How are we feeling about the finale right now?
JW: Congrats to Greg for becoming a millionaire. And to Tanya for being a pretty good shot since she didn’t aim the gun yet took out three people. And to Lucia and Mia. Love that ending for them.
ET: The ending felt right to me. I was also thrilled to see Mia and Lucia swanning around in the sunlight together in the final scenes. They played their cards the best and they deserved the windfall. I feel so happy thinking about them going to Gucci and dropping thousands of dollars on silk chiffon.
I laughed so hard when Portia asked Albie for his phone number after basically finding out her boss is dead. It felt right for those dodos. It also makes complete sense to me that Albie doesn’t even seem that sad that Lucia stiffed him — his family is so rich that losing $50k is no big deal.
VW: Poor, dumb Tanya. This entire season was a slow motion disaster headed straight toward her, and she was so medicated and sad she didn’t even notice until it was too late. I hate that Greg set her up to be murdered — I was strongly biased against Tanya after Season 1 and mostly taking Greg’s side before he split and she wandered to Palermo — but it seems fitting that she tripped off the yacht herself instead, truly a victim of her own foibles and unsteadiness. Albie and Portia are left right where they were at the beginning, trying to catalyze some chemistry, and I wonder if either of them has changed or grown at all after this insane vacation in a way that would actually bring them closer together. Maybe Albie learned that he doesn’t need to be a male savior; or maybe he will follow in the unfaithful footsteps of his father and grandfather. All three Di Grasso men now turn their gaze as a beautiful woman passes them before their return flight; Albie is also an accomplice in his father’s transgressions now.
Cameron and Daphne are walking vials of poison, and yet somehow, the whole affair seems to have injected Ethan’s and Harper’s marriage with some needed tension and mystery, leaving them in an eerily happier place than where they started, even if it might eventually evolve into a game of endless dishonesty and revenge. Sex for Cameron and Daphne seems to be both pleasure and punishment; their relationship is maintained by willfully shrugging off each other’s infidelities. They both seem psychotically competitive enough that even if the arrangement is not making them happy, they’re each committed to winning at marriage.
DM: I think Mike White tied it all together perfectly. When you think about it, all the guests and staff actually came away happier — save for the doomed opera heroine Tanya — and having had more sex — save for Bert, who at least got a semi thanks to a hug from Mia. Even Portia got to have the adventure she seemed so desperate for, even if it did involve her getting left alone in a creepy neighborhood under threat from the velvet mafia.
Tanya’s storyline was ridiculous, but so was that character. Her running around that boat and going postal was shocking and tense, but also plainly camp. I’ll miss her next season! Oh, and the last shot of Mia and Lucia was perfect — including the revelation that Lucia’s “pimp” Alessio was actually just a friend who worked at another hotel. (Sidenote: I went back and checked this season’s first episode and Lucia actually greets Alessio cheerily in her very first scene as she walks through the street with Mia. The signs were there!)
Really, though, I just feel completely in awe of Meghann Fahy’s performance as Daphne in this episode. This was a character who I completely misjudged and who became more complex as the season went on. (Rewatching early episodes this weekend, you see she’s working harder than some of the staff to keep the mood light among her group!) This finale’s climactic scene with Ethan (Will Sharpe) featured some of the most astonishing capital-a Acting I’ve seen this year, as we watch her reckon (again) with her husband’s infidelity and yet another female friend’s betrayal, and then instead choose to be smooth-brained. Emmy!
Are we surprised about who is dead?
JW: Sadly, no. It felt like Tanya was walking dead the whole season, barely aware of her surroundings. That her immediate follow-up to her massacre was, “Is Greg having an affair?” says it all. Also, if she had used 2% of her brain she could have easily left the yacht. Hashtag Darwinism.
ET: Not really. Because of Tanya’s lack of perspective and her dependence on the people around her, she’s a tragic figure. She has no wherewithal! She doesn’t know how to forge connections with people! You’re telling me you saw Jack fucking his “uncle” and you didn’t think to tell Portia? You’re telling me you’re suspicious that your husband is having an affair and you don’t send 20 private investigators after him? She’s as rich as God, and she has no common sense. She’s susceptible to anyone’s flattery, so she was always going to suffer. I also think Quentin is basically the same as Tanya — obsessed beyond reason with a man who doesn’t love him back, and it also made sense that he would go down with the ship.
DM: Yes, even if it felt like this last episode or two was making no secret of where it was going. I was surprised that she went out like it was Gunfight at the O.K. Corral — or, to use a more apt movie metaphor, The Godfather.
