The White Lotus, season finale review: Blistering conclusion confirms the series as TV’s hottest property

Season two of Mike White’s brilliant satire concludes with happy endings, deadly payoffs, and more than a few loose ends

Nick Hilton
Monday 12 December 2022 12:28 GMT
The White Lotus season 2 trailer

When satirical drama The White Lotus first aired in 2021, it was something of a sleeper hit. The cast was an unassuming mix of actors who were big in the Nineties and B-movie pin-ups, and the show’s creator, Mike White, was best known as the real Ned Schneebly from School of Rock. But after two years of pandemic-induced travel restrictions, the infusion of luxury resort life into the television schedule was an unqualified hit. And so, naturally, the show had to return for a second outing.

This season’s wintery trip to summery Sicily has been a delight. The tension has been ramped up notch by notch in each episode, until, heading into last night’s finale, the pitch was excruciating. Would the unhappy marriage of Harper (Aubrey Plaza) and Ethan (Will Sharpe) disintegrate? What is Lucia (Simona Tabasco) planning with Albie (Adam DiMarco)? And what, for that matter, is Tom Hollander’s Quentin doing with Jennifer Coolidge’s Tanya?

As it turns out, the millennials were just set-dressing. Ethan’s fears that Cameron (Theo James) had hooked up with his wife prove to have been (relatively) unfounded, though they still result in a mid-ocean fistfight. Daphne (Meghann Fahy) is as emotionally checked out as ever. “A little mystery?” she tells Ethan. “It’s kind of sexy.” And in the end, this dysfunctional ménage à quatre adds little to the finale, other than looking good in swimwear.

Meanwhile, the native Sicilians all get their, slightly schmaltzy, happily-ever-afters: Valentina (Sabrina Impacciatore) embraces her sexuality, Mia (Beatrice Grannò) gets a seat at the piano, and Lucia makes off with €50,000, and without an irritating American boyfriend. Felicità in Taormina, then. But it is in Palermo – where Tanya has been abducted by “the gays” and Portia (Haley Lu Richardson) kidnapped by Joey Essex – that the real drama is happening.

“These gays, they’re trying to murder me,” wails Tanya, trapped on Quentin’s yacht. Thinking you’re about to be murdered, in The White Lotus, is a great inoculation from actually being murdered. In the end, just like in the first season, the body count is racked up largely out of self-defence and a dollop of paranoia. But then Tanya makes the bold but fatal decision to try and escape the bloodbath she has just created. And so, by the time we reach the point in the “whosnuffedit” when we return to the season’s opening sequence, it is Tanya’s body that’s found floating in the Ionian sea.

Jennifer Coolidge has been the anchor holding these two series together, and it’s a shame to see her written out – not least because her panicked slaughter of a boatful of dodgy Eurotrash was vintage Coolidge. But this is a show that reliably turns up good performances: Adam DiMarco as horny, innocent Albie (“How are you gonna make it in life if you’re this big a mark?” his father, Michael Imperioli’s Dominic, asks him, fairly), Meghann Fahy as inscrutable housewife Daphne, or Haley Lu Richardson demonstrating just how unstreet-wise Gen Z are. Even if the script lacks the organic freshness of the resolution to the first instalment, the work of the casting department has been as impeccable as ever.

“Next year: the Maldives,” suggests Daphne. “More scuba, less pasta!” Cameron agrees. Where The White Lotus goes from here is a mystery, but rest assured, the show will go on. After both of the summer’s big fantasy dramas, House of the Dragon and The Rings of Power, fizzled out, it’s been left to The White Lotus to make the case for appointment viewing. Surely the unanswered questions of the finale (what, for instance, is Greg’s involvement in Tanya’s “abduction”?) are loose ends that need to be threaded back together on the beach in, say, Bora Bora? One thing’s for sure: The White Lotus is no longer a sleeper hit. This is the hottest property on TV right now.

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