The White Lotus
14th December 2022
Words: Christopher Richmond
The White Lotus loves being a TV show. It’s a story that could only be told as a TV show. It plays with the form of the TV show, with each of its seven episodes detailing a day in the life of the wealthy and spoiled guests of the luxurious hotel, The White Lotus. Each episode begins as the pampered guests rise from their silky sheets and ends as night falls and the stars sparkle. It’s a breathtakingly simple concept, a concept that simply could not be replicated via any other medium, and a concept that allows us to bear witness to one of the most impeccable character studies ever put to screen. It’s event television the likes of which we haven’t seen in a while, with HBO refusing to adopt the immediate bulk-release model used by Netflix and Amazon. Episodes were revealed weekly, forcing its audience to sit and ruminate on the week’s events before the next chapter was revealed. It’s an old-school method, and one that really works with a show as tightly constructed as this.
The White Lotus is all about its characters. Each of its players is expertly realised, full of nuance and delicious subtlety, their feelings and emotions revealed through the smallest of actions - a lingering gaze might disclose an affair, or an arched smile might suggest lust - but very little is ever explicitly told. There are no villains or heroes, just people who are driven entirely by sex and greed and lust and jealousy. The plot is almost entirely character-driven, and is intricately tied together by showrunner and writer, Mike White, who seamlessly weaves together multiple storylines with strict exactedness. The characters and their motives eventually unravel like a perfectly choreographed dance, every piece precisely where it should be before unwinding with electrifying precision. Each episodes bubbles with fist-in-mouth tension, before accelerating to its immensely satisfying finale.
Bringing the tragedy to life is a chorus of rapturous players, headed by Jennifer Coolidge who continues to have insurmountable fun in her Emmy-winning role as Tania. The role is Jennifer Coolidge in her final and most powerful form, intertwining and utilising all of her countless strengths. She brings to life the physicality of Tania, playfully characterising the tragic diva with multiple instances of skilled physical comedy, and finds the humour in lines that may have appeared inconsequential on the page - her delivery of ‘there aren’t enough people out there who are worried about old buildings’ is chokingly funny. Aubrey Plaza is trying something new with her character. She isn’t the comic relief this time around, but is instead the quietly seething housewife in a disillusioned marriage, her primary states being anger and frustration. Meghan Fahy is charming as Daphne, uprooting the valley girl stereotype and conveying an entire ocean of emotion with a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it micro-expression. The Italian cohort comprised of Beatrice Grannò, Sabrina Impacciatore and Simona Tabasco are equally as compelling as their Stateside compatriots, delivering their lines with zesty European fire and embroiling themselves in some of the most captivating storylines of the lot. And these are just the highlights - there isn’t a weak link in the pack.
The release of the first season was an immediate success, finding and establishing a solid audience and winning ten Primetime Emmys, but already it feels like the first season has been superseded by it’s successor. It takes everything that worked with the first and multiplies it. As the credits role in the final episode and the audience breathlessly reflects on the manic and chaotic journey they’ve just been on, one question lingers: if this season represents Mike White upping the ante from the first, where is he going to take us next?