Warning: Spoilers for the first episode of The White Lotus season two below.
This Sunday night, those of us with a working HBO Max subscription (or access to a friend’s) were finally allowed to check into the expectedly gorgeous White Lotus Sicily (otherwise known as the Four Seasons’ San Domenico Palace, Taormina). A little over a year after the conclusion of The White Lotus season one, HBO’s Emmy-sweeping hit is back — and this time, with a new group of well-moneyed tourists trading in the tropical vibes of Hawaii for fun in the Sicilian sun.
In the first episode of the new season, creator-writer-director Mike White stages a reunion with our season one holdovers (Tanya McQuoid and her Hawaiian paramour-cum-husband Greg Hunt) while also introducing us to the majority of this season’s new main characters (two are still to come). There’s Tanya’s new assistant (Portia), an obnoxiously wealthy couple (Cameron and Daphne) and the slightly more bearable couple they’re traveling with (Harper and Ethan), an intergenerational trio of Italian men (grandpa Bert, father Dominic, and son Albie), our new overstretched hotel manager (Valentina), and a sex worker and her friend (Lucia and Mia).
Like the best-of-the-year first season, The White Lotus season two seems equally invested in exploring issues of privilege, infidelity, and class anxiety. But with the switch to Italy, we’re also now treated to beautiful frescoes, spooky teste di moro prophecies, and tons of Aperol spritzes. It’s another chance for us normal people to dream about living in luxury — so much so that I’ve begun to consider who in the cast I would want to actually share such an experience with. So without further ado, here is my ranking for the season two characters of The White Lotus, based on how much fun I think I’d have traveling with them during my own swanky Sicilian vacation.
13. Greg Hunt (Jon Gries): You know what’s worse than a man who disrespects his wife? Well, a man who disrespects his wife who also happens to be paying for his entire lifestyle. Greg Hunt is the epitome of this. After meeting the emotionally fragile Tanya McQuoid (Jennifer Coolidge) in the first season of Mike White’s anthology series, Greg is now enjoying his later years living high on a hog bearing the McQuoid name. Alas, one would never suspect this dynamic given the way he treats her. Greg polices Tanya’s macaron-eating (insinuating she needs to lose weight), ignores her texts, banishes her assistant, and has secretive phone conversations in the bathroom that he’s clearly not being honest about. Though Tanya seems to try to convince herself otherwise — the way she says, “He’s always thinking of me” when he dismisses himself, right before sex, to wash off his “swamp crotch” says it all — even she barely seems to enjoy traveling with this man that much. And that’s saying a lot, you know, considering he’s her husband! The rest of us aren’t even getting laid. Why would we ever want to put up with that?
12. Bert Di Grasso (F. Murray Abraham): Mike White’s script really wants us to know that Bert, a 70-something grandfather returning to his home country, is old. When the boat carrying this latest crop of White Lotus visitors to shore docks, the hotel manager points out how rough the long trip from Los Angeles must have been…considering his age. Even his family wants him to know he’s old — at dinner, his grandson inquires whether he’s even able to sustain an erection at his age. Of course, I, a worldly citizen with not one prejudiced bone in my body, don’t have an issue with people for their age. But I do, however, prefer to spend my time with men who don’t find it necessary to flirt with every single woman they come across. Which is why I’d have a hard time enjoying myself around Bert, who flirts with concierges, waitresses, and room attendants with no visible shame. It’s a lot to deal with. Oh yeah, and let’s not forget all that farting. Bert claims it’s the prosecco, but I just don’t know. There’s a bit too much rumble in that jungle.
11. Tanya McQuoid-Hunt (Jennifer Coolidge): The thing about Tanya is that your enjoyment of her depends on the context. If you are her husband, traveling with Tanya seems quite ideal. Not only is she willing to bend to your every whim (even with that whim involves trapping your assistant in her room for god knows how long), but she’ll even do so while telling herself that you're perfect — no matter how awful you really are. She lives to serve you, and that must be a great place to be in. But let’s say you’re someone else — say, an assistant, or an employee at one of the hotels she frequents. In that case, you’re only as good to Tanya as you are useful to her in the moment. That can be great, like when Tanya wants you to accompany her to Sicily, and puts you up in your own private room at the very expensive resort she’s staying at. But it can also suck, like when Tanya’s husband thinks you’re a nuisance — or, as was the case last season, when Tanya suddenly falls in love and randomly decides that the dreams you’ve spilled out to her while under the impression that she was going to invest in them don’t serve her anymore. Treading this tightrope can be tricky, especially with someone carrying as much emotional baggage as Tanya. So, I don’t know. I’d rather steer clear of it altogether.
