Viewers knew from the very first scene of HBO’s summer hit The White Lotus there’d been an unexpected death at the Hawaiian resort where wealthy, entitled guests mingle with the employees who serve them. And while the six-part limited series about privileged tourists on a tropical vacation ends up being far less big-twist murder mystery than biting social satire, viewers nonetheless filled social media feeds and internet forums with detailed theories on which character doesn’t make it out of the idyllic White Lotus alive — and why.
So who’s in the casket being loaded onto the airplane in the first episode? Shut your suitcases, folks. We’re diving in to answer whodunnit and other lingering questions from Sunday’s finale of the absorbing tragicomedy created, written and directed by Mike White.
Beware, major spoilers rolling at you like a giant ocean wave.
Who dies on The White Lotus finale?
It’s Armond (Murray Bartlett), the outwardly accommodating and inwardly seething resort manager who comes increasingly unhinged from the stress of having to cater to demanding guests who have lots of money and little aloha spirit. Chief among those contributing to his drug-addled demise is insufferable honeymooner Shane (Jake Lacy), who dogs Armond the first five episodes and ends up stabbing him to death in the sixth.
Did Shane kill Armond on purpose?
Shane definitely harbored murderous rage toward Armond for not booking him in the correct room (and other perceived slights), but in the end the manager’s death is an accident. After finding out Shane’s responsible for getting him fired, a pilled-up but determined Armond sneaks into Shane’s room, where he drops his pants, crouches over Shane’s open suitcase and drops an unwelcome gift or two.
When Shane returns to his room to discover the stinky souvenir, he grabs the knife he put by the bed to protect his trophy wife in the event of an intruder, rounds a corner, startles at seeing Armond and fatally stabs him in the chest. More than anything, Armond’s a victim of the social inequities of the world he and his staff inhabit. To Shane and his ilk, they’re dispensable.
Why is Armond smiling as he dies?
Only Armond knows for sure. The smile could be glee at exacting such messy revenge on Shane and his preppy, perfectly folded clothes. Or the grin could indicate Armond’s satisfaction that the stabbing could finally bring the arrogant Shane down. But do people like Shane really ever have to deal with the consequences of their actions? Well…
Does Shane pay for what he did?
Nope, at the end of the finale, he’s boarding an airplane back to his regular life and the rude way he interacts with friendly fellow tourists suggests he’s just as obnoxious as before he thrust a knife into another human’s flesh. His briefly estranged wife Rachel (Alexandra Daddario) even returns to him at the end, though the resignation in her eyes suggests she’s doing it out of exhaustion and defeat. It appears Shane has comes out of the whole honeymoon death adventure unscathed, though he will have to live with Rachel’s misery (if he even notices it). So there’s that.
More questions and observations
** Love the irony of Shane spending his entire vacation reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink, a book all about intuitive judgment, clearly, um, not one of Shane’s strong points.
** It was heartening to see bratty, slightly terrifying college kid Olivia Mossbacher (Sydney Sweeney) finally show a shred of empathy and humanity when she hugs Paula (Brittany O’Grady) despite her friend’s misstep. Looks like Olivia might actually be on the path to more than just woke posturing. Her parents (Connie Britton and Steve Zahn) grow over the course of their weeklong vacation too, so things might be a little more tolerable in Chez Mossbacher post-vacation.
** But Quinn Mossbacher, where you gonna sleep? Hoping one of your canoe-mates has a spare couch.
** Jennifer Coolidge out-Jennifer-Coolidges herself playing painfully needy and damaged Tanya McQuoid, who’s brought her mother’s ashes to Hawaii to scatter. Coolidge always manages to bring a poignant pathos to even the kookiest of characters.
** Of course Tanya predictably disappoints spa manager Belinda (Natasha Rothwell). Can we start a GoFundMe campaign and help the kind and generous Belinda open that wellness center she so deserves?
Will there be another season of The White Lotus?
Get ready for another return to paradise. In August 2021, The White Lotus was renewed for a second season. But since travelers come and go, the second season will focus on different travelers and another White Lotus property. Problems will undoubtedly ensue.
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CNET writer Gael Fashingbauer Cooper contributed to this report.