If there is one incontrovertible truth, it is that Yale produces some of the worst people on planet Earth. I’m talking about Cameron (Theo James), the lecherous creep terrorizing Sicily’s Four Seasons Taormina in The White Lotus Season Two. That scholarly revelation is perhaps the least surprising one in the HBO limited series’ nerve-wracking finale, which saw not two, but four of these miserable rich bastards wind up dead.
Warning: Spoilers will follow
This “one last rendezvous” as the posh scammer Quentin (a delicious Tom Hollander) calls it, with his typical Rabelaisian wit, opens on Ethan (Will Sharpe) in full-on Othello mode, tortured by visions of his wife Harper (Aubrey Plaza) and college buddy Cameron having passionate sex in their hotel suite. After Harper calls him “an idiot” over breakfast, a deserved barb if there ever was one, Ethan confronts her in their room, accusing his unfulfilled partner of having sex with his decade-long underminer. She confesses to kissing Cameron in the room after he latched the door shut, but nothing more.
“I’m not even attracted to him, OK? He’s disgusting… It was a drunk, dumb nothing!” she exclaims, adding, “And the real issue is, you’re not attracted to me anyway!”
She’s right, of course. Whatever shenanigans the couple’s gotten into at Taormina, from molly and escorts to that hotel-room tryst, pale in comparison to their underlying issue: Ethan and Harper suffer from a lack of desire, exacerbated by their failure to be honest with one another about what they need. Heck, they may not even be right for one another. Plaza, for her part, has done a masterful job of conveying what it feels like to be unwanted, and how that sense of emotional ridicule can lead you down a path of paranoia and despair. An Emmy may be in the cards.
Her admission leads Ethan to attack Cameron, airing out years of frustration with a sharp right hook, and confide in Daphne (Meghann Fahy). The look on Fahy’s face when Ethan tells her exactly what’s on his mind is devastating, and the work of an actress who has completely lost herself in a character. Of all the pampered guests this season, Fahy’s has been the most low-key brilliant turn.
“You don’t have to know everything to love someone,” she offers. “A little mystery… it’s kind of sexy.”
Whether or not she and Ethan did the deed atop that hill is anyone’s guess, though his return to San Domenico Palace sees him recharged and ready to bang his wife. And thank goodness for that. One of the more implausible parts of Mike White’s series this season has been Ethan’s refusal to bed Aubrey Plaza’s looks-serving vixen. It appears that this chaotic trip, and the intervention of Cameron and Daphne, has helped these two more than they’d like to admit. But more importantly: Valentina and Harper got laid! Bravissimo.
Nothing much happens with the Di Grassos, whose storyline has continually lost steam, other than our naïve white knight Albie (Adam DiMarco) demanding his father (Michael Imperioli) transfer him 50,000 Euros—“a karmic payment… for all the shit you’ve done”—to pay the escort Lucia (Simona Tabasco) because she rode him like Seabiscuit, in exchange for Albie putting in a good word with his estranged wife. The ungentlemanly agreement results in Albie getting grifted by Lucia, whose pimp dramatics were an obvious ruse from jump.
That leaves us with Tanya (Jennifer Coolidge) and Portia (Haley Lu Richardson). The former is slowly, painfully piecing together that Quentin and her estranged hubby Greg (Jon Gries) are after her fortune as she once again observes their framed Brokeback Mountain-esque photo. Coolidge shrieking, “Please… These gays, they’re trying to murder me!” is destined to be a meme. Where the hell is Greg, by the way? Maybe that’s a question that will be answered in Season Three. Portia, meanwhile, is slowly, painfully piecing together the fact that her weepy Essex lover Jack (Leo Woodall) is nothing more than Quentin’s rent-boy henchman. Apparently, her eye for deception is just as weak as her eye for fashion. At least Jack has the decency to drop her off by the airport instead of whatever Quentin told him to do.
Tanya first reveals to Portia that her prenup with Greg entitles him to all her wealth in the event of her death, and then locks herself in a bedroom aboard Quentin’s yacht. Then, the rich heiress—through tears—channels her inner Scarface, shooting her way out of the pickle, and leaving Quentin and his two compatriots dead. Just when you think she’s made it to safety, however, she slips off the railing, hits her head on the side of the dinghy, and slowly sinks to the bottom of the ocean. Daphne finds her body floating in the water the following morning.
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We’re left with a scene at the airport, as the Di Grasso men ogle a fetching young Italian woman in unison; Daphne and Cameron give each other a knowing kiss; and Harper and Ethan finally appear to be sorta on the same page as they hold each other close, cracking the same smile. Portia gives Albie her number, while our hero-escorts Lucia and Mia (Beatrice Granno) walk off into the sunset.
That series creator Mike White managed to not only cook up a second season of The White Lotus a year and a half after the first one premiered, but have it surpass the first, tackling more complex topics like desire, intimacy and fidelity with grace and a surfeit of style, is a testament to his ingenuity. Rumor has it that Season Three may be set in Asia. I, for one, cannot wait.