Michael Corleone’s retreat to Sicily in 1972’s “The Godfather” begins out nice sufficient — he meets and marries a neighborhood lady named Apollonia.

However by the tip of his keep, a automotive bomb kills her and shatters him. Arguably, her demise serves as little greater than a plot machine and character motivation for her grieving husband.

At one level in Season 2 of HBO’s “The White Lotus” — which replaces the luxurious Hawaiian setting from the Emmy-winning first season with a White Lotus resort in Sicily, the place that eroded Michael’s soul — a small group visits the home the place that very scene was filmed. Within the driveway is a reproduction of the automotive. Inside it, a reproduction of Apollonia.

“She blows up, like blows up? That’s somewhat, tasteless, possibly?” says one younger lady, nodding on the automotive.

A younger Stanford graduate, concerned about her, shortly bemoans the film: “Males love the ‘The Godfather’ as a result of they really feel emasculated by fashionable society. It’s a fantasy a few time once they might exit and remedy all their issues with violence and sleep with each lady and are available residence to their spouse who doesn’t ask them any questions and makes them pasta.”

“Hey, hey, hey,” an older character interjects. “It’s a traditional male fantasy.”

It doesn’t really feel like mere coincidence that Simonetta Stefanelli, the actress who performed Apollonia and appeared topless within the movie, was solely 16 years outdated on the time, which has turn out to be a blemish on the film’s legacy. On author/director Mike White’s thoughts within the new season, which premieres Sunday, are the ability dynamics of sexual politics: Who has mentioned energy, the way it’s abused, who’s exploited and who’s exploiting, and in essentially the most dire of conditions, who’s the hunter and who’s the hunted.

Very similar to the primary season, “The White Lotus” kicks off with an unidentified lifeless physique and shortly appears to neglect about it, making a time leap to per week prior. It even contains this tantalizing alternate between the lodge supervisor and one other worker: “What number of lifeless company are there?” “I don’t know. Just a few.”

As soon as once more, the joke is on the fashionable viewer obsessive about binge-watching streaming, mystery-box reveals, ones that at all times want a demise to get issues going. Yeah, somebody died, the present appears to say, however you’re simple-minded — or possibly simply shallow — for considering that’s what’s essential right here.

The present’s true focus, once more, is on a solid of rich People trying to flee the trials of day by day life again residence, solely to understand they will’t. The massive distinction, which is sufficient to advocate the brand new season for followers of the present, is that this time they unwittingly discover themselves caught in one thing resembling an erotic satire.

The one returning characters are Tanya McQuoid-Hunt (Jennifer Coolidge) the impossibly dimwitted and breathtakingly insecure heiress and her now-husband Greg Hunt (Jon Gries), the no-longer-terminally-ill man she met within the first season, who appears exasperated along with his new bride. With them is a brand new face, her beleaguered, depressed assistant Portia (Haley Lu Richardson), who yearns for somewhat bed room enjoyable with a scorching Italian man however is ordered by Tanya to stay in her room always.

Streaming TV is having an existential disaster, and viewers can inform

Additionally on the boat headed for the resort are three generations of Di Grasso males who hope to discover their Sicilian heritage however spend many of the journey specializing in their points with ladies. There’s the grandfather Bert Di Grasso (F. Murray Abraham), who thinks his lifetime of (what he erroneously believes to be discreet) affairs is the norm; his sex-addicted, Hollywood producer son Dominic (Michael Imperioli) struggling to alter; and his grandson Albie (Adam DiMarco) who, armed with progressive speaking factors, assures himself that he’s nothing like the lads he’s touring with.

Rounding out the crew are two married {couples}: Cameron (Theo James) and Daphne Sullivan (Meghann Fahy), whose fixed PDA and boasts about how they by no means struggle draw the suspicions of the cynical Harper Spiller (Aubrey Plaza) and, more and more, her husband and Cameron’s school roommate Ethan (Will Sharpe), who lately joined the ranks of the rich after promoting his firm.

This time round, although, quite than juxtapose the company with the lodge’s workers — with whom this installment spends little time — it’s two younger, native burgeoning prostitutes, Lucia (Simona Tabasco) and Mia (Beatrice Grannò) instigating many of the battle after Dominic offers them week-long entry to the lodge.

Quickly sufficient, as, erm, everybody’s relations overlap and turn out to be extra sophisticated, it appears like an anaconda is wrapped across the whole resort, slowly tightening, tightening, tightening.

“The White Lotus” started as a covid-era creation when HBO wanted a sequence that might be filmed comparatively simply whereas adhering to strict security protocols. The consequence was genius: what at first look felt like an escape to beautiful Hawaii when none of us might journey turned out to be the rich vacationers’ worst nightmare. What might be extra claustrophobic than realizing you may’t escape your self, at the same time as you escape to the world’s most stunning locales?

This seven-episode season nonetheless retains that central motif — our characters shortly notice how claustrophobic being caught with themselves might be, even in a wide ranging Italian resort — however due to the lifting of mentioned restrictions, extra of the present is ready to spill out onto the streets of Sicily and its surrounding cities. The power to flee the escape, which naturally solely invitations extra distress, solely serves to bolster the theme.

For some viewers, this all may really feel like a slight rehash, idiosyncratic because it is likely to be. However although these new episodes (of which 5 had been made accessible to critics) meander at occasions, Season 2 is extra tightly plotted and there are sufficient new concepts, with even essentially the most staid insights heightened by White’s razor-sharp writing, for it to really feel contemporary.

Let’s simply hope that, regardless of our franchise-centric leisure tradition, White will have the ability to cease when he runs out of compelling concepts. The brand new season works, however the concept of spending a 3rd trip at a White Lotus resort (with one more purple herring of a lifeless physique) already feels a bit tiring. As any good bellhop is aware of, it’s essential to not overstay your welcome.

The White Lotus (one hour) returns at 9 p.m. Sunday on HBO.

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