Assuming money were no object, would you vacation at a White Lotus hotel? More than most properties, the fictional chain featured in the eponymous HBO drama seems to offer a distinct list of pros and cons: stunning vistas, apparently unmissable restaurant food, beautiful people, occasional violent death. It is, in short, not a place that seems to offer many net-neutral stays—there are winners at the White Lotus, and there are losers.
With the show’s second season at an end, let’s take a look at how things shook out in Sicily.
Loser: The White Lotus Corporate Office
Here is an abbreviated list of notable actions by White Lotus employees over the last two seasons, in no particular order: rampant sexual harassment; use of a master key to sleep with a lover in an empty suite; the hiring of said lover to the White Lotus staff; theft of jewelry from a room safe and an attack on a guest who attempted to impede the theft; theft of a guest’s recreational drugs for personal use; a drug-fueled romp with an uncomfortable direct report on White Lotus grounds and, ultimately, in view of a guest; spite defecation in a guest’s room.
And then there are the deaths. Even supposing that the latest spate of mortality does not result in legal action against the hotel—as Valentina said in the Season 2 premiere, “It’s fine, the ocean is not hotel property. We can’t be liable for what happens in the Ionian Sea!”—it does not look good, per se, to have a hotel guest kill a trio of nefarious men, some of whom just checked out of the White Lotus, in view of the resort, and then for that guest to promptly drown. Particularly when the manager of a different White Lotus was recently killed by a guest when the spite defecation did not go as planned.
We do not know much about the White Lotus beyond what we’ve seen in its Hawaiian and Sicilian outposts. But surely, somewhere there is a corporate office where people worry about things like lawsuits and public relations. Perhaps there is a board, or shareholders, or at any rate a CEO who would not like to be fired. I am not an expert, but it is probably easier to separate obscenely wealthy Americans from their money when they aren’t concerned that visiting your establishment might be the last thing they do.
We already know that The White Lotus will return for a third season, so presumably, the chain is not being sold off for spare ceramic heads. But at some point, somewhere, there is probably some person who might gravely repeat the word “accountability” while gesturing at a PowerPoint slide featuring a multicolor pie chart. Whether that means mandatory manager training consisting of a multi-week seminar on why it is never acceptable to pursue a romantic relationship with an employee, or retooling the White Lotus as an ambiguously flagged mega-vessel afloat strictly in international waters, one imagines that something has to change.
Winner: Lucia and Mia
Let’s say this for Albie: He at least didn’t take being played like a sad-boi-tryhard fiddle very badly.
In the end, Lucia’s supposed dispute with the pimp Alessio turned out to be a ruse. The closing minutes of the season show a gleeful Lucia and Mia strolling through central Taormina and warmly embracing Alessio—who, far from shaking the women down for his cut of their nights at the White Lotus, is instead working the door outside the Neo Bistrot, the restaurant at another chichi hotel. We don’t know whether he got a cut of the €50,000 that Albie talked his dad into transferring to Lucia’s bank account—a “karmic payment,” Albie insisted—or of the other, smaller paydays she and Mia received for their evening work that week. But everyone certainly seems happy.
Will Mia keep playing the piano each night at the White Lotus? Will Lucia finally go to Los Angeles? Did she ever even really want to? Will the pair instead turn up later that afternoon to scope out the next batch of moneyed, libidinous Americans docking in Sicily, as Albie is surely not the last easy mark who will arrive? In the end, the specifics don’t matter. Now, they have options.
Loser: Laura Dern Fans
Many a White Lotus sleuth recognized a familiar voice in Dominic’s calls with Abby, his furious wife back home: It was Laura Dern, who starred in Mike White’s Enlightened. Surely, we Dernheads surmised, White wouldn’t tease us—might she turn up late in the season to sow fresh chaos on the ground and perhaps level the score with her unfaithful husband? Alas, Abby stayed home—though given that her shaky forgiveness of Dom was predicated on their son’s ham-fisted reenactment of Pretty Woman, it’s probably for the best that she didn’t get a close-up.
Winner: Teste di Moro
A long time and many deaths ago, a less world-weary Ethan asked Rocco, “Hey, what is with these head things? We keep seeing them everywhere.”
Indeed, the series fixated on the ceramic heads, installing them in most of the guest rooms (a notable addition to the real Four Seasons in Taormina, which stood in as the White Lotus; images of the rooms show spartan decoration and no heads) and the bedroom on Quentin’s yacht where Tanya makes her last stand.
“Teste di moro,” Rocco told Ethan. “The story is a Moor came here a long time ago and seduced a local girl. But then she found out that he had a wife and children back home. So because he lied to her, she cut his head off.”
The conclusion, Daphne offered, was that it was “a warning to husbands”: “Screw around, and you’ll end up buried in the garden.”
Much screwing around later, that assessment is about right. Greg screwed around; Quentin, his presumed partner, was killed as a result. Jack screwed around; ibid. Cameron screwed around; Daphne hired a personal trainer, apparently conceived a child with him, and might have had a grand old time with Ethan on Isola Bella. Ethan and Harper both screwed around, at least until the point of a kiss; both may have also done some revenge screwing (though they, at least, seemed to view the betrayals as an aphrodisiac). Giuseppe screwed around; he had a heart attack and got fired. Tanya screwed around; her lover ostensibly intended to use it as pretext for murder. Dominic screwed around; divorce and acrimony with his children loom. Bert screwed around; in Dominic’s telling, the trauma begot his own pattern. And so on!
