credit Goran Eidens via Unsplash

The White Lotus: (post-finale) character studies

By Lucy Fitzgerald

Lucy reflects on the haute monde causing trouble in paradise.


Can the real Ned Schneebly please stand up. School Of Rock legend Mike White checks another roster of obnoxious Americans into a luxury White Lotus. In this second season of his anthology triumph, he swaps Hawaii for Sicily, and positions gender dynamics as the new source of friction. There is thematic continuity from where we left off in 2021, in that a striking class divide between the hotel’s staff and guests still endures, but this time round it is sex, rather than money, that commands the plot as the desired vehicle of power. The issue of trust in heterosexual relationships is at the epicentre of the show’s tension; infidelity is the Damoclean threat. Surrounding Italian Renaissance art and sculptures, baked in parable and legend, work well to reflect and refract guilty characters’ psyches and reify suspicions. As we join the characters in medias res with a murder, it is confirmed that The White Lotus’ through-line is that violent delights do indeed have violent ends. Mike White holds la dolce vita at gunpoint.

Drowning in duplicitousness and straining from vaulting paranoia, no one is presenting their honest self – everyone is playing their own game – so I felt it my civic duty to take a deeper look at each guileful individual character and unpack their M.O.’s …


For Daphne Sullivan, whether she voted is as fuzzy a recall as a Hotmail password from 2007. She has breezy unconcern, almost comical, for international affairs and concurrent historical crises. Is she out of touch? Irrevocably. But is she insufferable? Somehow, no. I actually, actively, want to befriend her, to learn from her. She’s attained bliss via ignorance and I kinda salute her for it – she ultimately has more integrity than any other guest (accordingly, she quickly became a fan favourite, a veritable mother). Despite her dolly energy, Daphne is an incredibly sharp woman. Perceptive and pragmatic, she focuses on that which she can control (this is a story about control). Resilience is Daphne’s superpower; she’s TV’s new patron saint of self preservation.Through the hearty assertion of her autonomy and the genuine warmth actor Meghann Fahy imbues in the character, Daphne emerges separate from a perhaps expected, cold Stepford Wifey-submission – a constitution and fate that a lesser-written characterisation and performance would have materialised. A committed mother to two kids under five with a pig husband, she miraculously maintains unfaltering cheer. Fahy delivered an almost eerie knockout performance, as her micro-expressions were working 180bpm, going from betrayed to excited to confused. 

Oh, did I mention Daphne’s personal trainer is her true baby daddy? I support women’s rights, and women’s wrongs. Good. For. Her. 

(Emmy nom incoming)


2022 was a year of revival for the dystopian Y/A fiction boys: Divergent alumni Miles Teller rocketed in Top Gun Maverick, and Theo James reclined on a lounger in this season of The White Lotus. I don’t know if James is the most impressive actor, but he can convincingly play a douche. Doing nothing to demystify the finance-bro dick stereotype, his character of Cameron does not possess a lot of nuance – he is a straightforward scumbag. And Mike White is right for that! Only one moment across the seven episodes showcased behaviour that diverged him from the path of total Ralph Lauren-crew neck, lacrosse-playing caricature: a moment of vulnerability when he recounted his wife Daphne’s difficult labour (“her guts were all over the table” he says, wincing) – for one singular second I dare say he displayed tenderness. Sure, he is only concerned with status and carnal satisfaction, and only sees women through the lens of the Madonna Whore complex, but I do think he loves his wife. His shallowness is just so overpoweringly distracting: when Logan Roy said the immortal words “sometimes it is a big dick competition”, I bet Cameron punched the air in solidarity; when controversy first stirred around Andrew Tate, I bet he listened to a few of his interviews in the name of ‘hearing him out’; and I bet he genuinely didn’t understand why the banks were the baddies in The Big Short (“Dude, their resolve was aspirational”). I also suspect a framed picture of Bernie Madoff in his work office somewhere. I cannot discern if he is masking profound self-loathing or is truly just a narcissist with no shame (his emboldened toast on the final night suggests the latter). I forget people like him actually exist in real life – thanks for the terrifying reminder Mike. 


In consuming a TV show that presents an eclectic group of personalities, one is inclined to quickly identify which character they feel most represented by (note: we usually want to think of ourselves as the person who has the healthiest id-ego-superego balance), and at the start of this season Harper was the self-insert for many people as she appeared as a distinctly level-headed, principled and aloof individual among some notably ostentatious company. But as her Italian sojourn progressed, that audience affinity became increasingly fragmented.

