The wild opening credits of ‘White Lotus’ season 2: everything you need to know

Beautiful Sicilian landscapes, men and women courting each other, two goats — ahem — going at it… These are just some of the scenes you’ll see when you watch the brilliant opening credits for The White Lotus Season 2.

Accompanied by Cristobal Tapia de Veer’s remixed version of the season 1 theme song, this all-new title sequence begins as a frescoed Italian dream before descending into lusty madness – just like The White Lotus Season 2 itself. It’s a perfect encapsulation of the show’s themes, and it comes to us courtesy of the studio’s Mark Bashore and Katrina Crawford Plains from yonder.

Bashore and Crawford are also the team behind the lavish, wallpaper-inspired opening of Season 1, with recent work including the magical title sequence of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.

ALSO SEE:

‘The White Lotus’ Season 2 Review: Take a vacation with the horny elite

In a video call with Mashable, Bashore and Crawford dug deep into the secrets of Season 2’s main title sequence, from its early inspiration, to the technicalities of its creation, to the layered meanings of each title card.

Get inspired in a Sicilian villa

A fresco of a burning castle on a cliff overlooking the ocean.

This series is on fire… literally.
Credit: Plains of Yonder

In Episode 3 of Season 2, White Lotus Resort guests Daphne (Meghann Fahy) and Harper (Aubrey Plaza) spend the night in the Sicilian town of Noto, in a palazzo whose walls are covered in elaborate frescoes. The frescoes are examples of the painting tradition of optical illusionan optical illusion that makes us think we’re staring at 3D pastoral scenes through broken stone walls.

Look closely at the frescoes in the episode and you’ll see elements from the title sequence such as fountains or statues. That’s because Bashore, Crawford and The White Lotus creator Mike White took inspiration from the episode’s shooting location – the real Villa Tasca in Palermo – to design the credits.

Crawford photographed the Villa Tasca frescoes to serve as the basis for the sequence. Then she and Bashore created their own paintings and hybrid frescoes, new and old, to form images that served The White Lotus The beats and themes of Season 2’s story.

“Almost every shot has been altered in some way,” Bashore said. “We’ve made several [paintings] which are completely new, or maybe they contain a frame from the villa, but we made the painting inside ourselves. So it’s a total mix.”

Almost every shot has been altered in some way.

– Mark Bashore

That means that when you watch the credits, you take in a combination of ancient frescoes and composites that are much newer – a perfect complement to the theme song’s mix of classical and techno dance music.

“Some of the paintings are 60 days old,” estimated Bashore. “Hopefully you don’t see the difference.”

Crawford explained the process of creating new images using Plaza’s title card as an example. When Plaza’s name appears, it is accompanied by an image of a bird attacking another bird – an image Bashore and Crawford assembled from multiple sections of the Villa Tasca frescoes.

A fresco of two birds fighting over a pink tiled dome.

These birds were not originally fighting.
Credit: Plains of Yonder

“There were [paintings of] birds in the villa, but where they were is not where they ended up [in the credits]Crawford said. “They had their own little journey.” Bashore and Crawford took the background image from one painting in the villa and two different birds from other frescoes. To get the birds to communicate with each other, the creative team changed their positions and the beak of the attacking bird, then added falling feathers to the background to emphasize the seriousness of the attack Crawford described the birds as a “simpler” example, as other credit-specific frescoes required even more adjustment and fine-tuning.

One of the more intense alterations involved a fresco of a fisherman looking out to sea, against a clifftop castle in the background. In the series, the castle is on fire – a white Lotus-some addition – and therefore becomes the main draw of the image. “We changed the focus in many ways from what was already painted,” Bashore said.

ALSO SEE:

Who Exactly Dies in Season 2 of ‘The White Lotus’?

Everything means something inside The White Lotus Season 2 credits

A frieze of cherubs on an orange ceiling.

The angels have a special meaning.
Credit: Plains of Yonder

For Bashore and Crawford, every second of the white Lotus title sequence was a chance to tell a story. Every time you see an actor’s name on screen, the accompanying fresco somehow speaks to their character.

“For each character, we came back with 10 storylines that would work,” said Crawford. Among the clipped storylines? A hot tub sequence, probably mirroring the hot tub scene from Episode 2 between Dom (Michael Imperioli), Mia (Beatrice Grannò) and Lucia (Simona Tabasco).

The storylines and images that remain are wonderfully rich and often have layers of meaning. Take the cherubs that appear along with Fahy’s name. “Meghann Fahy gets the angels because they are like that [Daphne’s] babies that she’s obsessed with, but it’s also these brutal creatures in mythology who wreak havoc and play games, which is also a bit of a signature for her,” said Crawford.

The title sequence is also borrowed from mythology elsewhere. We get a direct reference to the Greek myth of Leda and the swan, in which Zeus rapes a young woman in his swan form. It’s a striking image that hints at dark undertones in the season’s discussion of sexuality.

