The White Lotus

The White Lotus

2021 - United States

‘Consistently set in fancy tropical resorts, you get to experience the holiday right alongside the characters’

The White Lotus is reviewed by AJ

At first, the HBO show looks like the perfect escapist comedy to relish your lavish vacation fantasy. But, further into The White Lotus, what we got is a weird amalgamation of black comedy, murder mystery, and travelog all rolled into one. There’s truly nothing quite like The White Lotus. Which is why it is one of the most widely acclaimed (and watched) comedies in recent time.

The original season back in 2021 was meant to be a one-off thing. Set in the titular White Lotus Resort in Maui, the show follows a week in the lives of its guests and staff, each navigating inner demons that slowly come to the fore as the days wear on. It’s light on plot, but heavy on character exploration. Most notably there is Jennifer Coolidge’s Tanya McQuoid, an obnoxious heiress who elevates self pity into high art. But it’s not all doom and gloom. Shot on location in Maui and Hawaii, the show also luxuriates in the lifestyles of its wealthy patrons, contrasted by the staff’s increasing exasperation with their clients’ antics. Throw a mysterious death into the mix and an unconventional hit was born. 

The White Lotus

Off the success of the first instalment, HBO quickly upgraded the miniseries into anthology format. Each successive season would take place in different White Lotus properties around the world and introduce a whole new cast and storyline. Several characters do cross over, like fan favourite Tanya who returned to visit White Lotus Sicily for its sophomore season. 

Each season features a large ensemble cast with several big names thrown in. Season 1 had Sydney Sweeney, Alexandra Daddario, and Connie Britton, while season 2 brought Theo James, Aubrey Plaza, Haley Lu Richardson and F. Murray Abraham to an Italian summer holiday. The upcoming Thailand-set season will feature Leslie Bibb, Jason Isaacs, Michelle Monaghan, Parker Posey, Carrie Coon and K-Pop superstar Lisa of Blackpink in her acting debut. It seems, with each season, the show’s cred keeps growing and attracting bona fide talents. 

But what is it about this strange black comedy that catapulted it into the zeitgeist?

Following a recent trend of “eat the rich” media, creator Mike White fashioned a satire of the 1% while also revelling in its decadence. The first season revolved around the theme of money, while the second was about sex. The upcoming season three will offer a “satirical and funny look at death and Eastern religion and spirituality" - that sure is a killer description!

The White Lotus

With a smorgasbord of eclectic personalities in the ensemble, the writing portrays repressed desires, loneliness, miscommunication, lust, greed, and all sorts of emotional struggles that don’t simply go away despite ostentatious riches. These people might be living the high life, but are actually feeling down inside. This dichotomy has always been a fascinating subject, but never more so than today, where awareness of inequality, social justice, and mental health are at an all-time high. If Succession chose to do that in the bleakest way possible, The White Lotus is its more cheerful, but no less crazy cousin.

When it comes to aesthetics, the show also delivers. Its atmospheric cinematography truly captures the beauty of the jaw-dropping locales and its cultures. Consistently set in fancy tropical resorts, you get to experience the holiday right alongside the characters. There’s a sense of grandeur mixed with eeriness, like something is off about these people but you don’t quite know why. It’s made all the more prominent by Cristobal Tapia de Veer’s hypnotic part tribal, part operatic score. 

The White Lotus

Packed with five-star cast, writing, and visuals, The White Lotus is ready to take you on an unforgettable trip into the deeply weird psyche of the rich. 

Published on May 8th, 2024. Written by Jennifer Ariesta for Television Heaven.

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