Spoilers ahead for The White Lotus season 2.
The White Lotus must have the best PR team in the hospitality business: In spite of an ongoing string of murders at the resort collection’s luxury hotels, guests are still booking additional stays. Before The White Lotus season 2 even reached its conclusion, HBO greenlit a third season—and there’s at least some chance Jennifer Coolidge’s character could make an appearance from beyond the grave. The season 2 finale saw the end of Tanya McQuoid-Hunt thanks to a twisted combination of failed assassination attempt, concussion, and drowning, but showrunner Mike White remains as attached as ever to Coolidge’s character.
Beyond that tempting nugget, there’s little else we know about season 3, leaving plenty of room for speculation. Let’s break down the breadcrumbs we have so far.
Has production on The White Lotus started?
Season 1 debuted in July 2021, with season 2 hitting HBO in October 2022. Production has yet to begin on The White Lotus season 3, but it seems possible that the next chapter will follow a similar year-long timeline—meaning we could be watching another season by late 2023 or early 2024.
Where will season 3 of The White Lotus take place?
Death is likely to trail The White Lotus guests across international borders, but don’t expect that to stop them from stamping their passports. Season 3 will reportedly be set in Thailand, multiple sources told Variety, though HBO has not yet confirmed the news.
Showrunner Mike White had already hinted that season 3 would branch out from previous locales—Hawaii and Sicily, respectively—for an entirely new spot.
“We just turned in our last episode to the network yesterday, so it’s hard to think about the next race,” White told Deadline in October 2022. “But if we did, I think it’d be fun to maybe go to a whole different continent. You know, we did Europe, and maybe Asia, something crazy like that, that would be fun.”
It had seemed, initially, that the show might be eyeing Tokyo as its next spot. (Johnny Knoxville almost revealed the season 3 filming location back in February. He told Vulture in an interview published February 16: “Mike White is a very close friend of mine. He and I had been in Tokyo together. I think that’s where the next … oh, I’m not giving anything away.”) With White planning to explore “eastern religion and spirituality” in the next season, filming in Tokyo made perfect sense, but it now seems as though Thailand is the likeliest locale.
What will season 3 of The White Lotus be about?
The third season will follow a new group of guests, just as the season 1 cast passed the baton for season 2. In a post-finale interview on HBO, White teased that the third season will focus on, well, death.
“The first season kind of highlighted money, and then the second season is sex, and I think the third season, it would be a satirical and funny look at death and eastern religion and spirituality. And it feels like it could be a rich tapestry to do another round of White Lotus,” he said.
Francesca Orsi, executive vice president of HBO Programming and head of HBO drama series and films, didn’t give any specific details about the possible storyline as she announced the season 3 green light, but she did seem excited about creator Mike White’s vision.
“He’s only continued to reach new heights in season 2, which is the ultimate testament to Mike’s raw, unparalleled vision,” Orsi said earlier. “His courage to explore the uncharted waters of the human psyche, paired with his signature irreverent humor and buoyant directing style, have us all dreaming of more vacation days at the resort we’ve come to adore. We couldn’t be more thrilled to get the chance to collaborate on a third season together.”
Who will be in the cast?
Season 2’s cast was entirely different than season 1’s, with one notable exception: the incomparable Coolidge. Given White’s attachment to Tanya—and his personal adoration for the actress playing her—it seemed possible the showrunner would bring her back for yet another round. But that no longer appears to be the case given how the season 2 finale ended. “Jennifer is my friend and everybody loved her in the first season, and I was like, ‘I can’t go to Italy without Jennifer,’” White previously told Deadline. “And maybe that’s still the case. Like, maybe you can’t go to Japan without Jennifer, either. There are so many fun actors we’ve worked with so far, so it’s just kind of like who’s available?”
Of course, it’s always possible White dropped this tease as a red herring, in order to throw audiences off the scent of Tanya’s death in the finale. Still, it’s just as likely he’s being genuine, and Tanya could appear next season—perhaps in flashbacks.
Another possible familiar face? Season 1’s Connie Britton. In July, she told Deadline, “[White] wanted me to be in the second season, and there was an idea that I loved for the character. 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.”
There are reports, however, that Natasha Rothwell is set to return as Belinda, the spa manager Tanya befriended (and bamboozled) in season 1. Variety broke the news, citing multiple sources with knowledge of the production. Not much else is known about her storyline at this time.
What else has White revealed about future seasons?
For now, the busy showrunner has remained focused on rolling out season 2, but he teased that audiences can expect one thing from The White Lotus, no matter the season: murder. In an interview with NPR, he said that the mystery of who dies has driven a lot of interest to the show week after week, so he plans on using the same formula for season 3.
“It clearly is something that drives interest in the show. People will decide at the conclusion whether it’s satisfying or it feels just device-y, but at this point, I’m excited about the finale,” White says. “As somebody who’s been working in the margins, it is kind of nice to have viewers.”
How do the actors see the show, now that the season is over?
Much like fans of the show, actors have their own opinions about some of this season’s mysteries. In the final episode of the season, Meghann Fahy’s character, Daphne, accompanies Ethan (Will Sharpe) into the forest of a quiet island and it’s strongly implied they hook up. But not confirmed! Until now.
Fahy said in a Q&A with Variety that she believes something definitely went down between Daphne and Ethan on that island. “I definitely think something happened. I don’t know what exactly happened, but I do know that it was something,” she said. “Honestly, in that moment, I think Daphne just saw this broken man and wanted to do something to make him feel more empowered in her own strange way. I really don’t think that she led him there to get back at Cameron or Harper.”
She continued, “Someone said something really interesting the other day, which was like, ‘Do you think that part of Daphne’s sadness comes from her betrayal from Harper?’ I was like, totally. I think she’s been through this with Cameron who knows how many times, but I think she really thought that Harper was maybe her friend, or wanted her to be. She has that vulnerable moment in episode 3 where they’re in Noto, and she talks about how she has a hard time keeping female friends and stuff. So, I do think that was part of the experience of it but, yeah, I don’t know that I can say exactly what happened, but I think definitely something sexual for sure.”
Sharpe also spoke with Variety and said the moment was “open to interpretation.”
He added that “whatever happened, in a literal sense, that moment between them is definitely a moment of connection” and “a moment of intimacy.”
This story will be updated.
Aimée Lutkin is the weekend editor at ELLE.com. Her writing has appeared in Jezebel, Glamour, Marie Claire and more. Her first book, The Lonely Hunter, will be released by Dial Press in February 2022.
Lauren Puckett-Pope is a staff culture writer at ELLE, where she primarily covers film, television and books. She was previously an associate editor at ELLE.