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The White Lotus season two ending explained

The second season of Mike White’s delicious satire The White Lotus began the same way as the first: a dead body (this time, more than one) turns up at a luxurious resort. Both seasons use the backgrounded murder mystery as a gateway into the comic, tragic, and infuriating lives of the 1%, who do everything but enjoy themselves while vacationing in the world’s most beautiful places.

Once again, the HBO show ratcheted up the tension with each new episode, leading to tons of fan theories about whose body washes ashore in the finale, and now we finally have the answers. 

The plot against Tanya

Tanya realizes she's in danger in The White Lotus.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

It was becoming obvious that Tanya (Jennifer Coolidge) and Portia (Haley Lu Richardson) were headed toward danger on their trip to Palermo. Jack (Leo Woodall) had trapped Portia in a hotel far away from the yacht they had been staying on in order to get Quentin (Tom Hollander) and his cohort of “high-end gays” alone with Tanya. When Portia wakes up, she realizes that Jack has most likely stolen her phone and seizes an opportunity to use Jack’s to warn Tanya that they are in danger. Tanya, who remembers the picture she saw the night before of Quentin and her husband, Greg (John Gries), finally realizes that the two men are conspiring to take her money, possibly dead or alive. 

As the yacht approaches the shores of Terramina, Quentin tells Tanya they will stay afloat a little longer and that Niccolo (Stefano Gianino), the handsome young cocaine dealer she partied with the night before will boat her back alone under the moonlight– a “romantic” gesture. As she watches with options closing in on her, Tanya tells the men she needs to go to the bathroom, quickly grabs Niccolo’s suspicious bag from the dining room table, and locks herself in the bedroom. Panicking, she rifles through the bag and finds rope, duct tape, and a gun. Quentin, Niccolo, and the others discover they have been caught and go to confront Tanya, but in a state of pure desperation, she guns them all down in a blaze of glory. 

An operatic tragedy

Ethan confronts Cameron in The White Lotus.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

After a distraught Tanya surveys the carnage, she plans her escape only to discover the lifeboat is far out of reach. In a dress and high heels, Tanya attempts to jump dozens of feet below and land successfully on the boat, but she smacks into the boat’s railing and falls limp into the water.

And with that, the standout character from season one and the only returning guest at the White Lotus in season 2 is revealed to be its casualty. It is Tanya whose body washes up in front of Daphne (Meghann Fahy) in a replaying of the season’s opening scene. In the words of White, Tanya died a “derpy death,” but one on her own terms, at least.

As for the other guests, Ethan (Will Sharpe) confronts Harper (Aubrey Plaza) about whether or not she and Cameron (Theo James) fooled around behind his back; she finally admits that she did kiss him, but refrained from having sex. Still angered by the incident, Ethan fights Cameron in the sea. They nearly drown each other but are separated by another hotel guest.

The White Lotus Season 2 | Official Trailer | HBO

After the fight, Ethan confides in Daphne about his suspicions. She takes him to a remote island, where what transpires is left to the viewer’s imagination. Later, Ethan and Harper make passionate love on their hotel bed, seemingly reconciled.

Portia is driven by Jack to the airport, where he gives her her phone back. She tells him she knows about his sexual arrangement with his “uncle” and again asks how much he knows about the plan to steal from Tanya. He advises her not to return to the hotel and to not ask questions as “there are powerful people” involved in the plot to steal Tanya’s money. He drives away, leaving her alone in the dark.

All aboard

Lucia and Albie talk in The White Lotus.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

After Albie convinces his father to give him $50,000 in exchange for helping him win back his mother, he gives the money to Lucia. After they spend the night together, she leaves him early the next morning, and it’s revealed her story about her dangerous pimp was just a lie. She’s joined by Mia, who becomes the new singer at the White Lotus after bedding the hotel’s director, Valentina. Liberated by her affair, Valentina is nicer and kinder to her co-workers.

Like in season one, everyone winds up back at the airport. Ethan and Harper and Cameron and Daphne all seem content. The Di Grasso men all stand in line and look at an attractive woman passing by, suggesting they haven’t really changed. Albie sees Porta and strikes up a conversation. They exchange phone numbers and board the plane. The scene then shifts to a jubilant Mia and Lucia walking down a Sicilian street, flush with money and happiness as an Italian version of The Best Things in Life Are Free plays over the end credits.

What does the cast & crew have to say about that ending?

Unpacking Season 2: Episode 7 with Mike White | The White Lotus | HBO

Good question! While we didn’t talk to them personally, HBO and other outlets did. Creator Mike White in the clip above breaks down the reasons why he decided to kill off his favorite character and why it ties into the season’s overall theme of sex.

R.I.P. Tanya. We’ll miss Jennifer Coolidge in season three, but we can’t wait to see what Mike White has in store for the next group of guests.

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Will Jacobson
Will is a brand-new freelance entertainment writer who has been published by Collider and Digital Trends. When he isn't…
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