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HBO dramedy still murderously sharp

by NYPost
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HBO dramedy still murderously sharp

Season 2 of Mike White’s star-studded Emmy- winning HBO vacation dramedy “The White Lotus” returns with a mostly new cast and a new location.

Premiering Sunday, Oct 30 at 9 p.m., the action kicks off in a similar manner to Season 1, which followed a star-studded cast (including Connie Britton, Sydney Sweeney, and Alexandra Daddario) at a Hawaiian resort full of wealthy people behaving badly — and ending with a murder.

Season 2 is set at a branch of the White Lotus resort that’s now in Sicily. The story begins with vacationers on an idyllic beach, but the day soon turns dark when a body is found in the water, and it becomes clear that some guests are dead — much to the dismay of hotel manager Valentina (Sabrina Impacciatore). The audience isn’t privy to who died, or even how many people bit the dust; when Valentina demands to know the exact number, an employee tells her “A few?”

Haley Lu Richardson and Jennifer Coolidge in "The White Lotus" Season 2 standing on a ship in Sicily.
Haley Lu Richardson and Jennifer Coolidge in “The White Lotus” Season 2.
Mario Perez/HBO

The scene then immediately flashes back to a week earlier, as we follow various guests arriving at the resort. Among them is a wealthy entitled couple Cameron (Theo James) and Daphne (Meghann Fahy), who are traveling with Cameron’s college roommate Ethan (Will Sharpe) and his wife Harper (Aubrey Plaza). Tension between the two duos is clear right away, as their different approaches to life become apparent (you can practically see steam coming from Harper’s ears when Cameron and Daphne glibly remark that they don’t watch the news), but Ethan begs Harper to try to get along with Cam and Daphne.

Then there’s a three-generation family trio: father Dominic (Michael Imperioli), who’s having problems with his estranged wife, Stanford-graduate son Albie (Adam DiMarco). and grandfather Bert (F. Murray Abraham), who can’t stop hitting on every woman he meets. Returning from Season 1 is narcissistic and insecure Tanya (Jennifer Coolidge, who won an Emmy for the role). After harping on her single status in the first season, she’s now married to Greg (Jon Gries), who scolds her for bringing her assistant Portia (Haley Lu Richardson). To pacify Greg, Tanya demands that Portia should just stay in her room the whole time. As a result, when Tanya sees Portia in the hotel restaurant, she furiously tries to make her leave before Greg notices, to which Portia mournfully responds: “I had to eat.”

Harper (Aubrey Plaza) in "The White Lotus."
Harper (Aubrey Plaza) in “The White Lotus.”
Photograph by Francesca D’Angelo
Dominic (Michael Imperioli) in "The White Lotus" standing on a beach.
Dominic (Michael Imperioli) in “The White Lotus.”
Photograph by Fabio Lovino/HBO
Tanya (Jennifer Coolidge) on "The White Lotus."
Tanya (Jennifer Coolidge) on “The White Lotus.”
Mario Perez/HBO

There’s also some upstairs/downstairs drama with the staff and locals, as Valentina tries to run a tight ship — but locals Mia (Beatrice Grannò) and Lucia (Simona Tabasco) keep trying to sneak into the hotel to meet wealthy men. 

As in last season, the series is mostly a social satire and a black comedy about dysfunctional elites who get in their own way. The murder mystery element is a plot thread to set up a sense of intrigue, but the story isn’t all that interested in being a “whodunit” (aside from that element pulsing in the background).

The characters are mostly different and distinctive here, though echoes of their archetypes are repeated — Cam, for instance, shares some similarities with Season 1’s smarmy-preppy Shane (Jake Lacy), while Valentina is this season’s version of Armond (Murray Bartlett), though she’s not quite as fun.

Cameron (Theo James) in "The White Lotus" drinking wine at a table.
Cameron (Theo James) in “The White Lotus.”
Photograph by Fabio Lovino/HBO
Cameron (Theo James) on "The White Lotus."
Cameron (Theo James) on “The White Lotus.”
Photograph by Courtesy of HBO

“Whenever I stay at the White Lotus, I always have a memorable time,” Tanya proclaims at one point. That’s true of the audience, too. 

While Season 2 doesn’t quite capture the same magic as its predecessor, it’s still got an addictive mixture of sharp writing, a stellar cast and beautiful scenery that will surely boost Sicily’s tourism industry. 

This story originally appeared on NY Post

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