Artworks as witnesses and an assemblage of shifting relationships—‘The White Lotus’ season two finale delivered a fitting arrivederci

From Portia’s off-kilter outfits that had Twitter divided, to unexpected character arcs, there was much to love and debate this season.

Harper's Bazaar India

When season one of The White Lotus dropped, more than the story unfolding, what kept me coming back for more was the theme song, ‘Aloha!’ by the extremely talented Chilean Canadian composer, Cristobal Tapia de Veer. Set in tropical Hawaii the OST was not the usual savoir faire you would expect in such settings, kind of the point, when an episode didn’t seem to make as much of an impact as one hoped it did. To be honest, the over dramatic Instagram-filter and colour tonality took away from the scenic depths Hawaii would have otherwise provided, and I remained a tad disappointed throughout the season for the oversaturation of colours. One of the most loved and memorable characters from the first season, Jennifer Coolidge (who plays the very rich, sometime vapid, and emotionally distraught Tanya McQuoid-Hunt) returned this season with an incredible cast of characters who had a unified trajectory of relationship lessons, intelligently stitched into the screenplay. 

In the second season, we travelled to Sicily where continuity came in the form of ‘The White Lotus’ chain of resorts and Coolidge. Steering clear of Netflix-kind slick and stylised cinematography, director Mike White juxtaposed artworks as silent clues to what came next. For instance, in one of the scenes, Lucia (Simona Tabasco), sneaks into Albie’s (Adam DiMarco) grandfather’s room after sleeping with his father, and notices her namesake, Saint Lucy in a painting by Domenico Beccafumi (1521). She takes a moment to make a cross, which seems akin to asking for the saint’s forgiveness. 

Of course, along with the renaissance themed exploration of artwork which sustains itself throughout the show, there is obvious reference to Antonioni’s l’Avventura when Harper walks alongside Noto Cathedral in Sicily, directing the viewer to the male gaze.

A sharp social and class satire that follows the rich around the world, the masterful complexity of story arcs had changing relationship dynamics as the central theme. Aubrey Plaza as Harper Spiller and Will Sharpe as Ethan Spiller, play the ‘woke’ couple for whom honesty is non-negotiable. However, through the course of the show, as they unwittingly mingle with Daphne (Meghann Fahy) and Cameron (Theo James), [the couple for whom determined denial and dishonesty is what sustains their relationship], boundaries are blurred and their commitment tested. Like the first season the recurring OST, ‘Renaissance’ builds up each scene with its haunting sound track.
Portia (Haley Lu Richardson), Tanya’s young assistant trying to hold her own array of ideas that questioned reliance on constant connectivity and social media, while navigating her way through men she kind of liked, became much talked about—for her questionable choice in picking men and her outfits.

Her off-kilter style came under the radar and didn’t get the Gen Z approval, although for me, as the girl from community college who finds herself in a luxe resort in Sicily, is clinically depressed and unsure of where she stands in the world, it showed personality without going overboard.
Remarkably enough Tanya’s rant, “These gays are trying to murder me” became a meme after ‘she’ murders them. Openly bisexual, when director Mike White spun this in the script, chances are he knew the floodgates he was opening with this one line.

Funny, astutely written, and not playing to any crowds (political or social leanings) Season 2 won me over for being pragmatic, killing the most loved character, and prepping us for Season 3. Yes, it’s happening!