The White Lotus

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The White Lotus
Title card for the first season
Genre
Created byMike White
Written byMike White
Directed byMike White
Starringsee below
Music by
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons2
No. of episodes13
Production
Executive producers
  • Nick Hall
  • David Bernad
  • Mike White
  • Mark Kamine
Producers
  • John M. Valerio
  • Heather Persons
  • Todd Brown
Production locations
Cinematography
Editors
  • Heather Persons
  • John M. Valerio
Running time54–77 minutes
Production companies
  • HBO Entertainment
  • Pallogram
  • The District
  • Rip Cord Productions
Original release
NetworkHBO
ReleaseJuly 11, 2021 (2021-07-11) –
present (present)

The White Lotus is an American black comedy drama anthology television series created by Mike White for HBO.[4][5] It follows the guests and employees of the fictional White Lotus resort chain, whose interactions are affected by their various psychosocial dysfunctions. The press release notes that "each passing day, a darker complexity emerges in these picture-perfect travelers, the hotel's cheerful employees, and the idyllic locale itself".[6] The first and second season are set in Maui and Sicily, respectively. The third season is being filmed in Thailand.[7]

Intended as a 6-part limited series, The White Lotus premiered on July 11, 2021, to critical acclaim and high ratings. The show's success led to HBO renewing it as an anthology series; a second season premiered on October 30, 2022.[8] In November 2022, the series was renewed for a third season and is set to premiere in 2025.[9]

The series received critical acclaim. It was included on the American Film Institute's list of the ten best programs of 2021 and 2022, and it received various accolades, including 15 Primetime Emmy Awards and two Golden Globes.

Cast and characters

Season 1

Main
  • Murray Bartlett as Armond,[10] the manager of the White Lotus resort and a recovering drug addict who has been sober for five years. Outwardly friendly and hospitable, Armond privately despises both his job and the people he works for.
  • Connie Britton as Nicole Mossbacher,[10] a CFO of a search engine company
  • Jennifer Coolidge as Tanya McQuoid,[10] a rich, needy and self-absorbed heiress whose mother recently died and who is seeking inner peace and discovery
  • Alexandra Daddario as Rachel Patton,[10] a newlywed struggling journalist who does clickbait gigs
  • Fred Hechinger as Quinn Mossbacher,[10] Nicole and Mark's socially awkward, screen-addicted teenage son
  • Jake Lacy as Shane Patton,[10] Rachel's husband, who is a demanding, entitled, wealthy and arrogant real estate agent
  • Brittany O'Grady as Paula,[10] Olivia's less privileged but equally caustic friend from college
  • Natasha Rothwell as Belinda Lindsey,[10] the resort's kind and empathetic spa manager, who develops a complicated relationship with Tanya, offering emotional support but also hoping to pitch a business proposal to the heiress
  • Molly Shannon as Kitty Patton,[11] Shane's overbearing, wealthy mother, who pays for his honeymoon and makes a less than welcome unannounced visit
  • Sydney Sweeney as Olivia Mossbacher,[10] Nicole and Mark's sardonic, edgy daughter who is a college sophomore
  • Steve Zahn as Mark Mossbacher,[10] Nicole's husband who is dealing with a health crisis and trying to get past a previous infidelity incident
Recurring
  • Lukas Gage as Dillon,[11] a young staffer at the White Lotus
  • Kekoa Scott Kekumano as Kai,[11] a Native Hawaiian staffer at the White Lotus who forms a romantic connection with Paula
  • Jon Gries as Greg Hunt,[11] a White Lotus guest who romantically connects with Tanya
  • Alec Merlino as Hutch,[12] a waiter at the White Lotus
Guest
  • Jolene Purdy as Lani,[11] a trainee at the White Lotus who disguises her late-stage pregnancy due to needing a job

Season 2

Main
  • F. Murray Abraham as Bert Di Grasso,[13] Dominic's elderly, womanizing father
  • Jennifer Coolidge as Tanya McQuoid-Hunt,[10] reprising her role from the first season
  • Adam DiMarco as Albie Di Grasso,[13] Dominic's affable, socially awkward son, a recent Stanford graduate
  • Meghann Fahy as Daphne Sullivan,[14] Cameron's seemingly sweet but manipulative stay-at-home wife
  • Beatrice Grannò as Mia, a local aspiring singer who resists her friend Lucia's attempts to introduce her to prostitution[15]
  • Jon Gries as Greg Hunt, Tanya's volatile husband, reprising his role from the first season[16]
  • Tom Hollander as Quentin,[13] a wealthy gay British expat living in Sicily
  • Sabrina Impacciatore as Valentina, the strict, no-nonsense manager of the White Lotus in Sicily[15]
  • Michael Imperioli as Dominic Di Grasso,[17] a sex-addicted Hollywood producer traveling with his father, Bert, and son, Albie
  • Theo James as Cameron Sullivan,[14] a cocky and scheming investments manager, Daphne's husband and Ethan's college friend
  • Aubrey Plaza as Harper Spiller,[18] a strait-laced employment lawyer, Ethan's wife
  • Haley Lu Richardson as Portia,[13] Tanya's rudderless young assistant whom she brings on her vacation
  • Will Sharpe as Ethan Spiller,[14] a newly wealthy tech entrepreneur, Harper's husband and Cameron's college friend
  • Simona Tabasco as Lucia Greco, a local hustler and prostitute[15]
  • Leo Woodall as Jack, a charismatic young man from Essex, whom Quentin introduces as his "cheeky nephew"[14]
Recurring
  • Federico Ferrante as Rocco, a concierge at the White Lotus to whom Valentina has taken an inordinate dislike
  • Eleonora Romandini as Isabella, a concierge at the White Lotus with a permanent smile
  • Federico Scribani Rossi as Giuseppe, a lecherous middle-aged lounge singer and pianist at the White Lotus
  • Francesco Zecca as Matteo, Quentin's friend
  • Paolo Camilli [it] as Hugo, Quentin's friend
  • Bruno Gouery as Didier, Quentin's friend
  • Nicola Di Pinto as Tommaso, the captain of Quentin's yacht
Guest

