Season 2 of HBO’s smash hitbegan with a dead body, just like season 1, before zooming back seven days to reveal how we got here. There is other connective tissue between the two seasons — both follow a week in the life of the vacationing rich at the fictional White Lotus resort chain (first Hawaii, now Italy), and both feature Jennifer Coolidge at her most Jennifer Coolidgey — but other than that, it’s technically an anthology series.
This means we can make some inferences about what’s to come based on what happened last season, but showrunner Mike White won’t necessarily retread familiar territory.
Warning: Spoilers ahead for The White Lotus season 1.
The question hanging over every episode: who is the dead body floating along the shore in the prologue? And also, how did it get there? How many other deaths were there, and how did they happen?, the dead body ended up belonging to resort manager Armond (Murray Bartlett). But what about ? We’ll have to wait until the season 2 finale for these answers. In the meantime, all we can do is speculate.
Here’s what we know as of episode 5
Season 2 episode 1, Ciao, opens with Daphne (Meghann Fahey) applying sunscreen on a beach chair, alone. She’s taking one last dip in the sparkling Ionian sea before getting on a plane to go home. While she splashes around, she comes across — what else? — a dead body and runs to shore screaming. Crucially, her initial response to the body is a genuine “What the fuck?” Since she’s alone in the water, there’s no reason to interpret her shock and surprise as a performance. However, as of episode 5, Daphne is starting to seem more and more like a fully dissociated psychopath. Also, as we will soon learn, this is not going to be the only corpse.
Hotel manager Valentina arrives on the scene, and she’s promptly informed by Rocco, another hotel employee, that there’s been a death. “Salvatore says other bodies have been found,” he says. How many guests are dead? “A few.” Who is Salvatore? We finally know! In episode 5, Salvatore makes his on-screen debut as Rocco’s front desk replacement. This also explains what former front desk man Rocco was doing on the beach — Valentina moves him to beach duty to get him away from Isabella, her workplace crush.
So we have three characters who definitely survive the week: Daphne, Valentina and Rocco (four if you count Salvatore.) At the most, everyone else is dead. And at the least, one of the other main characters is dead, along with “a few” others we’ll never know. It’s also possible that the body count could even increase after the events of the first scene. Let’s take a closer look.
Which characters are most (and least) likely to die in The White Lotus season 2?
Cameron (Theo James): Between the “Testa di Moro” motif, Daphne’s affinity for dead-husband true crime shows, Ethan’s “mimetic desire” theory and Cameron’s debt to sex worker Lucia — who now has eager white knight Albie behind her but also an angry pimp, maybe?? — Cameron is really starting to look like a goner. When Daphne comes running and screaming out of the ocean in the season’s first scene, just after her brush with the drowned corpse, a tanned, shirtless man in squid-print swim trunks catches her on the beach. It’s not clear whether she knows the man, nor do we see his face. It could’ve been Cameron, but then why wasn’t he sipping an Aperol Spritz with her before she took a dip? All I know is the squid-print trunks have yet to make a second appearance, though they do seem like Cameron’s style. Then again, The White Lotus loves a red herring — and it seems to hate a comeuppance.
Quentin (Tom Hollander): What is Quentin up to? The plot thickened in episode 5, and he’s either lying about Jack being his nephew or… no, please not the alternative. Quentin’s interest in Tanya might have seemed like innocent misdirection last week, but in episode 5 things take a darker turn, when he tells Tanya he’d “die for beauty” and that he’d still do anything for his lost cowboy love, which is either referring to Greg or just the plot of Brokeback Mountain. He also mocks Tanya’s naivete about the “queen of Sicily,” which lends credence to the theory that he’s just after her money. Perhaps he’ll meet the same fate as the Isola Bella matriarch and his crumbling villa will eventually open up to the public, too.
Bert (F. Murray Abraham): Bert is “quite old” (Valentina’s words), and he already took a tumble at the pool. He’s also now “concussed” after a run-in with the remote control. Now’s as good a time as any.
Harper (Audrey Plaza): With Ethan’s inevitable discovery of Chekhov’s condom wrapper, and later the “maybe you should get a trainer” conversation with Daphne, not to mention Cameron’s hand on her thigh at dinner, Harper is starting to look less like this season’s audience surrogate and more like a tragic figure. I wouldn’t be surprised if Daphne were to orchestrate Harper’s demise, in the spirit of “do what you have to do to make yourself feel better about it.”
