The White Lotus begins with a mystery in a flash forward. Young newlywed Shane (Jake Lacy, breaking free from nice guy roles, possibly permanently) is deep in thought at an airport, furiously fidgeting with his wedding ring. As an older couple sitting near him unwisely tries to strike up small talk, we learn that Shane is coming back from his honeymoon at The White Lotus resort, where someone was killed, and the body is being boarded onto their flight back to Honolulu. One of Shane’s new acquaintances innocently asks: “Where’s your wife?” and the question hangs heavily over this opening scene, as Shane rudely (but not out of character, as we’ll soon find out) tells the couple to leave him alone. Then he walks over to a window and watches a box ominously marked “Human Remains” get loaded onto the plane.
Since the premiere, we’ve heard nothing else about human remains or someone getting killed at the resort. But with The White Lotus season-one finale airing Sunday, August 15 on HBO, at long last, all will be revealed. We would be engrossed with this series anyway, as each week draws us further into Shane and his new wife Rachel (Alexandra Daddario)’s already shaky marriage, the unbearably pompous privilege of the Mossbacher family (Connie Britton, Steve Zahn, Sydney Sweeney, Fred Hechinger), and the sad but stirring attempts of lonely but clueless Tanya (Jennifer Coolidge) to connect with people. To say nothing of the exploits of the staff, like benevolent and ambitious Belinda (Natasha Rothwell), and volatile (to put it mildly) Armond (Murray Bartlett).
As the season finale is finally in our sights, we can’t help but speculate about the reveal of the mysterious victim of The White Lotus. So we asked some A.V. Club staffers to offer their thoughts on the most likely and least likely suspects. If you haven’t watched all the episodes yet, please proceed with caution—but regardless, we recommend that you get caught up before Sunday’s explosive finale (and read Roxana Hadadi’s excellent recaps while you’re at it).
Most likely: It pains me to say, because he’s one of my favorite characters, but I think it’s got to be Armond in the box. At this point he is self-destructing at such a high level after falling off of the wagon that I just don’t see any way for him to redeem himself—not to mention getting Shane off his back after being caught in an extremely compromising position with staff member Dillon (Lukas Gage), or the fact that Olivia (Sydney Sweeney) and Paula (Brittany O’Grady) are aware he stole their drugs. From Shane’s somber attitude at the airport, I’m guessing that an extremely messed-up Armond fatally loses a fight with him, or something, causing a fed-up Rachel to walk away from Shane for good. But I really hope I’m wrong, because I have immensely enjoyed watching his escapades (Matt, once you pointed out that Armond was like a tropical Basil Fawlty, now that’s all I think about when I’m watching him) and would love to see a second White Lotus season with the same resort staff, but new guests. Like a really fucked-up Love Boat on land. Wow. I’m going to miss this show.
Least likely: From the opening, it seems so obvious that the body in the box is Rachel that I just can’t believe it’s her. I feel like Mike White must be plotting to offer us a much bigger twist than that. Also, I have been loving Alexandra Daddario’s performance as Rachel slowly realizes that she has married the biggest asshole in the known universe (and his mother!), so I really want her to go off and get a job at Jezebel and leave Shane in the dust.
Most likely: Did anyone else have a physical reaction to Greg’s coughing fit? Maybe it’s these times we’re living in, but those hacks put me on high alert, and have me worried about the fate of Tanya’s
BLM activist Bureau Of Labor Management beau. Played by the charming Jon Gries (who many have recognized as Napoleon Dynamite’s boastful Uncle Rico), Greg is intent on making the most of his vacation: fishing on the open sea, swimming laps in the pool, and asking his fellow guests out on dinner dates. But is the divorcee’s vitality, that lust for life (and just general lust), masking something? It seems noteworthy, to me, that we haven’t met any of those work buddies he mentioned. Could it be that Greg’s chronic cough is a sign of a knowingly fatal illness, and he packed up for paradise as his sunny swan song? Perhaps he fibbed about his colleagues so as not to prompt any questions wondering why he’s vacationing alone. Given the prominent placement of Greg’s wheezing in the latest teaser, it almost seems too obvious, but his untimely passing would surely make for finale-worthy drama. So soon after Tanya let him see “the core of the onion,” Greg’s tragic death would be a catalyst for her extended downward spiral, which at that point would likely drag Belinda—and possibly the rest of The White Lotus staff—down with her.
