“The White Lotus” Season 2 might be building up to this year’s big death(s), but one thing is crystal clear about this installment of Mike White’s HBO limited series: It’s horny as heck.
Before we move on and award “The White Lotus” an off-season imaginary Emmy for Outstandingly Horny Limited Series, let’s be clear what that means. Sex scenes and nudity are all over current television, — especially on HBO — but “The White Lotus” Season 2 excels at sexual tension, sexual politics, and sexuality itself as if manifests between characters. Horny is an energy, not an action. With an attractive cast of all ages (if lacking other types of diversity), the unbearably romantic Italian backdrop, and Cristobal Tapia de Veer’s propulsive score, HBO is poised to deliver the horniest show of the season.
Crafting a horny show is no easy task, nor is de-throning 2022’s reigning champ, “Bridgerton.” Season 1 of the Netflix smash has a lot of sex, but isn’t particularly horny; Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor) and Simon (Regé-Jean Page) spend a few episodes flirting and longing for each other, but by midseason they’re married and consummating that marriage every spare moment they get. They are horny, and they solve that problem whenever it arises, cutting the sexual tension and setting it back to zero. Horniness, flirtation, sexual tension — all these terms connote a level of suspense and intrigue, the possibility that the characters experiencing these feelings won’t actually get to act on them.
“Bridgerton” Season 2 explores and spectacularly executes the concept of sexy, with Anthony (Jonathan Bailey) and Kate (Simone Ashley) using every last shred of willpower to stop themselves from doing the same thing. While some accused Chris Van Dusen’s steamy Netflix drama of pulling its sexual punches this time around, that core chemistry was Season 2’s true diamond. Few joys in this world compare to watching two attractive people yearn and burn for each other in a TV show, resist their urges for hours, breathe longingly into each other’s mouths, and finally act on their feelings — but that catharsis is impossible without thoughtful and precise buildup.
“The White Lotus”
Courtesy of HBO
While the first episode of “The White Lotus” may not have a lot of sex scenes, this season’s sexiness is off the charts. The show is weaving various horny threads right now, undoubtedly leading up to something more salacious and shocking than anyone expects. Cam (Theo James) is playing games right from the outset, winking at Harper (Aubrey Plaza) en route to the resort and getting naked in her presence on day 1 like it’s normal to wave one’s dick around in front of a friend’s spouse. Portia (Haley Lu Richardson) and Albie (Alex DiMarco) dabble in some chaste flirtation, while Tanya (Jennifer Coolidge) and Greg (John Gries) work through bumps in the marital bedroom (horny or not, Tanya picking up Greg’s foot and placing it on her breast is outstanding). Lucia (Simona Tabasco) owns her sexuality, making money as a sex worker who sleeps with Dom (Michael Imperioli), and even ol’ Nono Bert (F. Murray Abraham) discusses his stamina and libido with the family (much to their chagrin).
But sex alone doesn’t make “The White Lotus” exceptional horny. It’s sex interwoven with business, with pleasure, with family and professional obligations, with propriety and politeness and everything the White Lotus resort seems to stand for but dismantle as soon as one gets a key card. White is a master of stretching unspoken emotions taut in a scene — scenes that often conclude without resolution but feel as if they could just as easily end with characters falling into bed or pulling out knives. When Cam strips down to his birthday suit in the hotel room with Harper, it’s a power play, but also a question. He’s counting on the fact that she won’t shove him onto the sofa or slap him across the face for impropriety — but neither option is impossible, which only thrills him more.
No one embodies this better than the two central couples, each of which seems to get off on the other’s perceived deficiencies. Jealousy and scorn interplay with a desire to win the unspoken competition between them, and every conversation crackles with loaded looks, hidden meaning, and added context that will be revealed as the season unfolds. After Season 1’s accidental killing, it seems increasingly likely that Season 2 will culminate in a crime of passion (with multiple victims). Unholy thoughts and alliances are already being sown, teasing characters as well as viewers with what’s to come.
Horny as it may be, “The White Lotus” Season 2 will probably not climax (sorry) with a massive orgy or sexual revelation, but the groundwork suggests that viewers can expect shock, intrigue, and a chance to examine their own perceptions of relationships, norms, and human sexuality. Some characters still haven’t crossed paths, while others have yet to even appear on the show. Episode 1’s equilibrium won’t last long before at least one person ends up dead — and the rest, it seems, may be changed forever by one wildly erotic week at the White Lotus.
“The White Lotus” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.
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