Didier (Bruno Gouery) and Matteo (Francesco Zecca): If several White Lotus guests have to die, it makes sense that at least one or two would be minor characters. Quentin’s coterie of men with little hats and mustaches just screams collateral damage.
Dominic (Michael Imperioli): Dominic’s sad, lonely walk on the beach in episode 5 seemed a potential swan song for the “feminist” lech. His character arc can go one of two ways — he either turns his life around, or he doesn’t. By this point, he seems to have made inroads on the former, releasing Lucia from his payroll and even turning from porn. And this may be where his character ends. We know that Dom’s wife was voiced by the inimitable Laura Dern in episode 1. What we don’t know is whether Laura Dern will make another appearance this season. According to IMDb, we should not expect further Dern-age, which suggests to me that this vacation may be Dominic’s last.
Giuseppe (Federico Scribani): After overdosing on something that was definitely not Viagra, Giuseppe has left his post at the piano bench open. For all we know, this guy’s already kicked the bucket.
Jack (Leo Woodall): If Portia’s love triangle inspires a crime of passion, my money’s on creepy Albie to kill and himbo Jack to be killed. Or: Maybe Jack falls from Quentin’s boat on the way back from Palermo.
Lucia (Simona Tabasco) and Mia (Beatrice Grannò): The dead sex worker trope has a long and disappointing precedent, and Lucia knows this: “All whores are punished in the end,” she lamented to Mia during a drug comedown shame spiral. The jury’s out on whether Lucia and Mia count as guests — Rocco was clear in episode 1 that the deaths were specifically guests — but their names were technically added to the Di Grasso reservation. Between the church sex and the Catholic guilt, it’s clear the two women have many sins to atone for. Plus, Lucia is wracking up enemies almost as fast as Cameron. Not only do Albie and Cameron owe her money, but Alessio (pimp or not) seems pretty feisty, too.
Portia (Haley Lu Richardson): I take back what I said last week about Portia’s crimes against fashion. Her episode 5 fits were adequate penance for her sartorial sins, and she’ll likely survive the trip and leave Sicily with a suitcase of crocheted Gilligan hats and oversized shorts. On the other hand, assuming Tanya survives (see below), Portia could be a good victim for whatever nefarious plot Quentin, et al., have planned.
Ethan (Will Sharpe): Like Cameron and Harper, Ethan is absent from the first scene, despite being one of Daphne’s travel companions. But Daphne tells the newcomers in episode 1 specifically that “we” leave in a few hours. If someone from her party survives, maybe it’s Ethan? Then again, episode 3’s jet ski antics seemed to foreshadow some danger in the water, especially since Cameron made sure to voice his interest in renting them way back in episode 1. Perhaps the dynamic duo isn’t quite done running waves. And perhaps those waves won’t be as calm the next time around.
Albie (Adam DiMarco): The show’s aversion to comeuppance suggests to me that the privileged Stanford grad “nice guy” is probably not going to be shown the door.
Greg (Jon Gries): Was all that conversation about Greg’s poor health last season a ruse? Or was he really cured by whatever fancy doctor Tanya got him in touch with? Either way, maybe he’ll fall ill once again, or maybe the health stuff was foreshadowing and he’ll die in a different, unrelated manner. Or maybe I’m a sucker for believing we’ll ever see Greg back in Sicily again.
Tanya (Jennifer Coolidge): Though Tanya certainly seems like she’s getting set up for a spooky demise by joining Quentin’s ragtag group of vacationing gays for a remote off-site party, a bit of extratextual evidence suggests otherwise: Tanya may actually end up being the connective tissue across all future seasons of The White Lotus. Mike White hinted to Deadline at the season 2 premiere that he’s toying with the idea of bringing Coolidge along for season 3. Unless it’s a prequel season, I’m guessing she survives Italy.
Isabella (Eleonora Romandini): Isabella seems uninterested in her boss Valentina’s romantic advances. If Isabella does succumb to the crashing waves, it’d likely be Valentina’s doing. But this seems like a stretch, since, as an employee, she wouldn’t add to the dead guest count anyway. I also doubt Rocco would recount her death as calmly as he does in episode 1.
Daphne (Meghann Fahey): In the season’s first scene, Daphne says she has “a few hours” before leaving the White Lotus resort. So she definitely has time to also fall prey to whatever mysterious presence killed the other guests, I suppose…
The same goes for Valentina (Sabrina Impacciatore) and Rocco (Federico Ferrante): They’re both very much alive in the first moments of the season, but who knows what’s in store for the finale. We’ll have to wait and see.