Dissecting the Themes of The White Lotus

Michael J. Vowles
10 min readSep 1, 2021

I already knew before I finished The White Lotus that I wanted to write about it. The new HBO series came recommended to me with scant details, but that only seemed to make it more alluring. All I knew going in was that the show was about several different guests that stay at a fancy hotel in Hawaii. That alone was enough to intrigue me, because I like stories with multiple, overlapping threads. My friend simply told me he thought I’d like it, and that was that. No persuasion needed. Usually, I can be a little reticent about trying new shows, but with this one I jumped right in.

Needless to say, there will be spoilers from here on out. If you haven’t checked out The White Lotus yet, you should definitely give it a go!

The series hooked me straight away, but I couldn’t figure out what exactly The White Lotus was until halfway through. The first two episodes were very entertaining; I enjoyed the events and the quirky personalities, but I was itching to know what the show’s well-executed components were in service of. Was it simply a comedy of errors, or was something more dramatic lying in wait? Would the interpersonal focus shift toward a murder mystery? Was there going to be a genre-twist at some point, like the resort turning out to be the underworld or perhaps a computerized simulation? I could feel a revelation on the horizon. The show was very funny, but its comedy always felt like it was on the cusp of uncloaking itself to reveal something more sinister. This expectation started with the flashforward of boxed human remains being loaded onto a plane, and continued with the show’s unsettling, exotica-inspired musical score. Even the tropical setting felt menacing rather than idyllic. Transition shots between scenes, framing the island from the perspective of the sea, seemed to emphasize the isolation of the resort or the inherent danger of the waves. I loved the way the tension always seemed to be escalating without any clear sign of what it was escalating towards. I was constantly trying to predict how seemingly trivial or petty conflicts would turn into something deadly- as well as who would be the one to die.

--

--

Michael J. Vowles

Freelance writer, occasional traveler, full-time ice cream taster. I run a blog at https://tumbleweedwrites.com where I ramble with enthusiasm.