White Lotus is a first-class tourist resort that offers its guests top luxury in some exotic and beautiful destinations. A dream vacation is offered there, but that week of paradise will turn into hell in Hawaii, where the first season takes place, and then in Sicily, where the second season of this brilliant comedy-drama series takes place. It is a series that perfectly captures the spirit of the times, and while in the first season the author Mike White may be more concerned with the differences between classes, in the second the focus is somehow on people who cannot possibly be satisfied in life. The characters are exceptional, regardless of the fact that the only one who appears in both seasons is the fabulously rich heiress, the eccentric Tanya McQuid (Jennifer Coolidge), and “White Lotus” exudes cynicism, irony, and subtle dark humor.
It is a series that shows how people are superficial and in fact completely empty, so in both seasons, along with the guests, there are equally important characters and hosts. Whether it’s the hotel manager in Hawaii Armand in the first season or the two young Italian prostitutes in the second season, we see how these mostly rich and arrogant American guests look down on everyone. Patronizing, as if the normal state of affairs is that they are above and the others are below and their only purpose in existence is to please the guests and indulge all their whims. And while those eternally forcedly smiling hosts try to fulfill all the guests’ wishes, it slowly comes to the surface how arrogant, spoiled, stupid they really are.
In both seasons, White masterfully created guest characters that represent a true cross-section of today’s society. So in the first season we have spoiled rich mama’s boy Shane (Jake Lacy) who spends his honeymoon in Hawaii with trophy wife Rachel (Alexandra Daddario) as she begins to wonder if this role is what fulfills her. There is also Nicole (Connie Britton), the manager of a successful technology company who went there with her husband Mark (Steve Zahn), who is subconsciously tormented by the fact that the woman is more successful, powerful and dominant than him. There is also their spoiled son, a high school student, as well as their cynical student daughter Olivia (Sydney Sweeney), who also took her best friend, black woman Paula (Brittany O’Grady), on a trip, from whom she keeps stealing boyfriends.
In the second season, we have three generations of the Italian-American Di Grasso family, grandfather Bert (F. Murray Abraham), son Dominic (Michael Imperioli) and grandson Albie, who arrived in Sicily primarily so that grandfather could visit his mother’s birthplace before her death. There are also two couples, financier Cameron (Theo James) and Daphne (Meghann Fahy) and his best friend from college Ethan (Will Sharpe), a computer scientist who recently got rich with his lawyer wife Harper (Aubrey Plaza). There is, of course, Tanya, who arrived in Sicily with her assistant Portia (Haley Lu Richardson), and the stories in both seasons begin by learning that someone died during the vacation.
And by the end, clearly, we find out who it was from all those characters, but it’s not one of those boring whodunit stories where that’s the main intention. Here we get to know the psychology of the characters, what troubles them, and we understand that they are mostly completely different people from what they try to portray on the outside. “White Lotus” brilliantly satirizes and problematizes today’s class, racial and even gender relations, since we have a lot of couples in which women are more dominant. It’s smartly thought out and brilliantly executed in both seasons, the characters are well built and multidimensional, and yet it’s executed in such a fun, intriguing, humorous way that “White Lotus” belongs to the very top of television production in the last few years.