HBO Drama The White Lotus quickly claimed one of the best opening credits. In addition to the provocative Renaissance-style imagery that made up Season 2’s title sequence, Emmy-winning composer Cristobal Tapia de Vere returns with a remix of Season 1’s eclectic earworm. (Check out his tape original from the 2013 UK series Utopia for more electrifying tunes.)
Season 2’s decadent but increasingly sinister opening credits were created by Katrina Crawford and Mark Bashore, who also created the show’s Season 1 credits. The pair don’t plant overt clues to the multiple deaths this season, but instead draw symbolic meanings to each character’s journey. Let’s dissect these meanings based on the six Season 2 episodes that have already aired and try to predict what salacious high jinks are to come.
Warning: Spoilers ahead.
The first image we see in season 2 opening credits shows a man bowing to a curtseying woman – a scene from what appears to be traditional Renaissance lovers (the style of art that appeared in Italy at the end of the 14th century). Here, title creators Crawford and Bashore set up the themes of the second season in Sicily: where season 1 focused on privilege and colonization, season 2 explores themes of male heterosexuality.
In the lower left corner, a shield shows two rings connected by sound branches. In the other: two alliances crossed by a dagger. These rings seem to represent the two central marriages of season 2: the crumbling solidarity of Harper (Aubrey Plaza) and Ethan (Will Sharpe), and the accepted duplicity of Cameron (Theo James) and Daphne (Meghann Fahy).
Then the camera zooms in and reveals a woman spying on the lovers. This could be another sign of infidelity (in episode 3, Cameron sleeps with sex worker Lucia), as well as Harper’s interest in the secrets behind Cameron and Daphne’s love front (also in episode 3, Daphne reveals that she is aware of Cameron’s infidelity).
The Woman and the Chained Monkey
The camera pans to show a blonde woman holding a chain attached to a monkey. This could be interpreted in many ways – if the woman is meant to represent Tanya (Jennifer Coolidge), then the monkey could be her husband Greg (Joe Gries), who feels indebted to Tanya after paying her medical bills and essentially saving her life . The monkey could also be a symbol for Tanya’s assistant, Portia (Hayley Lu Richardson), who is forced to go on vacation with her boss.
The innocent, babies and the sphinx
Crawford and Bashore even layered meaning when an actor’s name appears in the opening credits. In an interview, they revealed that the coinciding image when an actor’s name appears reflects their character’s traits and background. The next scene shows a man playing music for a woman with a cheerful dog nearby. Here, actor Adam DiMarco’s name comes up – DiMarco plays the sincere and naive Stanford graduate Albie, who seems determined to act like a gentleman to women, unlike his father.
Next, we see actor Meghann Fahy’s name appear on an ornate image of two naked baby boys. When not on vacation, Fahy’s character, Daphne, is a stay-at-home mom. In episode 5, it is revealed that these boys may not be Cameron’s children, but those of the personal trainer Daphne sees while Cameron is tied up at work.
Then actress Beatrice Grannò’s name appears with a golden sphinx — her character Mia, an aspiring singer, resists her friend Lucia’s attempts to introduce her to sex work…until the episode 4, where she chooses to sleep with the pianist Giuseppe in order to pursue her musical career. In Greek mythology, the enigma of the sphinx refers to three stages of man: baby, adult and old. It’s not hard to deduce which three men are referenced here in The White Lotus – the Di Grassos. Mia and her friend Lucia have numerous encounters with the three Di Grasso men.
The donkey and the lovers
Actor Jon Gries’ name then appears on an image of a man and woman riding a donkey – a donkey looking almost slyly over its shoulder at us. This could symbolize Gries’ character, Greg, who may be cheating on his wife Tanya with another woman (or another man, according to a theory involving British expat Quentin). In episode 2, Greg leaves Tanya alone at the resort, saying he has to get back to Denver for work.
We then see the names of actors Tom Hollander and Sabrina Impacciatore on men and women separated on either side of a room. This seems to indicate that Hollander’s character, Quentin, a wealthy gay British expat, is on vacation with his friends. Meanwhile, Impacciatore’s character, Valentina, the resort manager, seems to reveal feelings for receptionist Isabella (Eleonora Romandini) in Episode 4.
The cracked fresco, a giant statue and fighting birds
In an intriguing mural set on the water, a man is seen bowing to a younger man and a woman dropping a necklace into the sea. Actor Michael Imperioli’s name appears here – his character Dominic, a sex addict and father of Albie, might ask forgiveness from his son and wife, who are disgusted by his affairs and betrayal. In episode 4, he buys his wife a jewel as a gift.
Next, we see actor Theo James’ name on a giant statue of a naked man – in Episode 1, James’ character Cameron deliberately strips naked and exposes himself to Harper. Here we also see a dog peeing on the statue – a disrespect to everything it represents.
Above are two birds at war with each other, alongside actor Aubrey Plaza’s name. The light and dark pecking birds could represent the dueling intentions of Plaza’s character, Harper. In Episode 6, Harper appears to consider cheating on her husband Ethan with Cameron, after she suspects Ethan of lying to her about what he and Cameron really did while she and Daphne were away at the posh Noto Palace.
The sacrificial lamb and the offering
In the next scene, next to actor Haley Lu Richardson’s name, we see what looks like a lamb and a maid sitting on the floor. Richardson’s character Portia is at the disposal of her boss Tanya, so perhaps the maid represents her lower status. It also looks like the maid has her back turned to the lamb – perhaps the lamb is meant to represent Albie, the man Portia found too sweet, innocent and unexciting compared to the charismatic, cheeky nephew by Quentin, Jack (Leo Woodall).
The next scene is a little confusing – it shows a man making an offering to a royal-looking woman, with actor Will Sharpe’s name on it. Does Sharpe’s character, Ethan, apologize to Harper? Or is it to represent his new wealth that he shares with her?
The cat and aggressive men
Next: a little cat with leopard spots and a little bird in its mouth, sneaking around a column. The name of actress Simona Tabasco appears here – she plays local hustler and sex worker Lucia, who exclaims in episode 4 that she has turned her former conservative friend Mia into a monster. Maybe Mia’s innocence is meant to be the dead little bird in the cat’s mouth. In later episodes, Lucia also seems to like the impressionable Albie more and more. Perhaps his innocence is also represented by the dead bird.
Actor Leo Woodall’s name appears next, alongside an image of one man standing over another. On the one hand. it looks like a threatening situation: the foot of the first is placed in a rather perilous position between the legs of the second. Could there be a bad matchup in the cards for Woodall’s character, Jack? On the other hand, perhaps this scene is intended to have a more sexual implication: We learn in episode 5 that Jack engages in sexual acts with his “uncle” Quentin.
The burning building and the white swan
As the rhythm of the music picks up, the images become even more explicit. We see:
- A burning hotel-like building in the distance – no prizes for guessing the meaning behind this one (things are about to metaphorically catch fire at the White Lotus).
- Two men engaging in sexual activity on a beach.
- The goats also engaged in a sexual act.
- Three circular holes in the side of a wall – which could represent the three generations of Di Grasso men and their behavior towards women following a circular pattern.
- General scenes of violence and blood.
- A woman seduced by a swan – this seems to be a clear reference to the story of Leda and the swan in Greek mythology, where the god Zeus turns into a swan and rapes Leda, the queen of Sparta.
- A fountain rising — a phallic image.
There are two episodes left of The White Lotus, Season 2. So with these clues, there’s still time to put on your deerstalker and deduce the twisted fates of the not-so-perfect White Lotus guests.
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