HBO’s sleeper hit The White Lotus swept the Emmys last month, setting stage for its highly anticipated second season. Premiering on Sunday, Season 2 of the anthology series finds a new set of ultra-wealthy American vacationers—along with Jennifer Coolidge reprising her Emmy-winning role—checking into a different White Lotus resort, this time in Sicily.
With expectations high for the return of queer creator Mike White’s acclaimed satire, critics have started weighing in. Here’s what they’re saying.
In short, Season 2 doesn’t disappoint.
“It seemed that topping the first season would be an impossible task,” writes Collider’s Emma Kiely, “but White, Coolidge, and a new cast of characters has risen to the challenge and then some.”
She goes so far as to proclaim the new season is better than the first. “The characters are given the freedom to take precedence and the action unfolds from there on more smoothly,” Kiely writes. “With some parties to root for and others that you’ll love to hate, prepare to be fully immersed in the absurd web of sex, lies, and sunshine that Mike White creates again to make lightning strike twice.”
As several reviewers have noted, the new season shifts its critique of privilege slightly to focus more on sexual dynamics. Variety’s Caroline Framke writes that in setting the new season in Italy, White has attempted to diffuse some of the criticisms about Season 1’s treatment of race.
“Instead, Season 2 tightens its thematic focus on all things sex — the kind you yearn for, the kind you tolerate, the kind you pay for, the kind you use to get what you want,” Framke writes, concluding that “The White Lotus remains one of TV’s most purely visceral, evocative shows.”
“The drama primarily revolves around the intractable divide between genders as played out on the battlegrounds of sex and romance, analyzed with the same anthropological precision White brought to matters of wealth and class in season one,” writes Angie Han in her review for The Hollywood Reporter.
Though she doesn’t think Season 2 cuts quite as sharply as the first, she praises White’s “special talent for mining the gap between the people his characters want to see themselves as and the people they can’t help being. Here, he uses it to tap into a nebulous anxiety over whether it’s even possible to know what we truly want when we’ve spent our whole lives being told what to want.”
IndieWire’s Ben Travers calls the new season “a darker, more personal story, one that’s sure to elicit uncomfortable conversations at home.”
Among the cast, Coolidge, Aubrey Plaza, and Meghann Fahy have garnered the most praise. “Coolidge continues to be at the top of her game, still being able to bring the humor and looking like she didn’t mean to,” writes Collider’s Kiely.
Writing for Slashfilm, Barry Levitt called Coolidge “somehow even better this season.” Her character Tanya, “is definitely seen in a less unpleasant light this time around,” he writes, “but Coolidge’s performance is so wonderful that you can’t help but be absolutely obsessed with her.”
Of Plaza, THR’s Han writes that she “deploys her signature deadpan delivery to hilariously uncomfortable effect as a woman whose harsh judgments barely conceal her own insecurities. She is especially well matched by Fahy, who renders Daphne one of the season’s most fascinating characters by tapping into the vast reserves of steel and sorrow underlying her usual effervescent persona.”
USA Today’s Kelly Lawler also calls Fahy one of the new season’s breakout stars. “Her Daphne is a hapless but happy housewife on the outside, but riddled with sadness and anger beneath. Fahy is effervescent, balancing Daphne’s performative façade with her darker side easily and lighting up every scene she’s in.”