The White Lotus Season 2, Episode 1 Recap: Choose Your Character

A still from the show White Lotus
Photograph by Fabio Lovino/HBO

If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. That was assumedly Mike White’s thought when he began season two of his hit HBO anthology series, White Lotus, almost the exact same way he began season one—with a dead body. This time, though, he’s raising the stakes and it’s not just one dead body, but “un po’,” which, from my elementary understanding of Italian (and the subtitles), I know to mean “a few.” Of course, there’s no clue as to who’s going to end up in a body bag by the end of the seven episodes, so let’s just focus on the living for the moment. Season one of Lotus was known for its strong, eclectic ensemble cast, and season two is proving to follow along in the footsteps of its predecessor in that regard as well. Want to know who to root for as we begin this journey through Sicily? It’s time to choose your character.

Photograph by Fabio Lovino/HBO

The Uptight Lawyer

When we first meet Aubrey Plaza’s Harper, she’s bickering with her husband, Ethan, and it becomes immediately clear that this woman is not the vibe. She doesn’t want Prosecco (unclear if she would have accepted a Negroni Sbagliato, though), and she must be forced to even take the glass for a cheers (it’s called optics, hun). Yes, she’s a bright lawyer who does good work in employment law, but she clearly doesn’t have a degree in chilling the fuck out. You’re in Sicily, live a little! To be fair, it does seem obvious that Ethan’s former college roommate, Cameron, is just trying to take advantage of Ethan’s newfound wealth—and invited Ethan and Harper on the trip to pitch some investment opportunities. But hey, Ethan can always say no, and Harper accepted the invitation, so she might as well enjoy it. Take it from Cameron and his wife, Daphne—who admitted to not paying attention to the news or voting—ignorance is bliss. I’m not saying fully embrace that problematic passivity, but there’s nothing wrong with avoiding The New York Times for a week while you’re on vacation. You’re rich now, Harper, enjoy it! Clearly you did at one point, when you bought that Loewe swimsuit.

The Loved-Up, Clearly Problematic Couple

Speaking of Daphne and Cameron, their ability to ignore the very blatant issues with this world is both disgustingly privileged and extremely envy-inducing. Ah, to be wealthy and aggressively unsympathetic to the point of pure bliss. These two live in their own upper-class bubble, with no care for anyone else. Daphne seems nice enough, in an oblivious-to-her-own-privilege sort of way, but Cameron is doing a great job of introducing himself as a Grade-A tool.

Photograph by Fabio Lovino/HBO

The Pervy Old Man

And while Cam is in the prime of his life and extremely aware of it, F. Murray Abraham’s Bert is doing whatever he can to cling to his youth (and that includes wearing a fedora he probably thinks makes him look hip). Bert is very excited about his Sicilian roots, which is cute, and may be unique in Los Angeles, but take one trip to New Jersey, Bert, and you’ll realize you’re just one meatball in a crowded pot of Sunday gravy. The old man also has no control over his bowels or a filter, and because of the latter, Bert has some of the best lines of this episode, including the poor man’s Matthew McConaughey in Dazed and Confused, “I get older and older, but the women I desire remain young.” The winner of the episode has to be Bert’s realistic view of his genitalia, though. “It’s not like it was ever so beautiful to look at, anyway. I mean, it’s a penis. It’s not a sunset.” When you’re right, you’re right, Bert.

The Distant Father

There’s nothing like taking your family on an expensive vacation just to ignore them in order to spend time with a prostitute half your age. By the way, Dom, if I know women, I can tell you, from the sound of that phone call with your estranged wife, your relationship is not being repaired. So maybe it is smart to just stick with the sex workers.

The Sad Boy

Cheer up, Albie. Your dad may be a cheater, but at least you have a degree from Stanford. By the way, a little confidence can go a long way with the ladies.

Photograph by Fabio Lovino/HBO

The Socially Unaware Hotel Manager

So far, Lotus has introduced us to lots of men who have clearly never faced the consequences of their own actions, and even more women who could really use a drink. Valentina falls in the latter category. From the second we’re introduced, it’s clear this woman, in her too-tight pantsuit, does not mess around. She will not stand for Rocco flirting in the lobby, for sex workers meeting customers in the hotel, or for an inadequate amount of Prosecco for her guests. But while Valentina seems like an extreme perfectionist, she has this incredible ability to always say the wrong thing. Whether she’s calling Bert old (I mean, he is—but come on, Valentina) or interrupting a clearly tense conversation between Tonya and her husband, she should focus less on who Rocco is talking to and more on her small talk abilities. That seems like an important skill in her line of work.

The Token Gen Z

If you couldn’t tell from her costuming, Haley Lu Richardson’s Portia is the token Gen Z character in the show. Sweater vests, funky sunglasses, Starface stickers, she has the aesthetic covered. Plus, she hates her job and thinks she’s going to find love in Italy? Someone needs to stop watching Under the Tuscan Sun and start working on their résumé.

Jennifer Coolidge

FYI, this is always the right choice.

Photograph by Fabio Lovino/HBO