VW: There were giant, flashing Vegas-style signs pointing at Tanya being the victim, especially after the opera. “Seppuku,” she said. “I can relate.” Yet Tanya was such a vile emotional leech in Season 1 that I had a hard time imagining her character making a 180 and becoming a victim in Season 2. I even wondered if she would be the one whose privilege allowed her to get away with murder this time. I suppose she would have gotten away with shooting everyone else on the boat if it weren’t for, well, herself. Perhaps this was her “karmic payment” for obliviously abusing people with her wealth.
What about who did the killing?
ET: Lots of people suspected Tanya was going to be murdered: Greg’s sketchiness, the clues about Greg and Quentin’s relationship, and that mournful story about the betrayed woman and Isola Bella all pointed to her being the central figure this season. But I don’t think there would have been anything interesting about her getting killed the way these desiccated aristocrats had planned. The path was highlighted too powerfully. All that tension in the finale came from us knowing that Portia and Tanya were in big trouble, and structurally it made sense that there would be some kind of reversal.
JW: I actually suspected that Tanya was going to be the killer — but, like, after flipping out over Greg+Quentin, not because Portia sets her on a path of “Oh shit! I’m in danger gurrrrrl!” I clutched my pearls when Tanya went for the black murder bag on her way to use the powder room. And screamed when she opened fire seemingly everywhere, but somehow managed to kill three people in the process. (Speaking of which, I’m disappointed that we didn’t get to learn more from Quentin himself about his plot/intentions.)
VW: I was so distracted by Niccoló and the murder weapon that I thought he would finish the job. Tanya was stranded on a yacht after all. I did not imagine her being able to aim and fire a gun; the woman can barely walk in a straight line! Who could have foreseen Tanya’s tragically clumsy “seppuku”? She tries to be brave and get off the boat, and her final words, “You’ve got this,” uttered just before she trips into the water, really got me. Sometimes, there’s no saving yourself, and she is a woman who truly can’t seem to do a thing.
What kinds of foreshadowing were apparent in this season?
ET: Well, they literally deployed Chekhov’s gun. That was pretty funny. There were a lot of cultural references — The Godfather was a good one. On TikTok, people interpreted the similarities between Tanya’s outfit and the Apollonia mannequin’s as certain doom for poor old Tanya.
JW: Well, certainly not 90% of what TikTokers were serving me for the last two weeks.
VW: This whole season was just foreshadowing. Mike White leaned even more heavily on the murder mystery dynamic with the audience, and I am glad he decided to have some fun with us.
DM: Two things immediately come back to mind that show how death has been haunting Tanya. The first is the story that Quentin tells Tanya about the wealthy old Swedish lady who was thrown to her death into the sea by the thugs seeking Isola Bella. That’s pretty much how Tanya met her end, save for taking out a few of them with her on the way down.
The other is that wonderful moment in the second episode when Tanya was cosplaying as an Italian movie star that hotel manager Valentina thought was Peppa Pig. “I’m Monica Vitti,” Tanya insists.
“Monica Vitti’s dead,” Valentina says.
What do you think were some of the overarching themes of this season?
ET: They gave the definitive line of the finale, and maybe the season, to Albie, who tells Portia at the end, “I got played.” At the beginning, this season seemed to be more broadly about men and women, their differing desires, and the way money amplifies the gulf. But as the season progressed, the power rankings changed in an interesting way. Daphne was obviously discombobulated about Cameron’s indiscretions, but she has also figured out how to navigate her life in a satisfying way. There’s no such thing as a perfect life. She gave both Ethan and Harper the same advice: Figure out a way to make it work for you. I love her. Her wardrobe made me want to browse Net-a-Porter’s resort section (items sorted price: high to low).
Whereas Tanya could not see the forest for the trees. Even at the end, when she had literally killed several men, she wanted Quentin to tell her if Greg was having an affair. If you put too much stock in one person, you get screwed over. She was playing Connect Four while Lucia, for example, was playing chess. I’m just mad that Greg got his way in the end. His days at the Bureau of Land Management are over!
JW: That if you’re going to lie, go all in.
VW: Romance is dead, y’all. No romantic love (there is passion without love, for instance with Lucia and Mia, and love without passion, like with Ethan and Harper, but who had both this season?); no romance in travel (depressed Portia cannot lose herself to the beauties of Sicily because the internet has reduced everything into a banal selfie); and no romance in tracing your family history (the Di Grassos are shouted off the property of a menacing old woman who they hoped was a relative). Part of that is because romance is a fantasy; it’s in the imagination. And what magic can travel offer when you’ve already seen every vista from multiple angles on Instagram? Or when you realize the owner of the lavish palazzo is actually some lonely, broke guy? And if you are willing to only stare at hard, ugly truths, as Harper and Ethan do, there’s little to move the soul towards happiness. It’s why Daphne advocates for “mystery” in a relationship, veiled truths, to keep desire alive; whether that illusion is worth it is another issue. She seems like she is just burying deep wounds.