Harper fancies herself a purveyor of dialectics (my 18 year old self would have been so impressed with her!) but her provocation is very limited. She only partially catechesis the wealthy couple she thinks she has nothing in common with, and by not following through with her bite – choosing rather to simply bitch to her husband after her half-confrontations so as to stroke a superiority complex – she surfaces as a disappointingly simple personality: self-righteous and just a bit irritating. Sure, Harper is totally accurate in her estimations of the boastful, sordid Cameron, but her shortcomings are confirmed as she actually ends up getting off with him; his sense of entitlement gradually dilutes from being a source of rage for her, to bemusement, and then ultimately, seduction. Sanctimonious and sleeping with the enemy, I’m calling room service to send her up an urgent plate of self awareness!

What I found engaging about Harper I think comes down to actor Aubrey Plaza’s natural charisma. Two stand-out scenes really highlighted this: firstly a slow-mo tracking shot of her swinginggg the gold chain of her evening bag, stone faced as she side-eyed her dishonest partner, and secondly the much-discussed recreated scene from 1960’s L’Avventura, in which Monica Vitti is gawked at by a horde of men. Like ants descending on a fallen corner of jam-covered toast, it is truly a chilling frame of loitering voyeurism. 


A tech wizard who doesn’t communicate with his wife, actor Will Sharpe’s handsomeness belies Ethan’s incelly sensibility. He is somewhat of a wet wipe. When Ethan grew suspicions of his former dorm room – and new tax bracket – buddy putting moves on his betroved, he grew a backbone and tried to drown Cameron in the ocean, stressing “this isn’t just some girl I have a crush on, this is my fucking wife!” – and he had never been hotter. My toxic trait is that I sort of enjoy watching men get violent in order to defend their wives, see the Youtube clip in which Ray Liotta beats a guy within an inch of his life with a pistol after learning his wife was inappropriately advanced upon. In a straight relationship, using your physicality for good, i.e. risking your own bruising when your wife’s integrity has been violated, is actually the least you can do. Like c’mon guys, if you don’t threaten to kill the man that wronged your wife, do you really even love her? Lol, I’m kidding … but I’m also not! Alexa play Die For You by The Weeknd.


Carrying a regal air with her towering height, Jennifer Coolidge fortifies her Star legacy further with her triumphant return as Tanya. This lady is not a good person but she is an entertaining person – endearingly mercurial but always self serving. I’m no fan of her husband Greg, but I empathise to some degree with his strained patience (lol). After all, Tanya is perpetually whining, and her interpersonal relations are wholly transactional. As she fulfilled her Madame Butterfly prophecy, we learned a lesson from her deeply silly demise: a lack of self sufficiency will literally kill you, and there is such a thing as being dangerously quirky! Her shoot-to-kill aim in the final episode was something to behold – bookies the world over added a new contender to the next Bond bet as soon as she massacred those camp kidnappers.

(Second Emmy nom incoming)


I’ll be brief: I couldn’t wait for him to get off the screen. His embittered, shrivelled expressions were pissing me off. Yes Tanya is a draining diva, and kind of insane, but she is also fun! (She was fearless and crazier than him.) His exact plotting in and whereabouts during her death were loose-ends in the plot but I don’t really care – that dodgy photoshop was good enough for me. Good riddance!


Portia, Portia, Portia. There’s no way of saying this without sounding like I am unloading a bucket of condescension and internalised misogyny but I don’t care: what a silly little girl! Take some initiative babe, you are a grown-up. Presumably about 25, her Zillenial identity is telegraphed by her bright sartorial choices (a global, Twitter, diatribe against her woolly vests, boxy culottes, crochet layering and harlequin mesh evening wear quickly ensued).

I was initially rooting for her, you know. I commended her for carpe diem-ing and getting to know Jack, but she has unlocked a new fear for me: being quasi abducted by a holiday romance and left on the side of a desolate road. I knew she was having a bit of an identity crisis, but Portia! There comes a point when you need to get some self respect! Engage the brain cells! Why would you get in the car, Portia? Not to victim-blame, but you’re giving solo women travellers a bad name! You couldn’t have quietly left the hotel room in the middle of the night and got a taxi as soon as you sensed things were off? As the assistant to a half-billionaire dollar heiress, I think, though as unreasonable as Tanya can be, your salary would allow you to afford a 60 euro-Uber in this time of emergency, especially as you’ve not had to expend a single centime the entire trip! Hayley Lu Richardson you were crazy for that.


I admit in his first appearance I thought he was cute! With Albie initially following Portia like a lost puppy, I welcomed his more laidback, happy-go-lucky disposition. But in episode five I clocked his “Cowabunga” neck tattoo and from that moment on … I was perturbed.

