What we know — and what we want — from ‘The White Lotus’ Season 3

Evan Ross Katz is In The Know’s pop culture contributor. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram for more.

“Whenever I stay at a White Lotus, I always have a memorable time, always,” Jennifer Coolidge’s Tanya declared in the opening minutes of season one of the critically and culturally acclaimed HBO series, The White Lotus. That would prove to be true in spades when she wound up dead in the show’s climactic finale on Sunday. But aside from the rampant deaths, what’s not to love? Season one brought us to the beaches of Maui, and season two brought us palaces and palazzos of Sicily. Where to next?

Not even halfway through its run last season, HBO announced that the series would return for a third installment, stating only that it would be “following a new group of guests at another White Lotus property.” But despite our collective foaming at the mouth for more, we’ll need to wait it out. “I need to reboot a little bit,” creator Mike White told Katie Couric on her podcast. “I don’t have a lot of gas in the tank. So I need to figure out how to unplug and refresh or something.” Still, many can’t help but begin to cast an eye toward the show’s future, prognosticating where it will be set, which cast member(s) will be returning (if any) and what the theme might be. Fortunately, some of those questions have been addressed, if not answered entirely.

The first season dealt with money. The second season dealt with sex (not politics and power, as was the original plan). What about the third? “Maybe it would be a satirical and funny look at death and Eastern religion and spirituality,” White said during his official post-show analysis of the finale. “It feels like it could be a rich tapestry to do another round.”

He said more on this in an interview with Vanity Fair conducted just days ago. “We are going to scout in Asia and look at countries there,” he told them. “My instinct is that maybe it has something to do with spirituality. Eastern versus Western religion or Western people in an Eastern culture. Maybe after sex it would be nice to have something that’s a little more celestial or something that’s a little more out of the carnal, I guess. But I don’t know. I have to beg off, to be honest, because I don’t really know.”

The internet has thrown out many ideas, largely in jest. Bridgeport, Connecticut. Dragonfly Inn. The Maldives. Great Wolf Lodge. Many, like the show’s music supervisor Este Haim, have called for a ski resort-themed season. If White has given several interviews expressing both interest in and a scouting trip to Asia, I think it’s safe to say that it’s less an “if in Asia” and more a “where in Asia” at this juncture. (St. Mortiz for season four, though, perhaps?)

So, who should come back? Let’s start with who White has already spoken to.

Alexandra Daddario and Jake Lacy, who played newlyweds Rachel and Shane in season one, spoke to Deadline about the possibility of them returning for a future season — an idea spurred by White himself. “Mike texted Alex and I with this idea for an episode where the two of us are talking for a half hour,” Lacy said. “It’s just the banality of rich people on a boat.” He added his hope that he and Molly Shannon, who played his mother, Kitty, in season one, would have made a cameo in season two. “I had hoped that Molly Shannon and I would be in the back of a shot; the two of us on vacation in another location, chewing out a concierge. It’s like, ‘That guy is still out there. He’s not even on trial; the dude is still going on vacation!’”

Connie Britton, who played CEO and zen mother Nicole, explained that the original plan was to have her character return for season two. “There was an idea that I loved for the character,” she said. “Our intention is to do it in the third season. A piece of casting didn’t work in the second season and we’re hoping to do that in the third season. I would love to see a spinoff on every character in that show.”

Murray Bartlett, who won an Emmy for his performance as Armand, the first season’s hotel manager, offered two possible ways for the show to bring back its Emmy winners (Coolidge also won for her performance in the first season), both of whose characters were killed off. “Well, we can always go back in time or come back as a ghost,” he offered. While I’m not opposed to any idea that allows Bartlett and Coolidge to return, I’d be more into the idea of them returning as new characters, a la Sarah Michelle Gellar returning to All My Children (a role she, too, won an Emmy Award for) 16 years after she left. But, let’s be honest, the likelihood of that happening is slim. That said, an exploration of spirituality could easily bring us into the afterlife, so let’s not rule anything out entirely.

I’d love to see Valentina, season two’s hotel manager played by Sabrina Impacciatore, be the character that crosses between seasons, with her managing a newly opened White Lotus destination in the Philippines or Indonesia. I think watching her having to contend with the usual snafus of opening a new business, being in a new location where she does not speak the native language, along with the stresses of an always needy clientele would give her a lot of places to go. Plus, maybe we find her a girlfriend?

As much as I’d love to see Harper and/or Daphne return, I think we got as close to a happy ending with these two as there is to get. Though the thought of more Daphne, in particular, excites me, it’s hard to imagine where we’d go with that character on yet another vacation. What seems more exciting is the prospect of vaulting Daphne into another show’s universe like Succession. Probability? Low. Intrigue? High.

I’d love to see the show expand into at least eight episodes. We got up to seven in season two from six in season one, so it doesn’t seem like an entirely unjustifiable ask. Why? No particular reason other than feeling like the more White Lotus footage that exists equals more White Lotus content to be disseminated on the internet equals a better, more united society? Think Elle Woods’ justification that “happy people don’t shoot their husbands… They just don’t.”

At the end of the day, season three’s mere greenlighting alone is a reason to celebrate. If season two proved anything, it’s that lightning can’t strike twice. The concept of the series is firm enough to hold it together but pliable enough to allow for modifications. That’s key. No matter where we end up or with whom, as long as there’s a White Lotus sign outside of the porte-cochere, it’ll be a trip worth taking.

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