Season 3

Episodes

SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
16July 11, 2021 (2021-07-11)August 15, 2021 (2021-08-15)
27October 30, 2022 (2022-10-30)December 11, 2022 (2022-12-11)

Season 1 (2021)

No.
overall
No. in
season
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air dateU.S. viewers
(millions)
11"Arrivals"Mike WhiteMike WhiteJuly 11, 2021 (2021-07-11)0.420[21]
Shane Patton watches as a box containing human remains is loaded onto an airplane. Seven days earlier, wealthy patrons arrive at the White Lotus resort on Maui. They are greeted by manager Armond and his pregnant employee, Lani. Shane and his new wife, Rachel, arrive for their honeymoon. He becomes fixated on a booking error, causing Rachel to question their relationship. Tanya McQuoid, who came to spread her mother's ashes, wants to schedule a massage, but it is fully booked. Belinda, the spa's manager, instead guides her in a ceremonial chant. Tech CFO Nicole Mossbacher argues with her husband Mark about his potential cancer diagnosis; Mark decides to spend time with their son Quinn. Their daughter Olivia and her friend Paula lounge by the pool and make snide remarks about Rachel, a professional listicle writer. Lani's water breaks, but Armond does not notice. She begins to give birth as the guests dine. Mark receives a call from his doctor, but is disconnected before he learns his diagnosis. Rachel and Shane agree to put the day's conflict behind them and resume their earlier tryst.
22"New Day"Mike WhiteMike WhiteJuly 18, 2021 (2021-07-18)0.459[22]
Mark is elated when his cancer diagnosis is negative, but learns from his uncle that his father died of AIDS, having been a gay man. Shane calls his mother to have their travel agent reprimand Armond over the booking error. Rachel considers accepting a new writing assignment, but Shane insists she does not have to. Rachel meets Nicole, advising her to maintain her independence. However, Nicole begins to criticize Rachel's reporting upon realizing she wrote a listicle mentioning her, causing Rachel to doubt her career. After Shane's insistence, Rachel abandons the job. Olivia and Paula use ketamine on the beach, but are approached by Tanya and leave, forgetting Paula's bag of drugs. The bag is turned over to Armond, who keeps it and uses them to manage his stress despite being a recovering addict. Olivia becomes jealous when she sees Paula flirting with Kai, a hotel employee. Tanya invites Belinda to dinner and offers to fund a possible wellness business, which Belinda considers. When Quinn is kicked out of the hotel room by Olivia, he decides to go to the beach, where he is fascinated by watching a group of whales jumping in the ocean.
33"Mysterious Monkeys"Mike WhiteMike WhiteJuly 25, 2021 (2021-07-25)0.478[23]
As the guests of the White Lotus wake for the day, Paula hesitates about her tryst due to Olivia's increased suspicions, while Quinn's electronics are washed away as he sleeps on the beach. Shane and Rachel have sex, but Rachel worries whether their marriage is predicated on Shane's sexual attraction to her. To console her, Shane plans a romantic dinner. Armond, displeased with Shane's incessant complaining, recommends for it to be a sunset boat ride, withholding the fact that Tanya chartered it to spread her mother's ashes in the ocean. Tanya believes the honeymooners are supporting her, and the ensuing discomfort enrages Shane. Mark remains distraught regarding his discovery regarding his father, and gets drunk while proceeding through awkward encounters with his son, Rachel, and other women at the bar. It culminates in a tepid speech when he joins his family for dinner and is rebuffed when attempting to initiate sex with Nicole. Armond also spirals after relapsing from his five-year sobriety, drinking and taking Paula's prescription medication. He flirts with hotel staffer Dillon, and reveals to Mark that he is gay, even propositioning Mark when he expresses his curiosity about anal sex. As the guests return to bed, Olivia follows Paula and sees her and Kai have sex.
44"Recentering"Mike WhiteMike WhiteAugust 1, 2021 (2021-08-01)0.515[24]
Quinn wakes on the beach again to see Hawaiians singing and bringing their canoe ashore. He introduces himself later that afternoon. Tanya informs the girls that the staff does have Paula's backpack, and when they confront Armond, he decides to give it back, drugs and all; however, after Shane angrily demands to speak with Armond's boss, a livid Armond takes the drugs and returns the backpack without them. Tanya and Belinda plan to have dinner together to discuss the wellness center, but the former cancels when she is asked out by Greg, a sport fisherman staying in the room next to hers. Kitty, Shane's mother, arrives at their honeymoon hotel, much to Rachel's chagrin. Mark reveals to Quinn that he cheated on Nicole. However, at dinner, Quinn unwittingly reveals knowledge of Mark's affair in front of Nicole. Armond invites Dillon to his office to take drugs and have sex, in exchange for preferred work shifts. When Shane learns that Armond gave him a fake number for his boss, he storms into the manager's office and comes upon Armond performing anilingus on Dillon.
55"The Lotus-Eaters"Mike WhiteMike WhiteAugust 8, 2021 (2021-08-08)0.541[25]
After getting caught having sex with Dillon by Shane, Armond is forced to move Shane and Rachel into the Pineapple Suite free of charge to avoid repercussions. Rachel begins to worry that she has become a trophy wife after talking with Kitty and second-guesses marrying Shane. Belinda tries to get Tanya to look at her business proposal, but Tanya is more concerned about Greg's interest in her. Tanya admits to Greg that she is an emotional wreck, but Greg is undeterred. Quinn enjoys paddling with a group of locals. Paula gives Kai the code to the Mossbachers' safe and convinces him to steal a pair of expensive bracelets to pay for a lawsuit against the hotel. Nicole rebukes Mark for confessing his affair to Quinn. As the Mossbachers prepare to go scuba diving in the ocean, Nicole breaks down over the pressure of having to provide for her family and receiving no respect for it and goes back to the hotel, with Mark following her. Unbeknownst to them, Kai is in their hotel room trying to steal the bracelets. Mark saves Nicole, but is beaten by Kai, who escapes. The hotel comps their stay and Mark finally gets respect from Nicole and their children, but Olivia is suspicious that Paula is involved with the robbery.
66"Departures"Mike WhiteMike WhiteAugust 15, 2021 (2021-08-15)0.850[26]
Rachel tells Shane that she regrets marrying him. Tanya decides to stay with Greg despite his terminal illness and tells Belinda she wants to end her dependency on transactional relationships, leaving her a large sum of cash instead. Dejected, Belinda discards her business plan. Kai gets arrested and the Mossbachers' stolen jewelry is recovered, confirming Olivia's suspicions about Paula. Paula admits her involvement in the robbery, but accuses Olivia of being as privileged as the rest of her family. The two later reconcile when Paula expresses her regret. Quinn tells his parents he wants to stay on the island to join the local paddlers, which they dismiss outright. Shane hears of the robbery while talking to the Mossbachers and calls his travel agent, who informs Armond's superior. This in turn gets Armond fired from the White Lotus. Armond spends his last workday getting heavily intoxicated on Olivia and Paula's remaining drugs. That night, after serving dinner, Armond sneaks into Shane's suite and defecates in his suitcase. However, Shane returns before Armond can leave. Sensing an intruder, Shane arms himself with a pineapple knife and inadvertently stabs Armond, killing him. Armond's body is loaded onto the guests' return flight. Rachel arrives at the airport and decides to stay with Shane. Quinn leaves the airport to join the Hawaiian paddlers after the rest of his family boards the plane.

