and who knows how Ethan would react if he finds out about it. He’s a seemingly good man, but also a repressed, meek soul. That’s a dangerous combination when scorned.
The same is starting to apply to Albie. The character that much of the internet seems to feel is too nice, the type of nice that might be hiding something sinister underneath, is now head over heels for Lucia (Simona Tabasco). Even after he finds out she’s an escort, he’s not deterred from throwing the kindle on the romantic fire. Albie wants to show respect for Lucia and make sure she’s not being used for her body, and he often thinks he’s morally superior to his father, Dom (Michael Imperioli) for these reasons. Albie is a gentleman on the outside, but his good intentions don’t always corroborate his real feelings. He desires a gorgeous woman by his side at every moment during this trip, and this runs exactly adjacent to Dom’s issues and the Di Grasso family’s patriarch, Bert (F. Murray Abraham). The toxic male construct the three men symbolize is the clearest topic in the show.
The character who continues to whittle away with almost no story left to tell is the only one who was brought back from the first season. Tanya McQuoid (Jennifer Coolidge) has been used aimlessly for much of the second season, and this climaxed this week. Her escapades with a troupe of gay vacationers from the U.K. serves no purpose other than to introduce Portia’s bad boy beau, Jack (Leo Woodall). The strange energy in Tanya’s scenes doesn’t hit the same as it did in the past, often leaving viewers more confused than satisfied.
She often waxes poetic about the philosophies of life with her new friend, Quentin (Tom Hollander), who also happens to be Jack’s uncle. The cliffhanger entering next week is one of the oddest things I’ve ever seen on TV, a peak into what appears to be a sex scene between Jack and Quentin that Tanya becomes privy to. Incest is something that HBO has never been afraid to show (paging Game of Thrones) but this act comes completely out of nowhere. The purpose it serves could make or break the final two episodes of the season.
New episodes of The White Lotus season 2 premiere Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and HBO Max.