HBO’s The White Lotus: Series Premiere Review
*This Review Contains Full Spoilers*
The big limited series that have come out of HBO recently have mostly been dramas, so it was refreshing to hear that a new satirical comedy was going to be coming in the form of The White Lotus.
The concept of the series following a group of strange new arrivals at a Hawaiian island resort would make it interesting enough to watch in itself, but hearing that Mike White was behind it made it even more compelling to watch. For those who aren’t familiar with him, he’s known for being behind films like School of Rock and Orange County as well as writing and directing the HBO series Enlightened. Also, he placed second on a recent season of Survivor, David Vs. Goliath, so as a Survivor fan that actually rooted for him towards the end, I had to check out his latest and it doesn’t disappoint.
Right from the start, White hooks you onto both the story by giving us a glimpse into where things are headed for a couple on their honeymoon as well as someone who doesn’t make it off the island alive and the vibe of this Hawaiian dream resort. The whole idea that someone dies at the resort during this week away stays in the back of your mind when meeting the new arrivals and those working at the resort leaving you wondering who it’s going to be. It’s a great mystery to keep you guessing and the way that honeymoon couple Shane (Jake Lacy) and Rachel (Alexandra Daddario) is introduced really unique. Obviously seeing how pissed and annoyed Shane is as he sits alone in the airport signifies that there are rough waters ahead for them and you can kind of see why.
Although they are on their honeymoon after recently tying the knot, these two clearly have some issues and are just young love that won’t last. Shane shows himself to be a total dick throughout the episode by self-sabotaging the honeymoon after endlessly complaining about their room not being right and picking a fight or two with Rachel. He’s way more concerned with getting what he wants rather than being happy to start a new chapter with Rachel. Even for her boasting smiles and trying to make the best of things, Rachel also doesn’t seem to be perfectly happy with her new life with Shane. She’s definitely an individualist who isn’t exactly keen on taking his last name or completely thrilled that she’s moving her life into his. There’s clearly some strife ahead for them and the note that their relationship ends on in the premiere is darkly humorous and kind of sad since as much as they say they’ll always stick by each other, we know it won’t last.
Shane and Rachel’s relationship definitely takes center-stage, but there are plenty of other guests that come to the island. There’s a dysfunctional family that arrives with some quirks and issues of their own. Because of the size of his testicles, father Mark (Steve Zahn) worries about the possibility of having testicular cancer – which is made darkly hilarious when his doctor calls. His daughter Olivia (Sydney Sweeney) and her friend Paula (Brittany O’Grady) act as this perfect gossip circle/peanut gallery that hilariously judges the guests but aren’t without their own insecurities. They get jealous when seeing Rachel’s body and Paula surprisingly keeps a guy she likes a secret from Olivia even though they seem super tight. They’re clearly on their own vacation outside of Olivia’s family and I get the feeling they’re a comment or two away from really pissing someone off.
Then there’s Quinn (Fred Hechinger), who would rather be on his Switch or phone than check out the beautiful resort in front of him. Mark does try to bring him out of his shell, but the boring snorkeling they do and the fact that Mark can’t stop thinking about his balls doesn’t help too much. They seem like a pretty distant family given Mark’s kind of failed father/son bonding speech and the fact that the family matriarch Nicole (Connie Britton) is pretty absent as a whole makes them the kind of family that could use this kind of bonding.
Lastly, there’s Tanya (Jennifer Coolidge) – a needy woman who’s recently lost her mother. She’s clearly kind of clueless and a little lost given that she can notice things right by her, even her own mother’s ashes. There’s a bit of an obsession/crush that grows within her for resort’s masseuse manager Belinda (Natasha Rothwell) after she gets a life-changing treatment. There isn’t much to say about this yet, but it’s definitely something to watch going forward and introduces us to the hilariously cynical atmosphere of this resort and its staff.
When it comes to providing cynical comedy that’s always funny, look no further than this resort staff led by manager Armond (Murray Bartlett) – who is the best character in this series so far. The way he passively berates his staff and guests, like how he accurately refers to Shane as a child crying for attention, is perfect and it’s funny to see that sense of cynicism trickle throughout the staff with Belinda’s sweetness towards Tanya being fake. Her massage treatment was so perfectly hammed up and the fact that she could squeeze Tanya in for the massage she wanted but didn’t simply because she didn’t want to was hilarious. Even the idea of Armond dashing the dreams of Mark with the lack of readily available activities and trying to cover up his double-booking is a perfectly cynical way of this dream resort not being the euphoria people think it is behind the scenes. Personally, with how Armond’s usually tight ship is being capsized by a pregnant newbie having a baby in his office and these guests, it would be interesting to see him get so stressed out that he ends up being the one in the coffin and this premiere sets up that idea well.
The White Lotus creates some easy to enjoy dark hilarity that brings viewers into a passively cynical resort with some interesting guests that have great potential to deliver some unique story threads. With HBO having so many dramas lately, The White Lotus delivers a refreshing dash of satirical comedy.