‘The White Lotus’ Finale: All the Clues to [That Character’s] Shocking Death

‘The White Lotus’ Finale: All the Clues to [That Character’s] Shocking Death

Were the signs there the whole time?

The explosive Season 2 finale of The White Lotus finally aired, revealing the mystery of who was the unfortunate soul that Daphne (Meghann Fahy) found while swimming in the ocean on the last day of her vacation in Sicily all the way back in Episode 1.

After all the infidelity, the inferiority and superiority complexes, the nudity, the scamming and the sexual politics of it all, we ended up at “Arrividerci.” We also found out just how well this web of chaos has been woven by creator Mike White, as the seeds hinting at the death of this character were planted right from the very beginning.

Before we dive into all of it, I would like to once again point out that there are huge, massive, life-changing spoilers for the finale of The White Lotus ahead. If you have not seen it yet, do not read on!

You have been warned!

In the climax of Sunday night’s finale, we learn that our beloved Tanya McQuoid, played by the incomparable Jennifer Coolidge, is the person Daphne discovered in the water.

Tanya ends up in a shootout as she finally realizes that Quentin (Tom Hollander) and all of his friends that she met in Pallermo were not who they appeared to be. In fact, Quentin is actually an old friend of Greg (Jon Gries), Tanya’s husband. According to their prenup agreement, Greg receives none of Tanya’s fortune if the two end up divorcing. The only way he inherits her money is if she is dead.

When the yacht gets back to Taormina, Quentin makes up excuses for why Tanya cannot leave the boat, telling her that she’ll be personally escorted by Niccoló (Stefano Giannino) back to the shore. An increasingly anxious Tanya steals Niccoló’s bag and locks herself in a room, where she discovers rope, duct tape, and a gun that he plans to use to kill her. Distraught and hysterical, she begins firing the gun, killing almost everyone on the boat. When she tries to jump off the yacht to get to the smaller boat and reach safety, she slips and hits her head on the way down, which leads to her drowning.

The sequence was, in turn, intense, slapstick, harrowing, and hilarious—but, it turns out, it was not random. It seems that White had been hinting at Tanya’s fate stretching back to the show’s first season. Here are all the signs that pointed to Tanya’s death on The White Lotus:

1. The ‘Godfather’ Dress

This was the most glaringly obvious clue.

In the third episode of Season 2, the Di Grassos and Tanya’s assistant Portia (Haley Lu Richardson) go to the house where Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather was filmed. There, Bert Di Grasso (F. Murray Abraham) explains the violent scene that was filmed in that location. He tells them about how the character Apollonia Vitelli dies in an explosion when a car bomb that was actually meant for her husband, Michael Corleone, goes off.

The tourist destination has a recreation of the car with a mannequin version of Apollonia inside. White makes sure to train the camera on the inside of the car, so that we all see that the mannequin is wearing a pink, flowery dress. It’s the same dress that Tanya later wears in the finale, poetically sealing her fate.

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This is not the only nod to The Godfather in the show. A White Lotus fan pointed out on Twitter that when Portia and Tanya are having breakfast together in the penultimate episode, Portia is wearing a Godfather t-shirt and there is a plate of oranges in front of her. Cinephiles have long harped on the symbolism of oranges in The Godfather as a harbinger of death. As another Twitter user commented, White seems to have borrowed that oranges metaphor throughout the series, but using pineapples in The White Lotus instead.

2. Monica Vitti Is Dead

Anyone who is a fan of this show will never forget the hilariously improvised line from hotel manager Valentina (Sabrina Impacciatore), who, when Tanya asks her who she looks like in her all-pink outfit, responds, “Peppa Pig.” But what she says after that is more interesting.

When Tanya clarifies that she is actually dressed as Monica Vitti, a celebrated Italian actress, Valentina tells her that Monica Vitti is dead—but agrees that she does look like her in that moment. Looking back on it now, it is a sign as obvious as any.

3. The Thread Connecting to Season 1

It turns out that Tanya’s eventual death has been germinating since Season 1. In a behind-the-scenes video for HBO, White explained that Tanya’s death was inevitable.

If you may recall, in Season 1, when Greg and Tanya are talking about the former’s health issues, she says: “I’ve had every kind of treatment over the years. Death is the last immersive experience I haven’t tried.” Apparently, that is where the idea for her death was born.

“I was thinking it’d be so fun to bring Tanya back because she’s such a great character, but maybe the journey for her is like a journey to death,” he says in the video, “I just felt like, you know, we’re going to Italy, she’s such a diva, larger-than-life female archetype, it just felt like we could devise our own operatic conclusion to Tanya’s life and her story.”

4. The Fortune Teller From Hell

When Greg leaves Tanya to go away for two days in Episode 3, Tanya calls for a fortune teller, hoping to hear something positive about her future. Instead, the fortune teller tells her that, according to the cards, Greg is in love with someone else. She also tells her something in Italian, which when translated,is: “Madness will lead you to commit suicide.”

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Tanya’s deadly fall is an accident, but it’s not a stretch to connect it to the fortune teller’s prediction.

5. Madame Butterfly

The final nail in the coffin is the story of Madame Butterfly, the opera that Quentin takes Tanya to go see in Episode 5. When Portia asks Tanya how the show was, she tells her that Madame Butterfly dies in the end.

Throughout the opera, Tanya is very taken by Madame Butterfly and her story. Madame Butterfly was a Japanese woman who falls in love with an American soldier—so much so that it becomes her entire identity. But when the American soldier leaves her upon finding an American wife, she deludes herself into believing that he will one day return for her and their child together.

The soldier does return, but only for the child and not for her. So Madame Butterfly ends her own life because she cannot deal with the pain.

Tanya ends up identifying with the story of a woman who is sad that her husband has left her and is left believing that he will return for her. Tanya is made to feel as if she is the hero of a tragic love story, instead of feeling horrible that her husband has left her during a vacation that he insisted they go on together.

Of course, we all now know what becomes of Tanya at the end of all this.


The Daily Beast

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