10. Cameron Babcock (Theo James): Yes, I know. Cameron is awful. He is part of that filthy rich milieu that has lost complete touch with any sense of reality, and even within a single episode, it’s already clear that Cameron doesn’t think there are any consequences to his actions. (The way he dismisses the “bunch of bogus [sexual assault] claims” at his company as “a total time-suck” and a “huge waste of money” sent chills down my entire body.) If Cameron were a stand-in for any season one character, he’d definitely be Jake Lacy’s Shane Patton — which is to say, the absolute worst. He (and by extension, his wife, Daphne) is the type of person who takes helicopters to the Hamptons and brags about his friendship with Jeff Bezos. But this ranking isn’t about morals, necessarily; it’s about enjoying yourself for a few days. And while Cameron may indeed suck, he seems like better company than Greg or Bert. (As his college buddy credits him, Cameron is at least consistent.) Plus, come on: we aren’t turning our noses up at the eye-candy — especially when he needs to borrow swim shorts.
9. Valentina (Sabrina Impacciatore): Season one of The White Lotus went to great lengths to show us just how stressful managing a resort of this caliber can be. (Remember Armond’s drug-fueled breakdown?) So it’s no surprise to learn that Valentina, our new manager in Sicily, is just as tightly-wound. Like Armond, she is ruthlessly efficient (the way she immediately absolves the hotel of any guilt in the whole bodies-floating-in-the-sea cold open) and strict and exacting with her employees (the way she chastises someone for bringing “such a tiny tray” of champagne to greet the arrivers). These things, of course, make her pretty good at her job. But they also would make her a very un-fun travel partner. On vacation, I want spontaneity! Valentina wants order. I want parties in my room! Valentina wants to restrict anyone who’s not a guest from even entering the premises. If I need advice for what I should do during the day, I know that Valentina is the first I’d call. But if I want to actually enjoy doing any of those things, I think I’d be best looking elsewhere.
8. Dominic Di Grasso (Michael Imperioli): Of the Di Grasso clan, Dominic seems to be stuck in the middle. He is not an outward pervert like his father, but as evidenced by a secret tryst he has with a sex worker in the episode’s final scene, he’s not entirely above-board with his own sexual proclivities either. We can also safely assume that he has a checkered, less-than-honorable past: his conversation with his (presumably ex)-wife is very heated; I find it hard to believe that her anger isn’t justified. Yet still, Dominic also seems fine keeping to himself — he loves being in his hotel room — and for that, I can imagine not entirely hating my trip with (or without) him. What Dominic does consensually behind closed doors is not my cross to bear.
7. Mia (Beatrice Grannó): Mia is nowhere near the most contemptible person in this cast — she’s just a regular-degular civilian trying to get her music career off the ground — but she is in a very particular stage of her her post-breakup recovery, and I’m sorry, but who wants to be around that energy on vacation? Her best friend is desperate to bring her out of her funk, but instead of playing along, Mia seems determined to mourn the loss of some unseen man named Massimo who has a new girlfriend. Sure, maybe Massimo is the second coming of Christ and maybe she has reason to be upset. But you’re in Sicily with your best friend! Go have fun!
6. Harper Spiller (Aubrey Plaza): Of all the characters this season, few feel as inscrutable as Harper. On one hand, she is the one we should be rooting for. She’s a lawyer who works for the little guy! She’s politically-aware and critical of the über-wealthy! But on the other hand, her sanctimoniousness is often grating. It’s one thing to critique from the sidelines, but once you’ve checked into the high-life, your barbs about the one-percept innately come with less bite. In her interactions with Cameron and his wife, Daphne, we as the audience can find it easy to side with her. (Of course we can. Their affluent obliviousness is meant to be off-putting.) But what to say about Harper’s interactions with her own husband, who she belittles at dinner (over his decision to order whitefish, at that), makes switch bed-sides with her, and from the looks of it, doesn’t engage with sexually or emotionally? Like most Aubrey Plaza characters, Harper’s snark is key to her on-screen appeal, but I hesitate to imagine her being fun to travel with. Make fun of rich people over brunch in your hometown, not from your king bed in a $700/night hotel!
