The following contains spoilers for The White Lotus Season 2, Episode 6 “Abductions,” which aired on Dec 4, 2022 on HBO.
Each season of The White Lotus has started by telling the audience one or more of the characters in the show is going to die. While this is an excellent teaser that immediately hooks audiences, it may also be holding the show back. The show does everything else so masterfully that using the same teaser for each season almost feels gimmicky in comparison. With The White Lotus getting picked up for a third season by HBO, showrunner Mike White may want to consider a fresh way to start the series going forward.
Many of the best moments in The White Lotus have nothing to do with the eventual death of one of the cast members. The show excels at capturing intergenerational conflict, showing the ennui many young people feel, and skewering the ultra-wealthy for being out of touch. Aside from that, it manages to turn everyday events into scenes that are tenser than any slasher movie through the use of excellent camera work and oppressive music. While waiting to see who dies lends a sense of structure to an otherwise loose story, it also tends to distract from a lot of these amazing elements. It reaches a point where fans spend more time speculating over who’s going to die and how than taking in the entirety of what the show has to offer.
The White Lotus Turns Everyday Life Into Horror
The typical kind of horror that appears in movies is often the most extreme circumstances, The White Lotus breaks the mold by exposing the horror inherent to modern social situations. Very few people will ever experience being chased through the woods by a masked killer, but a lot of people are going to attend an awkward dinner or have a boss that doesn’t treat them well. The characters in The White Lotus experience such uncomfortable situations and make it clear that, sometimes, horror is really the only word that can accurately describe them. Portia is treated like a tool by her boss Tanya. She is reprimanded if she isn’t available at the drop of a hat despite having just been told to go away. As Portia is forced to cater to Tanya’s every whim or else lose her livelihood, the viewers are forced to think about the amount of control one’s employer has over their life. This is a far more relatable and meaningful takeaway than which character will happen to die, and will likely stick with viewers longer than the answer to that question.
The horror of The White Lotus is made even worse by the show’s setting. There’s this idea that going to a fancy hotel on an expensive vacation will erase any issues going on in a person’s life, but The White Lotus shows that there is no amount of money that can be spent to truly escape one’s problems. Season 2 shows this best through the character of Harper and her deteriorating marriage with her husband Ethan. The more time Harper and Ethan spend around their traveling companions, Cam and Daphne, the more they start to see the flaws of their own relationship. The other couple’s intense physical chemistry reminds Harper that she and Ethan are struggling to be intimate. As both Harper and Ethan learn about Daphne’s and Cam’s infidelities, they begin suspecting one another of having affairs. Suddenly the luxury hotel starts to feel like a prison where Harper is trapped and forced to confront these issues as opposed to getting away from them. Again, even without the murder plot, this show manages to create a situation nobody would want to be in and gets viewers to reflect on how their own relationship might hold up to scrutiny.
Murder Speculation Misses The Point Of The Show
To a casual observer who has not watched The White Lotus, online discussions would likely make them think the show is a sort of murder mystery. There is no shortage of articles debating which character will die or combing through every episode for hints at how the season might wrap up. It’s so clear that the people who work on the show put a lot of effort into crafting the dialogue, shots, and music for each scene, but these are all made secondary to the conversation over the mystery deaths this season. While many fans of the show know that The White Lotus has more to offer, the show isn’t doing itself any favors by continuing to allow each season’s death to eclipse the conversation about the show.
The White Lotus more than proved itself with its first season. It won ten Emmys, including Best Limited Series, and was nominated for ten more on top of that. This led to a massive increase in viewership at the start of the second season, with over 60% more viewers tuning in according to Collider. Whether it was good for the overall discourse surrounding the show, it was probably smart for writers to hook new audiences with the same tactic they did the first season. However, now that The White Lotus is much more popular and has been recognized for its quality, the show can afford to branch out a bit in Season 3
The White Lotus has outgrown its reliance on having a death teased at the beginning of each season. With two great seasons under its belt, the show likely no longer has a need to draw in new viewers with such a drastic season premiere. The show has proven itself more than capable of creating tense and even terrifying sequences that have nothing to do with murder and everything to do with more common problems. By ditching the murder plot in each season, The White Lotus will also allow for more discussion of its deeper themes in place of endless speculation over the solution to this year’s mystery.
The White Lotus season 2 finale airs Sunday, December 11 at 9 pm ET on HBO.