Last week I went to Palm Springs with my boyfriend. While he had to work in our hotel room for a bit, I lazed by the pool in searing 115-degree temperatures and drank Modelos like water. The bachelorette party arrived with a colossal floatation in the shape of a heart, a group of friends drank martinis, and two kids splashed their way to either side of the pool while soaking disgruntled guests wearing expensive shades.
The luscious and often scathing new HBO drama series The White Lotus on HBO is people-watching at its most voyeuristic. It’s an elite world in the form of a prestigious vacation. The kids are spoiled and isolated, newlyweds are bickering through uncertainty, and a grieving, wealthy, intrusive socialite wants the perfect massage.
The question bookending the series asks what happens on this picturesque holiday that results in someone flying home in a coffin. Who dies, and whose fault is it? Fortunately, the question doesn’t overtake the proceedings. Each episode is a single day on the island and is played without flash-forwards to reveal more about the central mystery. Our characters are just allowed to be their often abhorrent selves, and it’s deliciously HBO.
Enlightened creator Mike White moves into an exciting new chapter in his career. His vision is evident in The White Lotus, which he writes and directs. As the story unveils, he sweeps through the guests’ lives, deftly intersecting between the characters with ease and believability. Why would two teenage girls who have just sniffed powder want to help an older woman scatter her mother’s ashes in the ocean? As quick as their senses return, so too does the newlyweds’ marriage begin to crack like the marble tiling that isn’t the Pineapple Suite. Further, hotel staff seems to flounder beneath the stress of the guests, leading to surprising labor and pill-popping.
Like The Undoing or Big Little Lies before it, The White Lotus exists in a world where the wealthy are precious and expect nothing less than a five-star luxury. Often their egos are their most significant obstacles, but there is humanity to be gained.
This will be the show everyone talks about this Summer.