Season 2 (2022)

No.
overall
No. in
season
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air dateU.S. viewers
(millions)
71"Ciao"Mike WhiteMike WhiteOctober 30, 2022 (2022-10-30)0.460[27]
The bodies of multiple guests at the White Lotus in Taormina, Sicily, are found off a nearby beach. A week earlier, a group of guests arrives at the White Lotus, greeted by its short-tempered manager Valentina. Among them is Tanya, now in a strained marriage with Greg. Greg is angered to learn that Tanya brought along her young assistant Portia to a romantic getaway; to appease him while still retaining Portia's services, Tanya orders Portia to stay in her room and remain out of sight. An upset Portia later meets and bonds with Albie Di Grasso, a recent Stanford graduate who is exploring his ancestral roots in Sicily alongside his father Dominic—a Hollywood producer whose marriage is failing due to his numerous infidelities—and womanizing grandfather Bert. Meanwhile, married couple Ethan and Harper Spiller join Ethan's brash college roommate Cameron Sullivan and his wife Daphne on a trip to Sicily. Harper is quickly put off by Cameron and Daphne, believing their constant displays of affection to be insincere. Cameron exposes himself to Harper while changing into his swimming trunks. Ethan brushes off Harper's concerns and says Cameron probably did not realize she could see him. Lucia, a local prostitute, sneaks into the resort with her friend Mia, and goes to meet her latest client, Dominic.
82"Italian Dream"Mike WhiteMike WhiteNovember 6, 2022 (2022-11-06)0.421[28]
Dominic sets up Lucia and Mia at the hotel as his guests. Portia joins the Di Grasso family on a visit to the ancient theatre of Taormina, where Bert continues to make inappropriate conversation. Albie and Portia discuss their romantic preferences over dinner, and Portia later violates her non-disclosure agreement with Tanya by divulging sordid details of Tanya's past to Albie. Albie awkwardly kisses Portia at the end of their night. Bert, meanwhile, chastises Dominic for being "sloppy" in how he conducts his extramarital affairs. Dominic later explains to Lucia that he wants to overcome his sex addiction, but relents when she and Mia offer to "thank" him for letting them enjoy the hotel's amenities on his tab. Ethan and Harper struggle to build sexual chemistry while on the trip, in contrast to Cameron and Daphne. Cameron makes another pass at Harper while swimming. Harper later apologizes to Ethan for being a "shrew" and promises to enjoy their trip. Greg tells Tanya he has to fly back to Denver for work. She later overhears him on the phone with his possible lover.
93"Bull Elephants"Mike WhiteMike WhiteNovember 13, 2022 (2022-11-13)0.474[29]
Bert tells Dominic he spotted Lucia and Mia leaving his room; Dominic, feeling guilty and ashamed, severs ties with Lucia. Albie tries to impress Portia on a day trip with his family, but Tanya calls her away; she is very upset about Greg's departure and needs Portia's support. Tanya consults a tarot reader, who tells her that Greg is in love with someone else. That evening, Albie attempts to be more sexually forward with Portia, but she finds herself instead attracted to an English man she spots at the hotel pool. Daphne and Harper visit Noto while Cameron and Ethan spend the day jetskiing. Daphne has secretly rented a palazzo in Noto for one night, where she tells Harper that although she is aware of Cameron's infidelity, she chooses not to see herself as a victim. She also insinuates that Cameron's business partners are engaged in criminal activity. Disappointed that Ethan did not give him any insider trading tips, Cameron attempts to persuade Ethan to invest in his company. They spend the night drinking, taking MDMA and partying with Lucia and Mia; Cameron has sex with Lucia, but Ethan turns down Mia.
104"In the Sandbox"Mike WhiteMike WhiteNovember 20, 2022 (2022-11-20)0.416[30]
Cameron does not pay Lucia and Mia in full. Harper and Daphne return from Noto. When Harper presses Ethan about last night, he admits only to getting drunk, concealing Cameron's infidelity. Harper is shocked to discover a condom wrapper in their room but spends the day fuming about it rather than confronting Ethan. Tanya is befriended by Quentin, a wealthy English gay man who lives in Palermo. He introduces her to his friends and she has a great time. Portia meets his nephew Jack, whom she had earlier spotted at the pool, and they hit it off. Albie, meanwhile, meets Lucia while waiting for Portia. Unaware that she is a prostitute who slept with his father, they get on well. While Lucia is beginning to question her own life choices, Mia suddenly decides to have sex with Giuseppe in order to further her musical career, ignoring Lucia's attempts to dissuade her. This backfires when Giuseppe, unable to perform sexually, takes some pills thinking they are Viagra. He later collapses during his evening gig and is taken away in an ambulance. Shortly after Jack and Portia leave the bar to sleep together, Albie and Lucia go back to his room, where she performs oral sex on him.
