HBO’s The White Lotus: Season Finale Review
*This Review Contains Full Spoilers*
On the season finale of HBO’s The White Lotus, Departures, the vacationers spend their last days at the White Lotus before leaving, but not without dealing with some harsh realities.
There was a lot that happened last week that really left us on a bit of a cliffhanger with a lot of secrets and tension between guests. However, the area that’s best to start is with Paula (Brittany O’Grady) and Olivia (Sydney Sweeney) since it touches on a prevailing theme in this episode – and really the series as a whole. For most of the Mossbachers, the vacation ends without too many problems. The romance between Mark (Steve Zahn) and Nicole (Connie Britton) has blossomed again and it seems like their marriage got a quick fix from Mark stepping in during the burglary. Quinn (Fred Hechinger) has truly become transfixed by the Hawaiian rowing crew he’s become acquainted with and despite his parents disapproving, he ends up staying on the island. The Mossbachers actually come together as a family in this last episode with Mark and Quinn having a great father/son moment with scuba-diving and everyone having some nice, congenial conversation.
The same can’t exactly be said for Olivia and Paula as the results of Kai’s (Kekoa Kekumano) robbery causes friction. We eventually find out from Armond (Murray Bartlett) that Kai’s been arrested, and Paula is completely broken up about it. She genuinely feels like she failed, and that the Mossbachers’ privilege has made them come out on top again while Kai and his people will continue to suffer. White privilege is something The White Lotus has deeply covered with all its characters and is something that Paula finally confronts Olivia about. Although Olivia might be some liberal rebel that “fights” for diversity and against corruption, it never really goes anywhere, and these struggles aren’t something she really knows because she doesn’t understand struggle. Her family is rich, white, and she’s so controlling that she just gets whatever she wants.
It’s a real moment that forces Olivia to confront her behavior and legitimately puts their friendship on the line. From the start, it’s been obvious that Olivia really isn’t that different from her family, regardless of what she thinks, and that she really only carries this liberal agenda to be rebellious against her parents. Personally, it’s a little underwhelming that there’s no big result or takeaway from this. There’s no real answer to Olivia confronting her white privilege or way presented for her to move forward. One hug later, Olivia and Paula seemingly resolve their issues. Perhaps though, writer/director Mike White subtly alludes to their growth in the final shot of them reading books. No longer are they reading philosophical books to seem “smarter” and “deeper.” Rather they’re reading books on colonialism and maybe it’s a sign that they’ll start to turn their words into action.
With Tanya (Jennifer Coolidge) and Belinda (Natasha Rothwell), things take the expected turn for the worst. Yeah, Tanya going back on her deal with Belinda was pretty much a guarantee and its stings just as expected. Tanya building up the hopes of a Belinda desperate for success and meaning is a situation we’ve seen plenty of times and it’s a sadly fitting embodiment of a politician’s promise. Pretty much from the start, it’s been obvious that this deal was going to fall through. Admittedly, there is something kind of powerful about Tanya finding her own personal desires outside of her wealth as well as the courage to finally spread her mother’s ashes into the ocean and Coolidge’s performance is really great here. However, it’s just bittersweet for Belinda as it feels like another average person being screwed over – likely the intention. Even the end of her still returning to her job with that fake smile hurts and shows that good intentions don’t get you far with rick folk.
The biggest cliffhanger that gets solved from last week is the status of Rachel (Alexandria Daddario) and Shane (Jake Lacy) as Rachel’s big realization leaves her completely shook. It really feels like Rachel is in the fight of her life this episode and is absolutely petrified. It’s understandable given Shane’s wealth and his horrible, selfish reaction to Rachel’s going through an emotionally traumatic realization. However, Rachel’s arc in the series is easily the most impactful as her whole speech about her perspective on their relationship is some fitting self-reflection and you can’t help but love her wanting to keep her integrity. Oh, also, hearing her call Shane a giant man-child made me stand up and cheer because it’s what we’ve all been wanting to say. Daddario’s performance really drives all this emotion home as Rachel’s fears, concerns, and unsureness create this really big turning point and thankfully not the one I expected.
After last week’s episode, I was honestly concerned that Rachel’s only way out of this relationship was going to be suicide and this episode sure made it seem like that was going to happen. With how White put that focus on the pineapple knife in their room and Belinda walking out on Rachel when she clearly needed help, I thought that’s surely where we were going. However, just like Tanya’s lover’s health issues, it was just a red herring and the person I initially thought ended up in that coffin was indeed the one.
Ah, Armond, he’s had a really tough week, especially with Shane being an absolute douche, and things only got worse with him basically getting the news that he’s going to be fired. Although sad, it does lead to some of the funniest moments of the series as Armond decides to go on one last big drug bender. The entire sequence of Armond delivering a perfect dinner seating high off his ass was hilarious. The music, Armond’s performance, and White’s direction are just perfect, and I was cackling the whole time. Even the scene that followed of Armond heading to Shane’s room to shit in his luggage was awesome – until Shane walked back in the room.
The second Armond isn’t able to escape the room, the end for him was just a matter of time. It’s another bittersweet ending that sucks even more because Shane is the one that kills Armond after stabbing him thinking he’s an intruder. Honestly, how this episode handles Shane is really puzzling and frustrating with how Shane’s story comes to an end with him and Rachel hugging in the airport. With all the emotional turmoil that Rachel went through with Shane, it’s tough to believe that they would be hugging and it’s even more off that Shane is just totally cool about everything. It’s a moment that just doesn’t sit right with me. Maybe what happened with Armond actually had a profound impact on him or it’s White having another moment where the poorer, middle-class characters still lose out more than its richer, whiter characters. Either way, it’s a bummer to see Armond go out like this, but it’s kind of always been in the cards.
As its vacationers depart, The White Lotus delivers a strong finale that brings its themes on white privilege together and ties off its story threads in mostly satisfying fashion. With how great White did with this series, it’s great to know that another season is soon on the way with a new group of vacationers heading to the titular resort.