The White Lotus Season 2, a mini-essay

I finished The White Lotus season 2 over the weekend. Yes, I know, I’m late to a party where you definitely needed to be there. But it took me a while to get started. I think I was resentful of the show for a while. Creator Mike White’s show Enlightened (2012-2013) with Laura Dern is one of my top favorite shows, and it did not get the audience it deserved. And here comes Mike White’s next show, a show that everyone is talking about though it’s not as good? It was too much. But after everyone’s season 2 chatter I decided to start it earlier this year. I was disappointed in season 1, but friends said season 2 was better, and I must say, it was.

First of all, the first season is said to be about class and the second season about sex. But I don’t think that’s entirely accurate. The first season was boring to me because it was JUST about class. The second season was interesting because it was about how sex and class intersect. I’ve realized that if something is about class it has to be about class and something else, and I think that’s what was missing for me from season one (though you could make an argument for class and race, but I don’t think that was followed through). And the one thing that seems to cut across class lines when it comes to sex? Being played. It was nice to see Portia and Albie come together over that in the end of season 2.

I did go into season 2 knowing who was going to die thanks to someone’s Golden Globe acceptance speech, but those who know me know that I do not care at all about spoilers. As a writer, I know that the “what happens” is somewhat arbitrary, it’s the “how it happens” that’s important. I also enjoy watching things without the anxiety of “what is going to happen??” but that’s another conversation.

Another difference between seasons 1 and 2 is that the characters in season 2 felt more like human beings to me, which was more in keeping with what I loved about White’s Enlightened, even though those characters were difficult at times. Enlightened’s characters were hard to love; Season 1’s White Lotus characters were just easy to hate. Season 2’s White Lotus characters were similarly hard to love in that deliciously challenging way.

My favorite moment in this season was that great line Tanya says to her assistant as she warns her about the guy she’s seeing: “Get your shit together, Portia!” Tanya is doing the same thing that she’s warning Portia about, letting herself be sucked into bad situations because of her insecurities and aimlessness. It’s not that she’s so much wiser now that she doesn’t do that anymore, she’s just wise enough to name it and recognize it in other people. But that’s a huge difference, and it helps Portia in the end.

I’ll finish my mini-essay with a note about the music by Cristobal Tapia de Veer. The difference between the season one and two theme music is astonishing. Season one sounds like someone sloshing through muck of a jungle stuck forever. Season two’s music is ethereal, moving closer to transcendence. I always skipped the season one’s theme music, and I can’t get enough of season two’s.

Enlightened will always be my favorite Mike White (please watch it!!), but I’m glad I no longer have to resent The White Lotus for being more popular and getting a third season, which, yes, I’m absolutely ready for.

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