115"That's Amore"Mike WhiteMike WhiteNovember 27, 2022 (2022-11-27)0.641[31]
Ethan finally comes clean with Harper after discovering the condom wrapper; she grudgingly accepts his apology. The two couples go on a wine-tasting trip on which an increasingly drunk Harper drops various hints that she knows about what happened. Ethan accuses Cameron of "mimetic desire" for his habit of seducing every woman Ethan was interested in at college. Throughout the day Harper continually undermines and embarrasses Ethan. Later at dinner, Cameron puts his hand on Harper's leg under the table. Albie is surprised when Lucia asks for payment for the previous night's sex. Dominic attempts to dissuade Albie and Lucia from seeing each other, but Albie seems to have fallen for her. Lucia is accosted by a man named Alessio, to whom she claims she owes money. Albie and Lucia again spend the night together. Discerning that Valentina is gay, Mia offers her sexual favors in exchange for Giuseppe's piano gig until he recovers. Tanya and Portia visit Palermo with Quentin and his friends. Quentin accompanies Tanya to a performance of Madama Butterfly at the Teatro Massimo. Meanwhile Jack and Portia explore the town, doing a dine and dash after sampling the arancini at a local restaurant. Tanya is later shocked to discover Jack having sex with his "uncle", Quentin.
126"Abductions"Mike WhiteMike WhiteDecember 4, 2022 (2022-12-04)0.684[32]
Ethan and Harper discuss their mutual lack of attraction, with Harper asking Ethan if he still desires her. After later seeing Harper interacting with Cameron on the beach, Ethan becomes increasingly suspicious that Harper is cheating on him with Cameron. The Di Grassos go to visit the home of their apparent blood relatives. Albie brings Lucia along as a translator, but Alessio follows them; Lucia eventually agrees to accompany him, against the Di Grassos' protests. The Di Grassos arrive at their ancestral village and locate a Di Grasso family there, whom they visit unannounced. The remaining family members are three women of different generations, who angrily turn them away. Bert is despondent, having hoped for a happier family reunion. Lucia returns to the hotel that night and tells Albie that she can only leave Alessio once she pays him the money she owes. Valentina enjoys her first lesbian tryst with Mia, after Isabella, a concierge with whom Valentina has been infatuated, reveals her engagement to fellow concierge Rocco, whom Valentina had reassigned to the beach club to get closer to Isabella. Tanya hints to Portia that Jack may not be Quentin's nephew. Quentin sets up Tanya with his cocaine dealer, Niccoló; before they have sex, Tanya finds a framed photo of Quentin with a man, possibly Greg, when they were younger. A drunken Jack admits to Portia that Quentin and his friends have spent all their money on their luxuries, and cryptically implies that Quentin rescued him from dire circumstances in exchange for sex.
137"Arrivederci"Mike WhiteMike WhiteDecember 11, 2022 (2022-12-11)0.854[33]
Harper admits to Ethan that Cameron kissed her. He furiously attacks Cameron, nearly drowning him before a bystander intervenes. Ethan shares his suspicions with Daphne, who repeats the advice she gave Harper, to do whatever makes him feel better; she then invites him to join her on a walk to a nearby island, possibly to have sex. An invigorated Ethan later has sex with Harper, reigniting the passion in their marriage. Albie convinces Dominic to wire €50,000 to Lucia to save her from Alessio, in exchange for Albie's help in salvaging Dominic's marriage. Lucia quietly leaves Albie and celebrates her successful scam with Mia and Alessio. Valentina restores Rocco to reception, at Isabella's request, and hires Mia as the resort's new piano player, angering Giuseppe. Portia wakes up and finds that her phone is missing. She takes Jack's phone and calls Tanya, alerting her that something is wrong. Tanya suspects that Greg hired Quentin and his associates to kill her so that he can inherit her fortune. Panicking and paranoid after finding duct tape and rope in Niccolo's bag, she retrieves Niccolo's gun and kills him, Quentin, and Didier. While attempting to board a dinghy to escape, she slips, hits her head, and drowns. Her body washes up to shore the next day and is discovered by Daphne, and the other bodies on the yacht are found soon after. Portia confronts Jack about his own career as a prostitute relationship with Quentin; he angrily drives off, eventually dropping her off near Catania–Fontanarossa Airport and telling her not to return to the White Lotus. Albie and Portia reunite at the airport.

