On the Strange Sex Appeal of ‘The White Lotus’ Season 2

The sun has set on the penultimate episode of our own personal World Cup, The White Lotus, and it seems as good a time as any to pull up a lounger and take stock. Where the first season felt like a tart commentary on class, race, privilege, and excruciating multiples thereof, this fall’s excursion is fueled by toxic sex dynamics. 

I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t fall for Sicily’s outing immediately: That difficult second album (or season) can feel like an echo of past greatness, and something in Episode 1 felt a little hollow, a little tinny—a little so many rich people, so what? I felt like storylines were trying too hard to intrigue me and I hated it. Laura Dern being majorly divorced on the phone felt random and over-inflated. The sex workers felt tacky in the wrong way. Portia was a whinge. Harper was stuck-up. But the sexuality has thickened and the plights of the characters have gripped us all like the sturdy underwire of a bikini. They’re grappling to untie the wet knot of their converging vacations and we can’t not look. 

Before we’re all hungover at departures with our duty-free, let’s not forget the dead body (or bodies) on the beach in Episode 1. Someone is either traveling in the hold and deplaning in a casket, or getting buried on the mainland. Shall we peruse the suspects?

I’ve never seen anyone as likely to soil another person’s luggage like Armond did in Season 1 as Valentina when her crush admitted she had a boyfriend (who can blame Isabella? Rocco is fit in his way). The thought of Valentina—arbiter of the season’s best, improvised line, “Beppa Pig?”—waking up from her birthday night of lesbian de-flowering to find guests’ bodies washed up on her hotel’s private beach is a dastardly gift. I’d love for the Lotus showrunners to have killing-off-the-gay-resort-manager as a forever trope, an in-joke, but Valentina’s been pictured next to the corpses. Spin-off for her lesbian awakening please, HBO. I’m begging you.

Considering what’s happened with her woefully dismissive and downright unkind ex, Jennifer Coolidge’s Tanya has been softened up in recent episodes, suggesting we’re being prepped for a sad demise. O.G. Tanya’s vapidity is palpably dissipating—the way she blindly chewed up and spat out the massage therapist in Hawaii feels like an alarmingly different and uncaring woman. Tanya’s the victim now, being eroded by cocaine and coerced (or lured) into sex. She’s even warning her assistant, walking fashion retaliation Portia, against getting too deep too soon with Calves Essex (a.k.a. Jack). Consider our sympathy garnered.  

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