Least likely: Most knew of Molly Shannon’s involvement with The White Lotus before the series started, so it wasn’t a total surprise when she checked in midway through its run. What was shocking was just how unctuous and blissfully backhanded she could be as Shane’s mother Kitty Patton, weaponizing her natural charms. Shannon’s late-breaking villainous turn has inspired pontification online that Kitty may be the one to end up in that pine box, but I, for one, think a true mama’s boy like Shane would be much more of a mess if his cherished, pampering parent were to pass unexpectedly. Plus, by the end of “The Lotus-Eaters,” Kitty’s shipping off to flaunt her “money, money, money” at another resort, presumably out of harm’s way.
Most likely: It pains me to put Tanya McQuoid in this spot, as Jennifer Coolidge’s performance of the self-described “alcoholic lunatic” keeps viewers rooting for her, even when she proves just as unreliable and self-centered as the rest of our elite lot. Even after the “romantic” boat scene, where she has a mental breakdown over scattering her mother’s ashes, she continues to uncover more of the onion in every episode. I’m afraid at the true core is someone who cannot be saved by a man’s touch, especially a man as untrustworthy as Greg. As she launches her mother’s urn into the arms of a man she just met, telling him to get the fuck out through sobs, something feels inherently unstable with our poor Tanya. I think her death could be an accident, spurned by a manic bender following the subsequent fallout of her brief affair. If it is her, it won’t be graceful or kind, just something inevitable as Tanya finds herself alone once again without Belinda there to help her.
Least likely: Dillon’s already been fucked over, and as he takes a major step back in the most recent episode, something cataclysmic would have to occur for him to be the one to die at the end. And I don’t think it would pull any emotional reaction from Shane like the one we see in the opening scene of the series. While he may end up losing his job due to the grade-A rimjob from Armond, it does not appear that Dillon will lose his life.
Most likely: Everyone loves to hate Olivia Mossbacher, and for good reason. She’s a negative killjoy of a person who seemingly contributes absolutely nothing to the world beyond a steady stream of faux-woke putdowns and manipulative machinations. I can imagine a scenario in which she meets her maker at the hands of a fed-up Paula, who’s been pushed to the brink by Olivia’s insinuations about Kai (Kekoa Kekumano). (They’re not unfounded insinuations, but they still come from a shitty place.) Paula’s spent her time at The White Lotus becoming increasingly disillusioned with the Mossbachers and their ilk, so if she snapped, I could hardly blame her. Of course, it could also just as easily be Greg, who perhaps came to The White Lotus with a terminal illness to discover death on his own terms with the help of Tanya, but, hey, let’s say Olivia. She deserves it.
Least likely: Armond isn’t a good guy and he’s making terrible choices now that he’s off the wagon and in a full-tilt meltdown, but I still don’t know why anyone would kill him, save maybe Shane. But then he’d be in custody, not sitting by himself in the airport. Beyond that, wouldn’t they just bury him on the island? And if they’re sending his remains to his family, why would he be on a plane to Chicago and not Australia? I just don’t buy it.
Most likely: My pick is Quinn (Fred Hechinger). He doesn’t seem want to leave the resort anytime soon and spends all of his time by the ocean. As depressing as it is to think about, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to think he could die by drowning. It would certainly give his family a wake-up call and remind them to stop being assholes.
Least likely: Mike White is too brilliant of a writer to be as obvious about who does as the first scene hints, so it can’t be Rachel. It must be one of the last people we’d expect to die (Greg seems like a viable contender, but that cough seems like a red herring).
Most likely: Based on Shane’s apparent irritation and frustration with the human remains, I think the body must belong to someone Shane cannot stand. Shane and Armond have been going at it since episode one, when Armond failed to deliver the Pineapple Room to Shane. Meanwhile, the Basil Fawlty on uppers has been living on the edge practically ever since. He’s relapsed, he’s sexually harassing his employees, and he’s hatching schemes that make his life worse. He’s pretty much only got one more boundary to cross, and it’s to the great beyond. Overall, I think that Armond is probably dying for our customer service-related sins.
Least likely: Shane’s connection is the real linchpin here, which leads me to believe Kitty is still alive. The older couple at the airport distinctly states that they heard someone died at The White Lotus, and last we saw Kitty, she was on her way to The Mauna Kea. Frankly, Shane appears more inconvenienced by the death than anything else, and even though he is a piece of shit of the highest order, Shane does seem like he’d be a little upset by the death of his mother.