Production

Development

Season 1

On October 19, 2020, HBO gave The White Lotus a limited series order that consisted of six episodes.[4] The series was created, written and directed by Mike White. White also serves as executive producer alongside David Bernad and Nick Hall.[34] In an interview with Ben Travers of IndieWire at the 2021 ATX Television Festival, White explained his creative inspiration for the first season. White wished to explore the question of "how money can pervert even our most intimate relationships," to examine the "ethics of vacationing in other people's realities," and to present the "flesh and blood" experience of being gripped by the power dynamics of "today's culture wars".[35] Cristobal Tapia de Veer is the series' composer and Ben Kutchins is the cinematographer for the series.[36]

Season 2

On August 10, 2021, HBO renewed the series for a second season,[37] which consists of seven episodes and is titled The White Lotus: Sicily.[38] White initially envisioned the second season taking place in a political setting, such as a Bilderberg conference, but scrapped this idea and chose Italy instead.[39] White said regarding this choice, "The kind of mythology of Sicily, at least from the point of view of Americans, is the archetypal sexual politics and role play that you associate with, like, opera and the mafia and Italian romance. I felt like it should be more focused on men and women and relationships and adultery and have an operatic feel to it, so I pivoted."[39] Asked to describe the second season, White likened it to "a bedroom farce with teeth".[40] Kim Neundorf served as an additional composer for season two.[41]

Season 3

On November 18, 2022, HBO renewed the series for a third season.[9] Following the season two finale, creator Mike White hinted that the third season would be set in Asia and invoke a "satirical and funny look at death and Eastern religion and spirituality", similar to how the first season focused on money, and the second season on sex.[42]

In March 2023, Variety reported season 3 is likely to take place in one of Four Seasons resorts chain in Thailand.[7] The third season production has been disrupted by the 2023 Writers Guild of America strike, resulting in a likely release during 2025.[43][44] Honshu, Japan was scouted as a filming location by Mike White, but ultimately Thailand was chosen as the filming location for the third season due to the series receiving a $4.4 million tax incentive for filming in Thailand, while Japan does not have a film-incentive system.[45] Filming was to begin by February 2024, with locations including Bangkok, Phuket, and Ko Samui.[46][47]

Casting

Upon the limited series order announcement, Murray Bartlett, Connie Britton, Jennifer Coolidge, Alexandra Daddario, Fred Hechinger, Jake Lacy, Brittany O'Grady, Natasha Rothwell, Sydney Sweeney, and Steve Zahn were cast to star.[48] On October 30, 2020, Molly Shannon, Jon Gries, Jolene Purdy, Kekoa Kekumano, and Lukas Gage joined the cast in recurring roles.[49] Alec Merlino, who was a fellow contestant on Survivor: David vs. Goliath with Mike White, was cast as Hutch, a waiter.[12]