5. Portia (Haley Lu Richardson): A part of me is kind of mad at Portia. Not because she’s done anything wrong, per se. (All she did was come out to Sicily with her emotionally damaged boss, Tanya, hoping to fulfill the requirements of her job.) But because she seems painfully allergic to rolling with the punches. Shortly after arriving, Tanya, on orders from her husband, dismisses Portia, telling her to lock herself in her room for the remainder of the trip. Afterward, Portia is left with several options: listen to her boss and lock herself up, ignore her boss but spend the time in Sicily mad, or ignore her boss and make the most of her trip. Portia chooses the middle option: she doesn’t confine herself to her room, per Tanya’s request, but then she just kind of…sulks? You’re in a very expensive hotel on your boss’ dime and all you want to do is complain to your friend over the phone while sitting by the pool? Here’s an option: get in the pool! Order a bunch of room service! Go dancing! Judging by the quick flirtations she shares with adorable Albie throughout the episode, we can at least hope that Portia bends the rules some as time goes on. But for now, she’s too focused on the bloat she’ll get from eating so much pasta. No shade, but you’re in Italy. I refuse to travel with someone thinking about pasta negatively.
4. Daphne Babcock (Meghann Fahy): Okay, hear me out. I know Daphne doesn’t read…or follow the news…or even remember if she voted. (She definitely didn’t.) But can you honestly tell me that she doesn’t seem fun? Daphne reminds me of so many girls I went to college with — their politics might not be the best (if said politics exist at all), and they may not be ideal partners for deep conversations about, well, anything really. But isn’t that okay on vacation? Daphne seems down for anything, and her mood is somehow always upbeat. Season two of The White Lotus opens at the tail-end of Daphne’s trip, and even then, as she gets into the ocean for the last time before leaving paradise, she is still in enviably great spirits. Daphne is the definition of a wealthy woman who knows how to enjoy that wealth to its fullest extent, and who wouldn’t want to thrive off that energy for a bit? Having to deal with her awful husband might put a damper on everything except my eyes (which would be more than fine), but I think we could all do a lot worse than Daphne on a vacation that’s already a little gaudy to begin with.
3. Ethan Spiller (Will Sharpe): Unlike so many people on this list, Ethan has the unique ability to be chill and hot and wealthy and smart and seemingly in possession of good politics. He’s even patient with his wife, which says a lot. A newly-rich tech whiz, Ethan is clearly still trying to sort out what his life is now that he can afford trips like this. But unlike his wife, Ethan is determined to make the most of the moment: he’s here in paradise, why wouldn’t he relax a little and enjoy the niceties? Sure, his chill response to Cameron casually changing in front of Harper is…concerning. But also, he’s in Italy! Nudity is everywhere! Overall, Ethan seems to be a man of simple needs — and if it’s ever raining and we can’t sit outside drinking aperol spritzes by the pool, I know that me and Ethan can chill in the room watching old episodes of Ted Lasso instead.
2. Albie Di Grasso (Adam DiMarco): Given how bad with women both his father and his grandfather appear to be, I’m hesitant to rank Albie this high, only because I fear that some of those traits have been passed down and will slowly start to show up in Albie as the season progresses. For now, however, Albie seems like an ideal travel companion. While grandpa asks every female employee if they’re married and dad locks himself in his room (either with work or with sex workers), Albie seems content to just be. As his mom describes him over a phone call, he is a “sweet, sensitive young man” — something neither his father nor grandfather could ever relate to. In Sicily, he swims laps, hangs out by the pool, listens to music, and when it is time to flirt, he sets his eyes on someone who at least seems to return his advances. Albie may not be the most exciting person to travel with (he’s soft-spoken and adorably shy), but he’s respectful enough. And hey, I know that, if I happen to fall down and hit my head like Bert does by the pool, Albie will sleep next to me to make sure I don’t have a concussion. (At least until I start farting.)
1. Lucia (Simona Tabasco): Lucia, a local Italian sex worker, is first introduced traipsing through the streets of Italy, eagerly grabbing her best friend, Mia, in an earnest attempt to shake the girl out of her lovestruck daze. “Enough! Don’t think about it,” she insists when Mia tells her that she’s upset about a man that has moved on without her. It’s clear that Lucia is a loyal friend, but it’s even clearer that Lucia is all about enjoying herself no matter what. Sure, as a sex worker depending on the largesse of the wealthy male visitors who stay in her city’s finest resorts, she may not be able to offer the same vacation experience that the people actually staying at The White Lotus can, but as a local resident of the city, she probably could introduce me to a side of the city these spoiled tourists never could. Lucia knows how to have a good time, and on vacation, what more could you possibly want? Hotel rules be damned.