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The White Lotus: Season 2's Daphne

Daphne is a character that surprises us. At first glance, she is reminiscent of the characters of Season 1, a season which seemed to focus its thematic indictments on issues of class. She reminds us, perhaps, of a younger version of Nicole Mossbacher if she had been a stay-at-home mum, or of Shane’s mother who crashes her son’s honeymoon for a few days. Problematically, though, for an audience that senses it should criticise this woman who cannot remember whether or not she voted, she is so much more magnetic than these women from Season 1. Even more so, she is a lot more instantaneously magnetic than Harper, the woman she is held up against throughout the seven episodes.


Daphne is played by Meghann Fahy, best known for her roles in theatre and The Bold Type. She transforms many of her magnetic qualities from her character in The Bold Type for The White Lotus, perhaps combining this character with aspects of Gossip Girl’s Serena van der Woodsen. Her husband, played by Theo James, begins the show seemingly in the position of control in their relationship, but as the seven episodes progress, we begin to see Daphne not just in control of her relationship, but managing all the people around her with a magical effortlessness. 


The cracks in Daphne and her husband’s relationship begin to show when she takes Harper away to the famous town of Noto. She plans to stay the night in this city away from her husband without telling anyone. She tells Harper how he has crazy abandonment issues which this stay will incite. She says these are the kind of little games she likes to play. And she’s right. Her husband loses it. Perhaps we saw this coming from his over-the-phone rage episode at the airline that had lost his bags. Fuming with his wife, Theo James’s character, Cameron, decides to turn his and Ethan’s night into a booze and drug-filled party, with Italian prostitutes to boot, proclaiming to Ethan that ‘everyone cheats’. Thus begins the domino effect of infidelity and blurred lines between the two couples. And thus commences Daphne’s display of control.


Daphne’s philosophy is to do whatever it takes to avoid being, what she calls, a ‘victim of life’. And her means of doing this, her little wifely peccadilloes, are held in stark contrast to her husband’s for their ambiguous representation in the show. They are tip-toed around. The trainer that she tells Harper about - is he her lover? Is he the father of her son, who, in the photo we see of him, looks remarkably like the description she gives us of her trainer? When she leads Ethan into the island, like a sort of Greek siren, do they get revenge on their spouses sexually? The White Lotus is powerful for its suggestion, for its insinuation - Daphne is kept mysterious, unknowable, yet all-knowing.


And what’s worse - or, tantalizingly better -  for the viewers? Her marriage with Cameron is completely unaffected by this tumultuous and eventful couples' holiday. They are left unaffected, suggesting that for them, this is nothing out of the ordinary. Daphne can return to her kids, the kids which Cameron pretends not to hear screaming for their daddy over FaceTime as he sighs and brushes his teeth in the other room. The two of them, the ‘perfect couple’, will return home, Christmas gifts bought in Noto in tow. There is even Daphne’s suggestion that this particular foursome will holiday together again - her husband sat next to her, sporting a bruise on his face from where his supposed ‘friend’ Ethan punched him in the face for hitting on his wife, grins widely and proclaims that next year…the Maldives!


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