Upon the announcement of the second season renewal, HBO announced that a predominantly new cast of characters would be focused on at another White Lotus property for the second season, though Mike White had stated there was a possibility for a few cast members from the first season to return as their characters.[50] On October 15, 2021, Coolidge was reported to be set to return for the second season.[51] In January 2022, Michael Imperioli, Aubrey Plaza, F. Murray Abraham, Adam DiMarco, Tom Hollander, and Haley Lu Richardson were confirmed to be cast to star in the second season.[17][18][13] In February 2022, Theo James, Meghann Fahy, and Will Sharpe joined the cast as series regulars while Leo Woodall was cast in a recurring role for the second season.[14] In March 2022, Beatrice Grannò, Sabrina Impacciatore, and Simona Tabasco joined the starring cast for the second season.[15] The second season features White's fellow Survivor: David vs. Goliath contestants Kara Kay and Angelina Keeley in cameo roles.[52]

Upon the third season renewal announcement, producers confirmed that there will be a new cast of characters on another White Lotus resort.[9] In April 2023, Natasha Rothwell was reported to be reprising her role as Belinda for the series' third season.[53] In January 2024, it was announced that Leslie Bibb, Jason Isaacs, Michelle Monaghan, Parker Posey, Dom Hetrakul, Tayme Thapthimthong, Carrie Coon, Miloš Biković, Christian Friedel, Morgana O'Reilly, Lek Patravadi, Shalini Peiris, Walton Goggins, Sarah Catherine Hook, Sam Nivola, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Aimee Lou Wood, Francesca Corney, Nicholas Duvernay, and Arnas Fedaravičius joined the cast for the third season.[54][55][56][57][58] Biković's casting was criticized by Ukraine's Ministry of Foreign Affairs over his support for Russia's invasion of the country; Biković was subsequently dropped from the cast on February 2 and replaced with Julian Kostov.[59][60] In February 2024, Scott Glenn and Lalisa Manobal were cast.[61][62] In March 2024, Charlotte Le Bon joined the cast to replace Corney in a recasting.[63]

Filming

Principal photography for the first season began in October 2020 in Hawaii under COVID-19 guidelines.[64] By November 21, 2020, the series was halfway through filming at the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea and was scheduled to film in December at locations around Maui. This included Lana'i Island where they shot some beach scenes.[65][66][67] Zahn told The Hollywood Reporter that the Four Seasons was closed during filming, which resulted in a bubble for the cast and crew. Both he and Hechinger got PADI certified for the scuba scenes.[68]

On January 20, 2022, the second season was reported to be filmed at the Four Seasons San Domenico Hotel [fr] in Taormina, Sicily, Italy;[69] on February 28, 2022, HBO confirmed that production had begun there.[38] The opening theme of the second season, accompanied by a chorus of voices, shows scenes from the frescoes of Villa Tasca in Palermo. Filming took place in various locations in Sicily: throughout the city of Taormina, notably the San Domenico Palace hotel which represents the main location, and in the ancient theatre of Taormina; in Cefalù, with the long beach and the view of the Norman Cathedral; in Fiumefreddo di Sicilia (with the famous Slave Castle); in Palermo, in particular at the Teatro Massimo and at Villa Tasca; the interior scenes of the Opera house in Catania at the Teatro Massimo Bellini; in the city of Noto, in particular Villa Elena; Giardini Naxos; and different views of the seafront of Sicily and Mount Etna.[70][71][72] Principal photography for the third season began on February 13, 2024, in Thailand.[73]

Music

Chilean composer Cristobal Tapia de Veer was hired by White to score the series. The theme tune for season one, "Aloha!", was composed to evoke sounds of the jungle. Tapia de Veer used unusual methods, including over-blowing into a flute and performing squawking vocal noises and "monkey sounds" himself. He also used a South American charango, a dozen or so drums from different cultures (mostly handmade drums fashioned from wood and animal skin), a variety of natural shakers, and some piano.[74]

For season 2, Tapia de Veer collaborated with his manager Kim Neundorf to finish original compositions due to his own scheduling conflicts. For the theme tune, Tapia de Veer wanted to keep elements of the season 1 theme but rework it to better fit the Italian setting, including making it more harmonious. The season 2 theme, "Renaissance", begins with oscillating notes on a harp and before the orchestral strings, piano chords, and cymbals are layered in before the return of ululating vocals. This then reaches a high pitch, before a synthetic EDM dance beat builds and drops. Tapia de Veer credits Neundorf for bringing a more organic sound to the production.[75] Singer Stephanie Osorio provided the vocals, whom Tapia de Veer recorded holding a long, single note as she wavered the sound through her hand. Tapia de Veer then sampled this and played different versions of it on a keyboard.[76]

Budget

According to Vulture, the costs of production of season 2 remained at under US$3 million per episode, the same as season 1. Italy, where season 2 was filmed, offers up to 40% tax credit to foreign productions taking place in the country.[77]

Release

The series premiered on July 11, 2021, on HBO and HBO Max.[5] In the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, the series premiered on Sky Atlantic on August 16, 2021.[78] The second season premiered on October 30, 2022.[8]

Home media

The first season was released on DVD on September 13, 2022.[79]

Reception

Critical response

Season 1

Critical response of The White Lotus
SeasonRotten TomatoesMetacritic
190% (97 reviews)[80]82 (39 reviews)[81]
294% (122 reviews)[82]81 (40 reviews)[83]

Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported an approval rating of 90% for the first season of The White Lotus based on 97 critic reviews, with an average rating of 8.4/10. The website's critics consensus reads, "Though its true intentions can get a bit murky, gorgeous vistas, twisty drama, and a pitch perfect cast make The White Lotus a compelling—if uncomfortable—viewing destination."[80] On Metacritic, the season has a score of 82 out of 100 based on 39 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[81]

Matthew Jacobs of TV Guide rated it 4.5 out of 5 and wrote that it is "some of the year's best television thus far."[36] Rolling Stone's Alan Sepinwall graded it 3.5 out of 5 stars and called it "frequently uncomfortable, sometimes poetic, occasionally hilarious, and deeply idiosyncratic throughout."[84] White's attention to character detail was praised, with Naomi Fry of The New Yorker lauding his "affection for his characters, who never feel like caricatures",[2] and Judy Berman of Time commenting he is "uniquely attuned to characters' internal conflicts as well as their varying level of self-awareness."[85]The New York Times's James Poniewozik commended White's signature balance of "sardonic and sincere" tones and his "ear for how people can weaponize idealism", though he also noted the writing "sometimes strains to be topical, with its culture-war Mad Libs references to triggering and cucking, canceling and doxxing."[86] The performances of the ensemble cast were widely praised, with Roxana Hadadi of RogerEbert.com giving four stars out of four and writing it reveals a "combination of performances that are nearly universally enthralling."[87] Of the character of Armond, Poniewozik wrote Bartlett shows "the invisible gymnastics that go into this job" and plays him like "a coiled spring".[86] Hadadi lauded Rothwell's "nuanced, elastic work" with a "haunting" final onscreen moment.[87] Berman said Coolidge is poised to be the series' breakout but also praised Zahn, Bartlett, Rothwell, Lacy, Sweeney, and Daddario.[85]

Criticisms of the first season lamented that the nonwhite, native Hawaiian characters who work at the resort, such as Lani and Kai, received little screen time and were the least developed characters. In this way, critics argued the show did not sufficiently engage in the topics of imperialism and white privilege, issues the show seemed poised to critique in its satirization of the affluent, white upper class.[86][88][89] Poniewozik felt the show "could use more attention to the downstairs half of its upstairs-downstairs story; it flicks at, but doesn't really explore, the lives of the native Hawaiian staff busing tables and performing dinnertime rituals" for the guests.[86] Mitchell Kuga of Vox wrote, "scraping at imperialism, The White Lotus mimes a moral center but never engages the topic beyond mere gesture...how successful can a piece of satire be if it replicates the very power structures it purports to satirize?"[89] White has said the intention of giving native characters less screen time was to show how "interchangeable" the workers appear to the more privileged.[90]

Inkoo Kang of The Washington Post said the characters and performances "make for a twisty, queasy, sweatily claustrophobic drama", but opined that next to other popular TV shows that center on white, affluent people, such as Succession, Big Little Lies, The Undoing, and The Crown, The White Lotus does not have anything new "to observe about the trail of casual destruction the moneyed and connected can leave in their unhappy wake."[91] In The Observer, Kyle Turner wrote, "as someone who is very fond of White's usually tender, deft hand at balancing tone", he hoped the show had "more precision in its aimed poisoned arrows."[92] Turner added the show is "too broad to be a good satire, too pointedly critical to be a straight tragedy, too invested in its melodrama to be a broad comedy, until it becomes ouroborosian in its indecision on tone and ethos. It's not that these genres and tropes can't coexist. It's that here, they float adrift, devoid of alchemical balance."[92]

Critics were divided about the season one finale, with Kang saying the "swerve late in the series disappointingly sails the story toward calmer waters. Once the turbulence is over, only froth remains."[91][93] Other critics, such as Emily St. James of Vox, argued that what they considered the anticlimactic nature of the ending was precisely the point of the show and underscored White's commentary on the powerful and the privileged.[94][95]

The first season appeared in the top ten on numerous publications' "Best of 2021" lists, including first for The A.V. Club, The Globe and Mail, The Ringer, Slant Magazine, and The Sunday Times; second for The Boston Globe, Decider, Exclaim!, The Guardian, The Independent, New York Daily News, San Antonio Express-News, Sioux City Journal, Time, and Vulture; and third for Good Morning America, NME, and Uproxx, among others.[96]

Season 2

For the second season, Rotten Tomatoes reported a 94% approval rating with an average score of 8.2/10, based on 122 reviews. The website's critics consensus states, "Swapping its tropical trappings for Euro chic while focusing primarily on the corrosive influence of carnal desire, The White Lotus remains a cookie full of arsenic that goes down smooth."[82] On Metacritic, the season has a score of 81 out of 100 based on 40 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[83]