Dominic DiGrassio

Michael Imperlioni has such a placid demeanour and eyes so deep and sympathy-inducing, that I almost kept forgetting his character is a serial cheater who destroyed his family. I don’t think it was meant to be a moment playing for laughs, but his dumbstruck expression as Laura Dern screamed at him through the phone was so funny; here we have a man totally inept when it comes to emotional intelligence. Apart from his exploits at night, I didn’t get a sense of him being a routinely repulsive personality, just sort of weak and spineless. By check-out time he really thought he had successfully re-aligned his moral compass, but he was as defensive and un-evolved as he was when he first brushed up against the reception desk. (He labels his adultery an “addiction” … whatever you need to tell yourself bro!)

Bert DiGrassio

Nonno saw Dirty Grandpa (2016) and doubled down on his pervy ways. F. Murray Abraham turns in a wicked performance; the vibe projected with this character is that of someone whose sleazy grin and chaotic grasp of social cues leaves a trail of “he’s from a different era” addendums for his company to punctuate interactions with: wherever he goes, he misspeaks. When his son suggests it’s his fault he fundamentally cannot treat women well, he doesn’t let any real guilt occupy any space in his mind, and he cannot for the life of himself understand why the local women relatives he visits with his son and grandson choose to reject their imposing presence. A shameless creep, it was fitting that grandpa’s last lines (“Our Achilles heel is an Achilles cock”) mirrored his inappropriate intro. Who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?

Albie DiGrassio

Albie came blazing onto the resort ready to bridge generational gaps with performative feminism. I got new rules I count ’em: A Nice Guy who prides himself on being a Nice Guy is not actually a nice guy.


Sabrina Impacciatore you will always be famous. 5.4’’ and on a mission, Valentina is an integral part of this season. She mostly utilised her power for good: taking out the slimy men at the front desk like jenga blocks to maximise her wlw romantic prospects. I think Valentina was owed an action/adrenalised chase scene somewhere, or a chance to go crazy with a hysterical breakdown, but perhaps it was more impressive that Impacciatore did so much with smaller directions; her facial quivers, and darting eye-subtleties ultimately landed as equally bold moments.

(Emmy nom incoming)


I want her to release a memoir entitled “How to Scam a Guy in 10 days” or “Machinations of a Mother”- teach me your ways queen. Lucia is a poised hustler I want to go on a night out with. In terms of her relationship with Albie, for her it was motivated by survival, for him, ennui and a saviour complex. Alexa play Getaway Car by Taylor Swift. 


I love your energy girlie but please stop singing. Glad you secured a consistent gig, you had  heart. Maybe a bit negligent with your distribution of pills but I respect that that guy was a creep. Hey, you didn’t kill anyone! 

Quentin – head “High End Gay”

Forever enriching small parts with charm and distrust with his knowing, oharen’t-we-bad? pout, Tom Hollander shines as the composed and debonair Quentin who keeps his cards close to his chest (none more so than nephew’s hotel room card!). That nonpareil twist of incest at the end of episode five delivered a truly horrifying, coup de grâce to any goodfaith the audience had left in this rich weirdo.

(Emmy nom incoming)

The other “High End Gays”

Too few lines for me to really lend any substantial comment, but they made excellent hosts-turned hijackers; a warm, albeit conspiratorial, bunch. RIP boys.

A disembodied Laura Dern as Dominic’s ex wife

I falsely predicted an in real-life cameo at the airport in the finale but ultimately Dern’s presence being limited to a phone call was a frustrating stroke of genius, with her crescendoing, irate riot act-reading nothing short of mesmerising. Considering her misfortune on Big Little Lies, I ask HBO to give her one faithful husband goddammit!


With a deceptively brute mien, we were first led to believe Alessio was Lucia’s handler/pimp, but he turned out to be a smiley door boy! (Appearing like an Italian Louis Garrell.) Props to him doing his bit to support local female business women.


Tanya’s hired toyboy, giving strong Massimo from 365 Days understudy vibes.

*NB: this was the best on screen ensemble since Hairspray (2007).

Pitch for season 3’s cast:

  • Jason Mantzoukas as a slovenly hotel manager
  • Gina Rodriguez on vacation with her half sister, Elizabeth Gillies, both charmed by a hotel pool boy played by Charles Melton
  • Kerry Washington and Kingsley Ben-Adir as a married couple
  • Dakota Fanning and Nancy from Stranger Things as a graduate couple on their summer adventure
  • Allison Janney and Benjamin Bratt as a divorced couple on holiday with their grown up daughter, Riverdale girlie, Camila Mendez
  • Jenny Slate, Schmidt from New Girl and his tween child from a previous relationship
  • And somewhere, somehow, Glen Howerton appears to deliver a grand dramatic turn and Kelsey Grammer cameos as legendary snob Dr Fraiser Crane.

Perhaps this is too starry but HBO has the budget!


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