Would teste di moro make a good holiday gift? For the truly deranged White Lotus fan in your life, perhaps.
Look—you do not want to make Yale graduates seem shy about mentioning their alma mater. As many a gobsmacked viewer noted, it took until the finale for Cameron and Ethan to specify that the college where they were discordant roommates is located in a sleepy little pizza hub called New Haven.
Albie, on the other hand, spent much of the early part of the season name-dropping Stanford. Quoth Alex Bovaird, The White Lotus’s costume designer: “For Albie, I looked at what some kids from Stanford might wear, and there was a lot of normcore, like, New Balance and Under Armour shirts, nothing very flavorful. I also tried to dress Albie like a little boy.”
Normcore! Nothing very flavorful! Like a little boy! For shame.
Francesco Zecca’s Matteo spent this season like a fresco of a blow job—which is to say, he was fleeting, confounding, and glorious. With his thick mustache, bombastic wardrobe, and minimal lines, he gave the resort’s pack of schemers the weird, groovy je ne sais quoi they needed to pull Tanya and Portia into their orbit.
Plot contrived to save our king: Tragically, as Quentin informed Tanya, Matteo couldn’t join the group on their doomed voyage back to the hotel in Taormina—which makes him one of the only survivors from Quentin’s inner circle. We don’t know whether he was in on the apparent plot against Tanya, but either way, he lived on to party another day.
Loser: Peace of Mind
Quentin, my guy, you could at least have given Tanya an answer. Maybe her earlier premonition—“Your eyes were like shark eyes,” she told Greg postcoitus—was wrong. Perhaps Quentin’s beloved, supposedly long-lost cowboy Steve wasn’t Greg and was instead an uncanny doppelgänger? Maybe Niccoló wanted to use his gun for, I don’t know, a feral hog?
Winner: Billable Hours
We do not know with certainty that Quentin was in cahoots with Tanya’s MIA husband Greg or that they conspired to have well-hung mafioso Niccoló off her so that they could steal her fortune and embrace the palazzo life together with her family wealth—something previously inaccessible to Greg due to the conditions of his prenup. But given Niccoló’s arrival on Quentin’s yacht with a bag containing rope, duct tape, and a gun; the theft of Portia’s phone and Jack’s semi-confession as he dropped her off at Catania Airport; and the photo of someone who looks exactly like young Greg alongside Quentin that Tanya discovered in Quentin’s house—well, it doesn’t seem like Tanya and Portia were just paranoid.
One thing we do know: Tanya predeceasing Greg will result in Greg inheriting her estate—which, back in the season’s second episode, Portia estimated was worth half a billion dollars.
In the world of The White Lotus, there’s bound to be an investigation into what went down on Quentin’s yacht. While it doesn’t seem like Tanya left much of a paper trail as she worked out the plot against her, presumably Greg and Quentin did. Will the Italian police uncover it? Might American police open their own investigation into Greg? Will Jack stay in Italy and take his chances, or will he head back to England (or elsewhere) and see whether extradition is in his future? Will Portia come forward with what she knows?
But those are just the boring justice questions. There is also the loot. What other distant relatives might have a claim to the fortune if Greg goes down? Could Belinda—the spa director in Hawaii whom Tanya adored, and whose future she briefly wanted to bankroll—reappear? What about ex-lovers? Or, hell, even Portia herself?
Anyway, everyone’s going to need some expensive lawyers for a very long time to sort all this out. What would a white-shoe remix of The White Lotus theme sound like?
Get ready for some depositions!
Portia arrived in Sicily with a job that she hated, no particular life plan, a suitcase filled with intensely chaotic clothing, and extreme existential malaise. She left with no job, unwitting involvement in the (probable) attempted murder of her boss, and the phone number of Albie, a man she already decided that she wasn’t into. Also, the earth is dying, and everyone keeps saying that a recession is about to commence. (And she lost that suitcase, which was abandoned when Jack left her at the airport. Unlike the rest, this is an unambiguous positive, though it may take her some time to realize it.)
One good thing about being 22 (Portia’s age is not specified, but she is, if nothing else, spiritually 22) and having no idea who you are, what you want, how you can pay rent at a place that does not also house bedbugs, or whether you should wear a knit rainbow sweater that doesn’t extend past your shoulder blades is that eventually, you start finding answers to at least some questions. One bad thing is that those questions are pretty dreadful and suck all the air out of the hot little bedbug room, and—not speaking from personal experience here, but spitballing—being involved in a triple homicide and the accidental death of a demi-billionaire whose demise will lead to extensive and bitter litigation would be reasonably stressful, too.
Winner: Meghann Fahy’s Emmy Roll
Meghann Fahy is SUCH a good actor. these 30 seconds of Daphne processing her husband’s affair (and then calculating how she’s gonna get back at him) are perfection#TheWhiteLotus pic.twitter.com/razdMtDu5G— Spencer Althouse (@SpencerAlthouse) December 12, 2022
May she find all the trainers she deserves.