This season also plays “The Best Things In Life Are Free” twice. The wealthy guests of the White Lotus obviously aren’t made happy by their riches, but Lucia and Mia certainly aren’t any worse off for the money headed their way! Still, love and money certainly never seem to go together well at the White Lotus.
DM: To quote The Simpsons, “Men. [Crowd boos].”
If the first season was plainly about privilege, I think this season was fairly obviously about gender dynamics and misogyny. As I wrote for us the other week, it wasn’t a coincidence we saw so many men’s butts in a season where they kept being asses. I loved the way we saw different women work out different ways to navigate — and play — these men as best they could.
And while heterosexuality is a prison (Ethan and Cameron SHOULD HAVE KISSED), Mike White made it clear that the bad men also included “the gays,” who commodified Tanya as a doll that they were collecting both for her fashion and then for her money.
Let’s go through the storylines besides Tanya and co. Do you think Lucia actually liked Albie? How do we feel about where Portia ended up?
ET: I think Lucia felt a fondness for Albie that didn’t interfere with her ultimate goal. I think she also got a whiff of that family’s stink of misery and was like, LOL, no thanks.
Portia is a bit of a herb but I am going to miss her so bad. When next week comes and I don’t get to see what weird knit Portia is wearing, I’m going to cry. I loved that they showed her putting on the world’s ugliest airport sunglasses and scarf-hat in the finale. She had such a horrible time with Jack in the car. I would have shat myself. I hope she gets to ironically go to Margaritaville with all her friends when she gets home.
DM: The “sex worker with a heart of gold” is something of a trope, but I do believe Lucia had a little soft spot for sweet, dumb Albie. Why else would she look back, however briefly, as she snuck out the next morning? I just don’t think it was ever going to be bigger than the soft spot she had for herself and the life she felt she was owed. [Lucille Bluth voice] Good for her!
As for Portia, she truly saved her worst outfit for last. A consistent queen! I like to imagine she might try to do something to stop Greg getting all of Tanya’s money, but I think that might be asking for too much. This is a character whose reaction to finding out her boss had been killed was to finally ask for the cute rich guy’s number.
JW: I think Lucia had the same moment I have when I’m trying to merge in rush hour traffic and a car lets me in the lane when they didn’t have to and I look back in my rearview mirror and smile with gratitude as I think, “SUCKERRRR!”
VW: I think Lucia did have a soft spot for Albie because he was a gentle and caring man, but it was clear this would never become her priority; she’s not looking for love! Ultimately the harm to Albie was a mere €50,000 of his father’s money, which Albie seemed to move on from pretty quickly, and the realization that he was, indeed, a naive target. Portia, seemingly unmoved by her boss’ murder, decides to ask Albie for his number — a nice guy! — but standing in the airport disguised in giant sunglasses with a scarf wrapped around her hat, she still seems like a hot mess, outside and in.
Are Harper and Ethan going to stay together?
ET: While I don’t think it’s that important whether they stay together, I actually do think they are, at least for a while. They were basically dead to each other when they arrived on this vacation — cut off and inert. One of the highlights of this season was Aubrey Plaza playing Harper as someone gradually realizing her marriage has accidentally fossilized. But I guess nobody ever told them to read Esther Perel or anything, so the next best way for them to realize this was Ethan’s rake of an old roomie trying it on with her. In the finale, they’ve awakened to each other for the first time in ages, seeing each other newly, and really excited by the possibility of living a little more dangerously and unpredictably.
JW: Who cares about this boring ass couple???!!! I’m more interested in the Cameron-Daphne dynamic. Clearly he has disdain for his bastard (Get a trainer!) son, and she’s a Stepford Wife vrs.10.0 who probably sneaks out at night to kill squirrels and neighborhood cats.
DM: To answer Jason, I care about them!!! Aubrey Plaza’s work as Harper was so consistently excellent this season, and her outfits so consistently chic, that it’s hard not for me to want her to find happiness. If that volcano erupting during the sex was any indication, she seemed like she got what she needed!
VW: They were both so sexually dead in the beginning and I can’t believe it took evil Cameron and Daphne to reawaken their desires. I think they both needed to feel wanted again; monogamous love and honesty alone weren’t enough. They needed passion too. Ethan needed help getting outside of his own head, to overcome lingering insecurities that haunted him, and I guess getting it on with Cameron’s wife did just that. Ethan and Harper either have decided to forgive each other and relearn the pleasures of being together, or they are in training mode to have a twisted marriage of a thousand cuts like Cameron and Daphne.
