‘The White Lotus’ is a trip to be made
A. Yes, I think there are good reasons to give it another chance. I saw all six episodes and by the end I was impressed and satisfied. You’re not really supposed to like a lot of characters, at least initially. Creator Mike White, who wrote and directed it all, is a ruthless storyteller, and his portrayal of wealthy Americans on vacation in “The White Lotus” is particularly so. The central theme of the show is rooted in socio-economic and racial tensions between the discerning patrons of the upscale White Lotus Resort in Hawaii and the people paid to pamper them, no matter how obnoxious they are. Even the “awake” characters of the show stumble during the week of the show, with damaging results.
However, you bring up a bigger point about TV reviews, and it has to do with how many episodes I’ve seen while writing my reviews. Back in the pre-air era, most TV channels sent critics a small handful of episodes, and sometimes – especially when it comes to broadcast networks – just one. Our reviews were based on relatively little, and yet we advanced our opinions, often adding cross-wishes such as “hope the writers do THAT in the next few episodes” or “let’s see if the story gets more THAT as we go. as the season progresses.
But with the advent of Netflix’s frantic approach to release, which took hold in 2013, critics have started receiving entire seasons in advance – from streamers and, at times, cable channels, too. As a result, we had a lot more work to do to render our verdicts, but we were able to do it with more confidence. And we’ve had to be a lot more careful with spoilers and the possibility of ruining the viewer’s experience of a series. There is a fine line between justifying your opinion to readers and telling them too much about the final episodes of a season.
So I don’t want to say too much about how “The White Lotus” unfolds through its six hour-long episodes, but I like where it goes. HBO releases one a week, and only two are now available. The characters aren’t particularly nice people, but White ultimately gives each of them enough dimension to make them feel more like humans than just vehicles to snark. And there are reasons why they’re so hateful – they’re not just petty for free – and those reasons come to the fore as the most important point of the series becomes clearer.
I loved the show and found most of the performances to be exceptional. Jennifer Coolidge turns her comic book character into a spooky effect. Jake Lacy, so often the sweet romantic boy, got under my skin as a rich and spoiled preppie. Murray Bartlett is perfect – funny until he isn’t – as a super passive-aggressive station manager. Zahn is excellent too, and that testicle shot is essential in some ways. After all, he struggles with his masculinity as the husband of a famous and successful woman (played by Connie Britton) and as the son of a man whose secrets are emerging.
The show is a dark take on “Fantasy Island,” loaded with topical questions about masculinity, class and race, without ever sagging under their weight.