Ciao, and welcome back to The White Lotus. At least two things remain constant since the first season, set in Hawaii, and the new Sicily-set season that premiered Sunday: First, the anxiety-inducing dysfunctional dynamics between the guests. And second, Jennifer Coolidge and Jon Gries as unlikely lovers Tanya and Greg.
But while Tanya, so far, is her usual self-absorbed but well-intentioned self, her new husband has shifted from warm and charismatic to harsh and secretive.
Greg’s return alone came as a surprise to many viewers, as he revealed he was dying from a mysterious illness the last time we saw him. The character’s reappearance was a shock to Jon Gries, too, as he relayed to The White Lotus creator Mike White: ““I remember I had a conversation with Mike during the first season, when we were filming, and he was like, ‘You know, Tanya and Greg might have to come back for Season 2.’ I said, ‘How can Greg come back for Season 2?’ I was playing literally that he was dying, because Mike wasn’t telling me anything,” he told Newsweek.
You would think that Greg, who has seemingly been given a miraculous second chance at life, would be more upbeat and charming than ever, right? But no. Nearly every scene including Greg from this season’s first episode depicts him displaying various degrees of douchebaggery. To start, he goes radio silent when Tanya texts him in advance of meeting him at the hotel, masking his reasons behind a vague work-related excuse. Immediately after, he gets unreasonably ticked off by the presence of Tanya’s young assistant, Portia (Haley Lu Richardson), and demands that she leave. Shortly after they go up to their room, Tanya attempts to seduce Greg, and he only complies after making it clear that he’s irritated by her request. At the end of the episode, Tanya finds him whispering behind a closed door, and gets another suspicious excuse when she confronts him about his secrecy. And, the cherry on top: throughout the episode, Greg makes derogatory comments about Tanya’s diet and weight.
What could be the reason for his abrupt change? What, if anything, elapsed during the unspecified amount of time between their stays in Hawaii and Italy?
Jennifer Coolidge told Newsweek: “I think his near-death experience maybe humbled him for half a second, but now he’s feeling good. He’s a lot of work. That’s the thing, when you sign up for someone, sometimes you have no idea what you’re getting into, some people are just… You think that they are only in love with you … but sometimes people are complicated and, you know, they can be many things.” Clearly, Coolidge is committed to keeping the ambiguity intact.
The beginning of the White Lotus Season 2 premiere – which foreshadows the season’s dire end, if Season 2 follows the pattern of Season 1 – makes clear to viewers that not one, but multiple guests will die. Could Greg’s behavior lead to his demise – or, perhaps, his wife’s? Or is something even more sinister happening?
The White Lotus airs on HBO on Sundays at 9/8c.
Main image: Jon Gries and Jennifer Coolidge as Greg and Tanya in The White Lotus Season 2.