Multiple critics voiced that White repeated the success of the first season with sharp writing, his ensemble cast, and more focused plot lines, with some saying it is an improvement on the first season.[97][98][99][100] Lucy Mangan of The Guardian rated it 5 out of 5 and wrote, "The writing is as dense and layered as ever, the plotting is immaculate and the viewers' sympathies – or loathings – are never allowed to rest in one place for too long."[101] Writing for The New Yorker, Inkoo Kang gave a positive review, writing "the airless sociological fatalism of Season 1, which was matched by a claustrophobic production due to COVID-19 restrictions, gives way to a more mature drama, as well as a deeper exploration of how the characters' class concerns converge with gendered angst."[102] Brian Tallerico of RogerEbert.com wrote, "Mike White is a writer that is as thrilled with a fascinating dinner conversation as he is a murder mystery, and so even as the plotting sags more than it did the first time, the way that his characters bounce off each other, unpacking their social constructs, remains fascinating."[103] Alison Herman of The Ringer praised the series' pivot to the theme of gender politics, writing "White knows that sex, like money, is a form of power, and that each is intimately bound up in the other."[104] Melanie McFarland of Salon observed, "You may not want to be in the same room with the people you're watching, but the sights alone provided a level of escapism like nothing else on TV."[105] For The Washington Post, Travis M. Andrews wrote "though these new episodes meander at times, Season 2 is more tightly plotted and there are enough new ideas, with even the most staid insights heightened by White's razor-sharp writing, for it to feel fresh."[106] Some critics welcomed the characters Mia and Lucia, two Sicilian prostitutes whose plot lines intersect with many of the hotel guests', saying their presence felt like a response by White to criticisms of the previous season's focus on its well-off leads.[104][107][108] Others noted how the second season "has invested in horror imagery in a way the previous outing didn't, and it's been one of this installment's best through lines."[109]

Others thought the shift from the themes of class criticism to gender roles made for a less riveting watch.[108] Writing for Vulture, Roxana Hadadi said season two "centers infidelity, to diminished effect", and that "there's also a new bluntness, and a noticeable tentativeness, that keeps this second season from hitting as hard and bruising as immediately as its predecessor."[107] Vanity Fair's Richard Lawson wrote season two is a "vibrant set of plates to set spinning, which White does with his usual mix of acerbic bite and melancholy. Though, things do feel a little less pointed this season."[110] Shirley Li of The Atlantic noted "Season 2 is as juicy as season 1, but it's not as caustic in its approach."[111] Commenting on the more diminished role of the hotel staff, Linda Holmes of NPR wrote, "Thematically, without that tension between how the guests see themselves and how the staff sees them, The White Lotus seems adrift. With all the criticism of the first season and the fair questions about whether it was satirizing its rich and white characters' lack of interest in the people around them or just reproducing it, it was always clear what the show was trying to be about, or thought it was about. It was trying to be about the foibles of wealth and carelessness; it's much less clear where White is going with this story."[112]

The second season appeared in the top ten on numerous publications' "Best of 2022" lists, including first for Good Morning America, The Independent, and San Antonio Express-News; second for the i; and third for Cleveland Plain-Dealer, Irish Independent, LA Weekly, Newsday, Radio Times, TV Insider, USA Today, and The Washington Post, among others.[113]

Ratings

Season 1

Viewership and ratings per episode of The White Lotus
No. Title Air date Rating
(18–49)
Viewers
(millions)
DVR
(18–49)
DVR viewers
(millions)
Total
(18–49)
Total viewers
(millions)
1 "Arrivals" July 11, 2021 0.08 0.420[21] 0.04 0.198 0.12 0.618[21]
2 "New Day" July 18, 2021 0.06 0.459[22] 0.06 0.298 0.12 0.757[22]
3 "Mysterious Monkeys" July 25, 2021 0.11 0.478[23] 0.08 0.392 0.19 0.870[23]
4 "Recentering" August 1, 2021 0.14 0.515[24]
5 "The Lotus-Eaters" August 8, 2021 0.11 0.541[25]
6 "Departures" August 15, 2021 0.17 0.850[26] 0.06 0.349 0.23 1.199[26]

Accolades

The first season received 11 nominations at the 74th Primetime Emmy Awards in the limited or anthology series categories.[114] It was also nominated for nine Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards across eight categories, winning five.[115] The series won the most Emmys across both ceremonies, including Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series, Murray Bartlett for Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor, Jennifer Coolidge for Outstanding Supporting Actress, and Mike White for both Outstanding Directing and Outstanding Writing. Connie Britton, Alexandra Daddario, Jake Lacy, Natasha Rothwell, Sydney Sweeney, and Steve Zahn also received acting nominations.[116]

The second season received 12 nominations at the 75th Primetime Emmy Awards across five categories and 11 nominations at the Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards across 10 categories, moving from limited/anthology series to drama series. It won four awards at the Creative Arts Emmys.[117] For the Primetime Emmys, Coolidge won for Outstanding Supporting Actress.[118] Other nominations included Outstanding Drama Series; F. Murray Abraham, Michael Imperioli, Theo James, and Will Sharpe for Outstanding Supporting Actor; Meghann Fahy, Sabrina Impacciatore, Aubrey Plaza, and Simona Tabasco for Outstanding Supporting Actress; and White for Outstanding Directing and Outstanding Writing for the episode "Arrivederci".[119]

The series included in the American Film Institute Awards top ten Programs of the Year list for 2021 and 2022.[120][121] Other nominations include three Critics' Choice Television Awards (winning all),[122][123] five Golden Globe Awards (winning two),[124][125] and a People's Choice Award.[126]

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