The White Lotus – Sicily, analysis of the ending: another tragic human comedy

We never really know what goes through people’s minds or what they do, right? You spend every second with someone and there’s still a part of the mystery, isn’t there? You don’t have to know everything to love someone…

The White Lotus 2: an image of Meghann Fahy

Just before saying these words, a wave of suffering crosses Daphne Sullivan’s face. Her husband Cameron’s best friend, Ethan Spiller, has just confessed to her that there was probably something between his wife Harper and Cameron: for a handful of seconds, Daphne’s cheerful lightness seems to dissolve, a veil of sadness darkens her eyes pale blue, the lips curl in a regretful grimace. But in Daphne’s soul evidently there is no place for regret, let alone for her pain; a few seconds later, the woman’s face returned to being a mask of serenity. “You have nothing to worry about“, is her reassuring invitation towards Ethan. And not because Daphne is naïve: closing her eyes, for her, is a precise strategy, a modus vivendi able to keep it away from the “barrels of adverse fortune”. And not surprisingly, in The White Lotus – Sicilyshe is among the few characters who can be considered ‘winners’.

Aubrey Plaza Will Sharpe

The White Lotus 2: A screenshot from the final episode

After all, it was Daphne, played by Meghann Fahy, who had opened the second season of the Mike White series, in that initial flash-forward in which she extolled the wonders of her Mediterranean vacation, and then ventured into the waves of a sea from which emerged – literally – of the corpses. Over the course of seven episodes of The White Lotus 2 Daphne may have appeared frivolous, vacuous, superficial to us, yet she has always proved to be more than certain about one thing: not wanting to make herself a victim. On the other hand, Aubrey Plaza’s Harper, another female exponent of the “double couple” formed by the Sullivans and the Spillers, is a character determined to keep her eyes peeled: from the outset she offered us a very lucid – and merciless – vision of the spouses Sullivan, but also of his own menage with Ethan (Will Sharpe), marked by a fading of desire and, later, by mutual suspicions of betrayal. Those suspicions that will become a viaticum for the rediscovery of passion and for the redefinition of a relationship diverted towards more ambiguous territories.

Fatal Attractions and the War of the Sexes

The White Lotus Finale

The White Lotus 2: An image of Aubrey Plaza

After all, ambiguity is a key theme of The White Lotus: a story aimed at undermining beliefs and certainties, testing the tenuous balance of family, sentimental and social ties between the supporting actors. The social aspect, specifically, constituted the founding core of the original season, broadcast by HBO in the summer of 2021 and rewarded with ten Emmy Awards: an analysis of privilege, of the bourgeois mentality, of today’s hierarchies that end up influencing relationships human. But in this one second season, set among the beaches of Taormina, the sentimental and above all sexual dynamics assumed greater importance, used as instruments of power or even of coercion. On the columns of varietyDaniel D’Addario notes that “White created – to coincide with Todd Field’s film Tár […] – one of the first major audiovisual products on the politics of sex to be broadcast after the start of the #MeToo movement“. Without didactic intent, however; on the contrary, revealing the intrinsic fragility of the perspectives that each of us has about ourselves and about others.

The White Lotus S02 E07

The White Lotus 2: A screenshot from the final episode

Haley Lu Richardson Leo Woodall

The White Lotus 2: A picture from the series

From this approach derives the intimately tragic sense of this black comedy in which the humor becomes dramatic or grotesque. Harper, certain of her intellectual and moral superiority over the Sullivans, will end up pouring jealousies and frustrations on her Ethan; while the hotel manager, Valentina (an excellent Sabrina Impacciatore), with an authoritarian and sometimes almost contemptuous attitude, will have to acknowledge the illusoriness of her own amorous yearnings, as well as a homosexuality in which she still struggles to recognize herself. But understanding reality, and therefore knowing how to adapt to circumstances, is the only way not to succumb; and Mike White never misses an opportunity to remind us of this, with his often sarcastic style but never lacking in empathy for the characters. It is like this for Valentina, willing to give her ‘blessing’ to the employees Rocco and Isabella and to go beyond her contempt for her escort Mia, perhaps discovering a new friend of hers; and so it is for Portia, the messy assistant to whom she lends her face Haley Lu Richardson, ready to abandon herself in the arms of the bad boy on duty, but with the instinct to sniff out danger just before it’s too late.

The White Lotus 2, the review of the first episode of the TV series: see Sicily and then die

Death in high heels

Adam DimarcoSimona Tabasco

The White Lotus 2: A picture from the series

In this regard, the trans-generational portrait of the Di Grasso family appears emblematic: the elderly Bert by F. Murray Abraham, unable to objectively ponder his past as a womanizer, but in his own way aware of belonging to an era now set; Michael Imperioli’s Dominic, an (ex?) faithless husband in search of redemption, but not consistent enough to seriously deserve it; and finally the young Albie by Adam DiMarco, who holds respect for the dignity of women in the highest regard, but in his naivety sees himself as a romantic cavalier servant, without realizing the ease with which instead he lets himself be duped by the ‘damsel’ of the moment. And then there’s the edge case of Tanya McQuoid, the character who serves as trait d’union with the first season: the very rich heiress who landed in Sicily for a new honeymoon, but too absorbed in her own fantasies (the Monica Vitti look, the journeys on a Vespa) and too addicted to her social status to have a sufficiently clear vision of what gravitates around it.

Adam Dimarco F Murray Abraham Michael Imperioli

The White Lotus 2: A screenshot from the final episode

Jennifer Coolidge The White Lotus

The White Lotus 2: A Profile of Jennifer Coolidge

It is no coincidence that Tanya is the figure who has attracted the greatest interest among the public of The White Lotus: and much of the credit must be attributed, needless to say, to the perfect characterization provided by Jennifer Coolidge, in which self-centeredness, stupefaction and a desperately pathetic dimension are mixed. Inexorably funny (and in fact she is the authentic comic strength of the series), at times Tanya instead shows herself in all her dramatic inadequacy: like Pirandello’s “rouged lady”, she arouses a laugh that an instant later turns into a grimace of pity. A contradiction that, in a supreme mockery, also distinguishes the woman’s departure from the scene: a vortex of paranoia declined in parody (“These gays are trying to kill me!“) that will take over her, to result in a bloodbath; and a geeky accident when she is literally a few meters from safety, where a false step in stiletto heels is enough to make the difference between life and death .

The White Lotus, the review: existential crises between satire, black comedy and drama

The White Lotus – Sicily, analysis of the ending: another tragic human comedy