A fresco of a swan on top of a naked woman.

The credits refer to Leda and the swan.
Credit: Plains of Yonder

In a nod to myth and art history, Bashore and Crawford included dolphins in key moments of the opening scene, with dolphin statues watching characters from their perches on a fountain. Many renaissance painters use it [dolphins] to represent things like rashness or making crazy, impulsive decisions, but they are also always associated with romance. They are associated with Venus, the Roman goddess of love,” said Crawford Raphael’s famous fresco from 1512 The Triumph of Galateadepicting the water nymph on a chariot drawn by dolphins and painted for the Villa Farnesina in Rome, om Roman sculptures of Venus flanked by dolphins. All these references add to the dreaminess of the opening and define the Mediterranean setting of the season.

Animals, including the dolphins, proved valuable storytelling tools for Bashore and Crawford. “It’s almost easier to explain people through animals than people through people,” said Bashore, who estimated that 50 percent of the animals you see in the title sequence are new additions to the frescoes.

Some animals are innocent, like the sweet little lamb that appears next to Haley Lu Richardson’s name. Richardson plays Portia, a young woman in her twenties trapped in Sicily with her fickle boss Tanya (Jennifer Coolidge). Like the lamb, Crawford described Portia’s character as “lost.”

“She doesn’t know what’s going on. She’s in this beautiful place, but she’s just stuck there.”

A fresco of a nude male statue in a garden.  A small brown dog lifts its paw to urinate on the statue.

Is Cameron the dog, the statue, or both?
Credit: Plains of Yonder

A personal favorite animal of mine is on the more crafty side: it’s a small dog that lifts its paw to urinate on a statue of a naked, muscular man. The dog and statue appear with the name of Theo James, and like the other frescoes, this one has multiple meanings. One interpretation is that the statue represents James’ character Cameron. He’s a smug, rich jerk who puts himself on a pedestal, and in episode 1 he strips naked for Harper. (In a cheeky reference to that scene, the credits introduce the image with a close-up on his genitals before zooming out to reveal the full frame.)

However, Bashore and Crawford argue that Cameron is just as much the peeing dog as the statue. As Bashore told it, “Someone said, ‘oh this is funny. There’s a dog urinating on the statue of Theo James,’ and Katrina said, ‘no, maybe that’s [Cameron]. That dog lifting its paw is an excellent metaphor for toxic masculinity.'”

Sexy, sexy chaos

A fresco of two goats mating.

Things are about to get wild.
Credit: Plains of Yonder

Individually, each image of the opening tells a story. Put them all together and you get an epic story in three acts. According to Crawford, the sequence “opens with a sense of awe. It’s very beautiful and there’s more true, romantic intent. It’s like an opera.” Then, about the moment we see the attacking birds that accompany Plaza’s name, the mood begins to change. “That classic white Lotus music comes in and that’s when things start to slip off the rails. Things are not going well in paradise,” said Bashore.

Finally, we descend into a horny, violent disorder. Between mating goats and oral sex on the beach, we catch a glimpse of a possible stabbing and a burning castle. At this point, the music evokes what Bashore described as a “sweaty nightclub.” He went on to say, “Everything is going wild. Even the architecture is getting sexual and erotic.”

There were no overtly sexual scenes on the walls of the Villa Tasca. Romantic scenes such as a man courting a woman by playing his pipe were the farthest these frescoes strayed toward the erotic chaos we see in the credits. This meant that Bashore and Crawford had to create the more suggestive scenes themselves, while at the same time making sure to maintain the line between innuendo and outright eroticism. Bashore said one of the hardest challenges was getting the person who was having oral sex right when making the sequence.

A pink structure with three large holes in it.

Architecture, but make it evocative.
Credit: Plains of Yonder

However, some images took on a more evocative meaning based on their placement in the opening. Take the pink structure with three big holes in it. In itself it is not necessarily sexual. When it is bookended by mating goats and images of naked women, you get a new perspective. “When you’re in this mindset and you have this music, all of a sudden it becomes something more,” said Crawford.

To emphasize the salacious madness of the last act of the credits, Bashore and Crawford began incorporating more animated elements into the frescoes towards the end of the run. The eyes of statues shift to take in their surroundings, smoke and flames emanate from a castle, a fountain spouts suggestively. The movements are subtle, but help to build momentum, giving the credits more frantic energy as the camera flits around each fresco.

In 90 wild, beautiful seconds, Bashore and Crawford both catch the feeling of The White Lotus Season 2 and create a memorable opening scene. You pause, rewind and marvel at every frame. “Ultimately, our job is to get you guys ready to watch the show,” said Crawford. “So if it puts you in that mindset of [looking for] nice little details and thinking about sexual politics, then we’ve done our job.”

New episodes of The White Lotus Season 2 is available weekly, every Sunday at 9 PM ET.

Add Comment