What do you think Ethan and Daphne did on that island?
ET: In my mind they did magic mushrooms, looking up at the sky and pondering the meaning of the color green. Maybe a little light petting, but what do I know? I’m glad they don’t show it. Tit-for-tat would be the least interesting thing, and gives Cameron too much power — I can see Ethan wanting to do that in the moment, but not Daphne. Daphne already has kids that don’t look like Cameron. That’s so much better than touching your husband’s old roommate inside his pants. I prefer the version of her who isn’t going to kiss someone out of pity. I saw her as more of a vibes shepherd for poor, principled, stuck Ethan and Harper. She’s like: Guys, you’re rich now. Life is awesome, just do what you want.
VW: They definitely crossed lines! Don’t be a victim, right? I think they both were ultimately getting back at Cameron.
DM: Probably fucked, but I’m happy for it not to be clear and for that moment to exist just between those two. Maybe she just whispered in his ear the same words that Bill Murray told Scarlett Johansson at the end of Lost In Translation.
ET: [hissing] “DO YOU KNOW THESE GAYS???????????”
JW: Harper to Cameron: "You're an idiot."
VW: “Our Achilles’ heel is an Achilles’ cock. It’s like a Greek curse.”
DM: It pains me to say it because I know I’m going to see this screenshot for the rest of my life but it has to be Tanya shrieking, “These gays, they’re trying to murder me!”
Why do White Lotus managers keep sleeping with their subordinates?! Any unresolved threads?
ET: Being around rich people 24/7 would drive me crazy, so I honestly get it. Valentina’s arc was so moving. Sabrina Impacciatore was magnificent in that role, both incredibly funny and brittle at the same time. There was so much precision in that performance, and the way her needs dovetailed with Mia’s was so interesting — their exchange was as transactional as many of the others in the season, but because Mia got something so close to her heart, she wanted to do the same for Valentina. I can’t understand why Valentina would want to listen to Mia sing all day, though. Please!
VW: I feel like White Lotus is trying to bring back workplace romance, but with consent.
DM: I don’t know but I love that they’re queer.
Which season do you think is better?
JW: It’s apples and oranges. The first season was a fucking acid trip, and I loved it for that. This season was a lesson in managing my anxiety, and I loved it for that.
ET: Narratively speaking, this season felt flatter and had a little less texture, but it really sparkled. Season 2 was able to establish that the White Lotus formula works. The caliber of casting, the sound design, the playful script, the pacing — they can iterate the hell out of this thing. It was just so fun to watch. How many Aman hotels are there? 34? OK, they probably can’t do that many seasons. But I would definitely watch another two or three or probably four, who am I kidding? The cast was perfect this time too. Meghann Fahy is a star. The Dominic character would not have worked without Michael Imperioli’s warmth. Haley Lu Richardson and Adam DiMarco were both awkwardness incarnate. Will Sharpe was great here too — I did not recognize him from Giri/Haji, where he plays a bratty but achingly vulnerable sex worker. I would be shocked if we didn’t see Simona Tabasco (the perfect last name), who played Lucia, in more US productions soon.
VW: The hypocrisies in Season 1 were just so enraging that it left me with more to think about when the show ended. I know not everyone appreciated the way it wrapped up, but I did. Season 2 leaves a less bitter taste in my mouth, which makes it slightly more forgettable to me.
DM: I loved the scope of this season, compared to the last. By virtue of the first season’s structure, and the fact that it was filmed in a strict pandemic bubble, the guests never left the resort and it felt like a prison — which was the point. I loved that we got to see so much of Sicily and its busy streets here, as well as the freedom that came with that. But I still maintain that rich, entitled dilettantes wouldn’t eat in the same hotel restaurant every night.
Where should the next season be set?
JW: I’m team Swiss Alps — there’s a lot of murder and “accident” potential there on the steep slopes.
ET: Morocco would be beautiful. And the theme song would be amazing.
DM: I can see somewhere like Paris or Tokyo. Anywhere tropical feels like it’ll be too close to the first season. And while a wintry season would be cute, I think snow doesn’t look very pretty on camera — and no cast and crew really want to spend three months working in the cold. I will note that Mike White said in a post-finale interview that he wants to explore “death” and “Eastern spirituality” in the third season, so maybe it’s Tokyo or somewhere else in Asia.
Wherever it is, I love what our former colleague Sam Stryker said on Twitter yesterday: “Cities should have to bid to host the next season of The White Lotus like the Olympics.”
VW: I would love to see how Mike White writes about privilege outside of the US and Europe. Asia would be fun, maybe a place where a lot of Western charities operate. Or maybe an eco-tourism destination being ruined by rich people, like the Galapagos or Patagonia. ●