WARNING: Spoilers for The White Lotus season 1 finale below.
Mike White, creator of The White Lotus, responded to criticisms of the finale, including who was in that casket and why Rachel ultimately stayed with Shane in the end. The HBO series follows a group of wealthy tourists during one chaotic vacation at the titular Hawaiian resort. Jake Levy and Alexandra Daddario play newlywed couple Shane and Rachel Patton whose marriage may not be as idyllic as it seems. Jennifer Coolidge plays Tanya McQuoid, a scattered woman who has come to Hawaii to spread her mother’s ashes. Finally, Connie Britton, Sydney Sweeney, Steve Zahn, and Fred Hechinger play the Mossbachers, a dysfunctional family with plenty of secrets to spare. Sweeney’s Olivia has also brought along her friend, Paula (Brittany O’Grady), who is not as detached from the family’s privilege as she would like to believe.
The White Lotus has been praised by critics for its incisive examination of wealth and privilege laced with dark comedy throughout its six-episode run. Still, audiences were waiting to find out the answer to one major question posed in the premiere: who was killed at The White Lotus resort during the week-long vacation? The finale reveals that it is ultimately resort manager Armond, played by Murray Bartlett, who falls victim to a tragic accident at the hands of man-baby Shane Patton. Armond is just one of the many resort employees who are at the beck and call of the tourists, including spa manager Belinda, played by Natasha Rothwell and Kekoa Scott Kekumano as Kai.
Of course, not everyone was happy with the way things turned out. White spoke to Vulture about the chaotic finale, revealing that it was always going to be Armond who fell victim to Shane’s knife-wielding in the Pineapple Suite. White, who also wrote every episode, revealed that he related to Armond on some levels and that he wanted him to go out on somewhat of a high note.
I guess that was the character I relate to the most. I sometimes feel like I’m in the service industry, even though I’m not. Dancing for the man — I find myself doing that a lot. Sometimes I’m full in, and I want to be a white-glove-service screenwriter: do great work but also be friendly, a “give the suits what they want” kind of person. And then when I feel like they turn on me or I’m not respected or something bad happens, then I’m like, [holds up two middle fingers] Fuck this place!
I also felt there was something very touching about this being his last great dinner service. Like, “That was the best seating ever!” There’s something so puny [about it], but also he’s a performer. There’s nothing left to say! It’s like hasta la vista, there’s nowhere to go from there.
White also took time to reveal that Rachel was always going to end up with Shane in the end. Despite the fact that she realizes her marriage is less than perfect, the writer says that it “felt true to life” that she would end up with him even in the face of her crisis at The White Lotus resort.
I always knew she’d go back to him. There was something about her, even in the way she’s approaching him; it’s like someone who wants to get a response. Honestly, it feels true to life for me. I’ve seen peers who may not have been in this exact situation. She’s started to feel the limits of what she thinks she’s capable of, and it’s the reality of the seduction of a lifestyle. Some people read it as cynical; to me, the thing that I feel about Shane is that even though he is a privileged asshole, he does really love her. Even if it’s just an idea of her.
What I was trying to do with Jake [Lacy] was like, [Shane] may say obnoxious things to [Rachel], but he really is into her. And he’s the kind of guy where as long as he’s waiting, it’s okay. It’s only when he doesn’t get what he wants that he shows his douchebaggery. Maybe it’s a little bit of a portrait of mediocrity or someone who’s weak. I don’t know, I feel like when I see her go back to him, the way I talked about it with Jake was that, in that moment, he’s like a little boy lost. There’s a little bit of pathos there for me.
Maybe I’m being condescending to them, but I’ve seen it in my life. There is a powerful pull of money and lifestyle. In L.A., you see it all the time. In a way, she’s naïve; she wants to be independent and have power in the relationship, but she doesn’t have the money, she doesn’t have the power. I do see women making that choice sometimes.
For anyone paying attention, it was clear The White Lotus was never going to have a happy ending even with a dead body being loaded onto a plane in the opening moments of the series. Rachel being liberated from her stifling marriage would’ve been too good to be true. Similarly, Shane having some sort of realization that Rachel is, in fact, right about her concerns would be antithetical to the horrific person audiences knew he was throughout the series. The closest The White Lotus gets to a happy ending is Quinn Mossbacher’s when he runs away from his family at the airport to paddle through the ocean surrounding Hawaii with some local friends he met during vacation.
Even that happy ending is likely to be short-lived, though – as his parents so dispassionately point out, Quinn is 16 and there is no way he could live on the island by himself for the remainder of his teenage years. Still, the ending of The White Lotus is exactly what the show needed, even if it isn’t necessarily what audiences wanted. Luckily, the series will be back for more as The White Lotus has been renewed for season 2 with a new cast of characters and a new beachside locale. White hasn’t shut down the option of bringing back characters from the first season, but the opportunity to see another group of doe-eyed vacationers have their dreams ruined is almost too good of a chance to pass up.