‘The White Lotus’: Creator Mike White Unpacks Season 2 Finale Deaths, Ties Loose Ends & Teases Season 3

‘The White Lotus’: Creator Mike White Unpacks Season 2 Finale Deaths, Ties Loose Ends & Teases Season 3

The slow-burn second season of HBO’s The White Lotus continued to simmer until the finale’s last minutes Sunday that resolved the show’s signature whodunit mystery.


When it was all said and done, creator, writer and director Mike White revealed more details about the shocking conclusion, calling it an “operatic conclusion” for Jennifer Coolidge’s Tanya, as well as a “happy ending with dark clouds on the horizon” for the two couples — Ethan and Harper and Daphne and Cameron. He also teased that the likely Asia-bound Season 3 will be exploring “death in Eastern religion and spirituality.”


The White Lotus upped the ante from the first installment with not one but four dead bodies, but to be fair, only one was a main character, Jennifer Coolidge’s Tanya, and her fate had been foreshadowed by the tragic Madama Butterfly opera she watched midway through the season.

“When I stay at a White Lotus, I always have a memorable time, always,” Tanya said ominously in the Season 2 premiere as series creator White brought back Season 1’s breakout character for a second go-around that became Tanya’s final act.

It turns out White planted the first clue to Tanya’s impending death in the Season 1 finale.

“In the end of last season, Tanya is sitting with Greg in the last episode and he’s talking about his health issues and she says, ‘I’ve had every kind of treatment over the years, death is the last immersive experience I haven’t tried,’ and I was thinking, it’d be so fun to bring Tanya back because she’s such a great character, but maybe that’s the journey for her, the journey to death,” White said in an HBO Max featurette. “Not that I really wanted to kill Tanya because I love her as a character and obviously love Jennifer, but we’re going to Italy, she’s such a diva, a larger-than-life female archetype, it felt maybe we could devise our own operatic conclusion to her life and story.”

The vacation didn’t start well for Tanya when her husband Greg left and she discovered that he may be cheating on her. Things went from bad to worse when she became involved with some shady characters, led by Quentin (Tom Hollander), and spent much of her time in his villa in Palermo.


The penultimate episode provided a major clue about the con Tanya was clearly at the center of with the revelation that Quentin’s mysterious long-lost cowboy love is likely Greg when Tanya saw an old photo of them at the villa. Quentin tried to throw her off in the finale by claiming the name of the guy was Steve but the signs were already there.

Portia’s suspicions about Jack, who had been intentionally keeping her away from her boss, grew after her phone mysteriously went missing. By the time she used Jack’s phone to call Tanya, Tanya was on the yacht headed back to the hotel.

“I have a weird feeling something bad is going to happen,” Portia told her, and the two pieced the mystery together. Portia shared that drunk Jack admitted that Quentin had no money but was expecting a windfall. Tanya realized that her prenup would leave all her money to Greg if she dies, while a divorce would leave him with nothing. Oh, it also was his idea for the two of them to come to Sicily.

Panicked, Tanya fumbled with her phone and dropped it overboard. As the yacht was anchored and her paramour, mobster Niccolò, arrived to take her to shore, she knew pretty well what awaited her. After stalling for a while, she asked to go to the restroom and grabbed Niccolò’s duffle bag, locking herself in a bedroom. Her worse fears were confirmed when she found a rope, duct tape and a gun inside. She took the gun and, when the door opened, she just started shooting randomly. She somehow managed to kill Niccolò, Quentin and Didier but then, while trying to get from the yacht to the dingy, she for some reason decided that it would best if she jumped in over the railing in her dress and high heels. She didn’t make it, instead hitting a metal bar and falling into the sea.

“I just think her dying at the hands of someone else felt too tragic,” White said about Tanya’s demise. “It felt like she needed to give her best fight back and that she, in a way had some kind of victory over whoever was conspiring to get rid of her. It just made me laugh to think like she would like take out this cabal of killers and after she successfully does that and she just dies this derpy death and that’s so Tanya,” he added.

As for whether justice will be served, White was a little ambivalent but optimistic despite Portia seemingly heeding Jack’s warning that “These people are powerful, you don’t want to f*ck with them” and not telling the police — or anyone else — what she knows.

“I think as far as what happens to Greg and the conspiracy of Tanya’s death, it’s possible that I think Portia is scared enough to just leave it alone, but the fact that all of those guys die on the boat, it feels like there’s gotta be somebody who’s gonna track it down to Greg,” he said. “But maybe you’ll have to wait to find out what happens.”

While Tanya appeared on course for a tragic end, the finale did try to throw fans off by having Ethan and Cameron fight in the water, around the spot where Daphne would later find the floating body.

Ethan stormed out to find Cameron after Harper admitted to him that she and Cameron kissed when they went back to their rooms. Cameron was taking a swim, and the two wrestled, with each coming close to drowning but eventually beachgoers broke up the fight.

In the end, Ethan and Harper rediscovered their passion, Cameron finally paid Lucia, and Ethan and Daphne may or may not have had a thing when they walked into a secluded area together.

“The question of whether Harper and Cameron did more than the kiss, I think probably that’s just all that happened. At the same time, there’s some time that isn’t really accounted for and I think that’s why it’s eating at Ethan,” White said. “Did Ethan and Daphne have some kind of a dalliance on the island or whatever happened? That allows [Ethan] to let go of the jealousy that has been brewing with him. It kind of brings back that first kind of sexual charge that happens in the beginning of relationships and sometimes fades away over time.”

“By the end you’re like, well, maybe what Ethan and Harper needed just a small dash of what Cameron and Daphne have. It feels like Cameron to me is one of those guys that’s not really going to change. Some of the unspoken things between them, you wonder if that’s going to ultimately catch up with them. It is somewhat of a happy ending although there’s dark clouds on the horizon too,” White added.

One resolution everyone saw from a mile away: Albie got played. He asked his father Dominic for €50,000 in “Karmic payment” to help Lucia, whom they had seen getting “abducted” by her supposedly violent pimp, in exchange for him putting in a good word to his mom for him.

Dominic was blunt, telling him he won’t get far in life if he is such an easy mark. He still wired the money to Lucia, and she did leave Albie just like his father said she would.

“The end of the show, you see three generations of men and there’s this attractive woman who crosses. They all sort of gawk at her and my hope is that Dominic does change, so there is a little bit in the texture of it that their relationship with women is going to always be fraught with the sexual desire,” White said about the final scene of Bert, Dominic and Albie together at the airport.


Lucia and Mia emerged as the biggest winners of Season 2. Lucia got the money she was after, while Mia, through sexual favors, got manager Valentina to make her the temporary and then permanent piano player at the resort. In the finale, Valentina fired Giuseppe when he returned after Mia had drugged him to a point he passed out.

White also addressed what might happen in Season 3 of the show, which was picked up last month. He indirectly confirmed speculation that The White Lotus would be headed to Asia next by talking about the next installment’s theme.

“The first season we highlighted money and then the second season is sex and I think the third season, it would be maybe a kind of satirical and funny look at death in Eastern religion and spirituality — it feels like it could be a rich tapestry to do another round at White Lotus,” he said.


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