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Sunday, April 14, 2024
The Observer

‘What’s the deal with the heads?’: ‘The White Lotus’ premieres with Sicilian style 

On the coasts of Italy, among the beautiful beaches, gauche restaurants and tastefully nude Greco-Roman statues, crime is afoot. Yet another “White Lotus” location is the scene of a grisly crime, but now the stakes are much higher. There are five bodies that have shown up floating in the crystal-clear waters of the resort. The show flips the onus onto the audience to figure out the culprit and the victims as they get to know the messy characters of the resort.

​Jennifer Coolidge as Tanya McQuoid-Hunt is the most notable returning character. The grieving heiress always brings a levity to the show. She comes to the resort as a valued member with her new husband that she met in the previous season on a couples retreat. 

The new season introduces a host of new characters as well. In this first episode, we get to know a family’s three generations of men as they strive to reconnect with their distant connection to Sicily: a soft-spoken adolescent (played by Adam DiMarco, as seen in “Radio Rebel”), his adulterous Hollywood bigshot father, and the old-fashioned grandfather who seems to make a pass at nearly every woman he meets. We meet two couples, on a trip to aid the husbands who attended college together, and who also could not be more different. Also introduced to us are Tanya’s deeply anxious Gen-Z assistant, a strict and sassy hotel manager and two prostitutes with big dreams for fame.

​At least one and probably many of these characters will, naturally, end up dead.

​“The White Lotus” does not stray away from its original whodunnit nature. Its characters’ strenuous relationships constantly lead the audience to question what the breaking point will be that finally pushes someone over the edge. The franchise sticking to its familiar story arc may be enticing to some, but leave other viewers who wanted a stronger sense of continuity grasping for more. This season echoes the previous: groups of white, privileged and deeply troubled people in a beautiful location, fighting until one of them reaches their ultimate demise at the hands of another. 

I initially wanted another storyline in this season, possibly a continuation of the characters’ lives that we grew so close to in the first season or a shift into gaining justice for Armando, the slain hotel manager in the previous season. However, I realize that this wouldn’t truly capture the essence of what gripped global audiences. Audiences want the family drama. They are entranced by the lifestyle of the uber-rich and thrilled that one of these characters they know so well will die. Human beings are nosy! And that’s exactly why “The White Lotus” works.

​In true HBO fashion, they will keep us waiting for the rest of the season, denying the world the opportunity for a good binge. So, from now on, at 9 p.m. on Sunday, you’ll know exactly where I’ll be.

Show:“The White Lotus”

Starring:Jennifer Coolidge, Adam DiMarco, F. Murray Abraham

If you like:“How to Get Away With Murder,” “The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window,” “Knives Out”

Where to watch:HBO Max

Shamrocks: 4 out of 5

Contact James Thompson at