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The Meaning Behind Those Statues In The White Lotus Season 2

"The White Lotus," a satire of the rich and privileged from the mind of Mike White, is back for a 2nd season on HBO. The basic premise is the same as last time: a group of insufferable, upper-crust tourists vacation at the luxurious White Lotus resort, their lives beginning to overlap with increasingly disturbing results. As the flash-forward in Episode 1 informs us, multiple people will wind up dead. This season, the hotel is in Italy, and aside from the name on its marquee, the main connection to Season 1 is Jennifer Coolidge, who returns as the neurotic and fabulously rich Tanya McQuoid. Among new additions to the cast are "Parks and Recreation" alum Aubrey Plaza as employment lawyer Harper, F. Murray Abraham as family patriarch Bert, and Michael Imperioli of "The Sopranos" fame as Bert's son, Dom.

"The White Lotus" portends its characters' doom with repeated visual iconography. The waves on the Italian shore are rocky, clashing with the pristine expanse of the resort's swimming pool. But perhaps the most ominous visuals are the painted porcelain flowerpots scattered throughout the hotel, sculpted in the shape of a severed head. As a hotel employee explains to some guests in Episode 1, there's morbid history to those vases. What they represent may be the key to understanding "The White Lotus" Season 2's central ideas.

The statues in The White Lotus Season 2 represent a disturbing bit of Italian folklore

The colorful porcelain busts dotting the titular White Lotus resort in Season 2 are an Italian tradition based on a bit of folklore from the 11th century. Known as the Testa Di Moro, per Turuni, the story goes that a young Moor declared his love for a woman who was relaxing on her balcony in Palermo. She requited his love, but soon discovered that her new flame had a wife and children waiting for him in his home country. Jealous and angry, she decapitated the man and, in a maudlin stroke of interior decorating inspiration, turned his head into a flower pot so that he'd stay with her forever. According to the folklore, her entire town copied the idea and made clay pots in the shape of a Moor's head.

Mike White has emphasized the scandalous themes of Season 2, telling TV Insider, "This one is more about sexual politics, with elements of a bedroom farce where people are sneaking in and out of hotel rooms." Indeed, throughout the 2nd season, we can expect to watch the ensemble cast give in to the temptations of lust, forming a house of cards that seems sure to come toppling down, bringing them with it. The repeated motif of the Testa Di Moro makes a lot of sense in that context. Just as the woman in the traditional tale murders her lover in an act of revenge, the opening scene of "The White Lotus" Season 2 informs us that multiple characters will be slain by the season finale, and it would be unsurprising if the motivation for murder is the betrayal of love.

"The White Lotus" airs Sundays at 9 p.m EST on HBO, and streams simultaneously on HBO Max.