December 6, 2021

HBO’s The White Lotus: The Surprise That’s Not a Surprise

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Light Spoilers Ahead

The ending of The White Lotus wasn’t all that shocking, which ultimately made me love the series even more. Like many shows, the first episode of The White Lotus revealed that there has been a death at a luxury hotel but we aren’t meant to know any real details. Nosy small-talkers at the airport terminal are attempting to get the gossip from Shane, who had been staying at the White Lotus hotel when the death (murder?) took place. After Shane tells the travelers to leave him alone, in not so polite terms, the show flashes back to several wealthy guests vacationing in Hawaii in the days leading up to the passing of an unknown person at the hotel. 

The White Lotus' Finale Hits Series High for HBO - Variety
Scene from HBO Max’s White Lotus

The show follows several guests in various life stages who are all vacationing for different reasons but have one important trait in common: they’re all ultra-wealthy. From the point of view of the guests and the staff who work to cater to their every whim, the show is a constant push and pull between the guests wanting something and the staff trying to make them happy simply because it’s their job. In particular, hotel manager Armond and spa manager Belinda both have frequent interactions with the guests but have very different ways of coping. Armond gaslights the guests into believing he’s doing everything he can to appease them while really he is subtly getting revenge for their complaining to him in the first place. Belinda, on the other hand, deals with her needy guests by going above and beyond to emotionally comfort them and, unfortunately, letting herself believe that they care and will help her open her own spa. (One of the more painful storylines to watch play out, which is saying something considering there are a lot of tragic outcomes in this show.)

Ultimately a week of luxury vacationing provides exactly what the guests had hoped for. One guest feels so refreshed that he decides to reject his old life and stay, though he is able to do that because he’s on the inside looking out, not the outside looking in. The rest of the guests are ready to return to their lives feeling refreshed, free, reconnected with their loved ones, and loaded with dramatic tales of their Hawaii vacation that they can tell at dinner parties for years to come. These events, anecdotes for the guests, are life-altering and traumatic for the staff. Lives are ruined and even ended, but the guests continue on and will never have to think about the wreckage they left behind. 

The shock of finding out who dies wasn’t all that shocking. The scene is tense, yes, but once it begins it’s pretty easy to guess what’s going to happen. What should add to the surprise ending where the killer walks away as if nothing happened, ultimately isn’t much of a surprise at all. The ending painted the show in a whole new light by making viewers realize it was the same light they were looking at the entire time. Try as they might, the staff is stuck in a loop of dedicating their lives to awful people who won’t remember them and the actions they take in the name of self-preservation are futile. These guests are used to getting what they want and in the end, they all do. The new guests next week will, too.

Chaplin
Haley Moon 10 Articles
Staff Writer

Haley is a native of Okoboji, Iowa and a graduate of Iowa State. After two years of living in our nation's capital, she now lives in West Des Moines with her husband, Ryan, and her dogs sons, Hilton and Stark. On any given day you'll find her talking politics and pop culture, binge watching an NBC comedy, or drinking a Captain and Diet. On her best days she's doing all three.

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