How Mice Influenced The Score For The White Lotus Season 2

There's a lot to like about "The White Lotus," between its sharp writing, superb casting, and incisive criticisms of the richest folks in our society. But one part of the show that's been a standout since its premiere has been its score.

Composer Cristobal Tapia de Veer's score in the show's first season was heavily percussive and intense, creating an atmosphere of tension highlighted by its Hawaiian tribal accents. It made every scene feel almost scary, like every scene was about to be interrupted by a sudden tiger attack. The show used the music's intensity to turn every one of the character's social interactions into more animalistic encounters, playing off one of the season's main themes, that humans are deep down just monkeys.

The show's second season, which is now two episodes deep, has been a big shift from the first. With an almost all-new cast and a brand-new location, the season seems to be exploring an entirely different set of themes. For this new, self-contained story, it makes sense to also update the show's score, and so Tapia de Veer and his longtime collaborator, Kim Neundorf, set out to put a new spin on the old music.

Some of the changes were likely easier to decide on than others. The pair replaced the first season's more Hawaiian, island-based accents with things like classical piano that better matched up with the show's new location, Sicily. But, at the behest of the show's creator, Mike White, another huge change in the show's musical accompaniment was based on the idea of "mice in trouble," according to an IndieWire interview with Tapia de Veer.

A playful tone

According to Tapia de Veer in the IndieWire piece, he completely changed the set of emotions he tried to invoke between the show's seasons.

"Mike was using lots of temp score from a show that I did called 'National Treasure' because he wanted the piano to feel playful. He wanted people to feel like mice or something. 'Mice in trouble,' he would say. He didn't want these girls, for example, that come to the hotel to have sex for money, he didn't want those girls to feel like there's something evil happening or anything like that. He wanted everything to feel very playful. So the piano serves a lot of that."

On one level, it seems strange to desire such a playful tone for a show in which both seasons have had a major plotline based on the mystery of which one or more of the characters will die. But, as Tapia de Veer pointed out, it works for certain scenes, specifically, as he mentions, the scenes following Lucia and Mia, which don't want to portray sex work as something evil, but more as a mischievous act of almost rebellion that uses the toxicity of the patriarchy against itself. Mia isn't breaking bad when she accompanies Lucia to the hotel, she's taking matters into her own hands in a risky way.

And even with the specter of death waiting around the corner for seemingly "a few" of our characters, the show's new score is more reminiscent of a "Tom and Jerry" cartoon than a horror movie. The characters are our deeply flawed mice, and a few of them are eventually going to get caught by the cat that is karma.