The Sopranos and The White Lotus Season Two Common Themes
The White Lotus was the first show that I watched after The Sopranos that felt similarly captivating and powerful for many reasons, not least of which is the way it illustrates the shit show commonly known as the human condition. And that’s what this blog post is for: it’s an exploration of common themes from The Sopranos and The White Lotus Season Two.
Duality - The Sopranos Specialty - in The White Lotus Season Two
First, both the opening and closing of The Sopranos and The White Lotus season two have some things in common. In both shows, we start out in this sunny, bright, seemingly festive environment (at least superficially). But by the end of the show, there’s this strong feeling of emptiness, tension, and anticipatory grief over what we know is to come.
Next, another common theme in The Sopranos and The White Lotus season two is identity. You know, in other words, “Who am I? Where am I going?” We’ve heard that somewhere before, right? You know, from that Kevin Finnerty or whatever? By the way, I sure was impressed to be in the presence of a man like Kevin Finnerty, whose sales team snatched the brass ring 12 consecutive quarters!
Along that same line of careers, life choices, and the like, Tanya’s assistant, Portia, was trying to figure that out herself. And she thought that going to Sicily would give her a fresh, renewed perspective. On the contrary, it became a nightmare that Portia likely would’ve never imagined, despite admitting that Tanya and Greg are “psychos.” (That “psycho” term reminds me of when Detective Vin Makazian’s lover told Tony that Vin thought Paulie was “psycho.”)
Yeah. Who couldn't?
Next, here comes the Prozac! Well, maybe. Speaking more to Portia’s character, I read something about folks critiquing her for “complaining” about feeling depressed in Italy at this gorgeous resort. Sure, she’s in Italy, but so what? Tony Soprano’s got the world by the balls but he can’t stop feeling like a f*cking loser. Let’s face it. Long gone are the days of ignorantly assuming that fame, money, power, and prestige equate to life satisfaction and happiness. That applies for television series like The Sopranos and The White Lotus, along with the “real lives” of folks like you and me. After all, life imitates art, and art imitates life.
Romanticization of the Past and Italy in Particular
Another common theme from The Sopranos and The White Lotus season two is Italy, of course! I’ve never had the privilege of visiting Italy, and I really hope to do so someday. With that said, Bert’s (F. Murray Abraham’s character) desire to reconnect with his past was not reciprocated. When Bert, Dominic, and Albie managed to find the home of their supposed relatives, their company was NOT welcomed.
Perhaps the idea of reconnecting with old family roots was more appealing than what they actually found once they got there. To be fair, they were pretty harsh to the Di Grasso boys, in my opinion, but who knows what their perspective’s been shaped by? Along this subject line, I think of the Godfather discussion early on in the season among Albie, Dominic, Bert, and Portia.
Next, another common theme from The Sopranos and The White Lotus season two is that nasty thing called addiction. On The Sopranos, Christopher Moltisanti is addicted to heroin. In The White Lotus, Dominic Di Grasso is addicted to sex. One kills relationships, while the other can kill relationships and people. One isn’t “better” or “worse” than the other. But I think what they represent for both Christopher and Dominic is self-medication to help them cope with the “regularness of life,” in the words of Chrissy.
Michael Imperioli in The Sopranos and The White Lotus Season Two
Extramarital Affairs - Little Peccadillos?
On the other hand, another common theme in The Sopranos and The White Lotus season two is extramarital affairs and the lying associated with it. If I think about couples from The White Lotus that remind me of Tony and Carmela, I see Daphne and Cameron. Though they surely have their differences, too. For example, with Daphne and Cameron in The White Lotus, both “play the game” and seem to enjoy it.
Next, let’s talk about water and death. One of the most powerful, impactful deaths on The Sopranos occurs when Tony, Sil, and Paulie take their best friend, Puss, out on a boat and shoot him after finding out he’s been working with the FBI. It was a very solemn moment, though one with less uncertainty than in The White Lotus, where we don’t really know who’s going to be whacked until it’s about to happen. But either way, there’s the water/boat similarity. I wonder if Tanya always wanted a house by the ocean…maybe in another life?
Moreover, and not surprisingly, an additional common theme in The Sopranos and The White Lotus season two is religion. In the series finale, Cameron’s near death experience was like a baptism of sorts. When I first saw him laying back in the water looking up at the sky after finally being separated from Ethan, there was a moment when I thought Cameron might actually be dead. I wondered if he’d gotten to the point that he was too weak or somehow had gotten hit on the head or something during the fight. Out of this darkness and close encounter with death, do you think Cameron will think twice now before dabbling in extramarital recreation?
Money and Greed
Moreover, another common theme we find on The Sopranos and in The White Lotus season two is money! You know what they say: You’re only as good as your last envelope, as Tony’s loyal consigliere, Silvio Dante, states so bluntly. A funny coincidence that I noticed in both The Sopranos and The White Lotus season two is $50,000. On The Sopranos, Tony gives Carmela 50 grand on two different occasions in season three. First, at the end of “Second Opinion,” Tony agrees to donate 50k to Columbia, and for Christmas, he gets her a piece of jewelry worth 50 Gs. On both occasions, the goal was the same: Cheer Carmela up so she’ll continue to look the other way with Tony’s extramarital affairs and general lifestyle choices.
Similarly, on The White Lotus, Dominic (Imperioli) gives his son, Albie, $50,000 after Albie agrees to tell his mom that Dominic’s changed for the better. I guess everything has a price. Also, I should note, this 50k request was to help a woman in Italy get on her feet. Like I said, much lies in that grey area between good and bad. Seeing Lucia and Mia feel alive and empowered was a positive silver lining in the chaos that was the season finale of The White Lotus season two.
Lack of Closure
When I watched The Sopranos series finale and witnessed the shocking cut to black, I was left with this sudden absence when I felt like there was so much more that could have been said. In the finale of The White Lotus season two, it wasn’t an instantaneous cut, but shortly after Tanya dies, we barely have time to process what’s just occurred. And I think in many ways that’s the point! As The Sopranos taught me so well, things don’t always get wrapped up with a pretty bow and resolved just as we’d like them to. This lack of closure and desire to continue on with these characters and their lives is similar to how I’ve always felt with The Sopranos at its ending.
And Onward Goes This Thing of Ours
Finally, when it’s all said and done, what makes The Sopranos and The White Lotus such phenomenal shows for me are the weird emotional attachments I feel to certain characters, including characters that may be massively flawed people. I’ll likely add more to this over the coming days as I further process my thoughts. For now, I hope you enjoyed reading, and I’d love to hear from you!