'The White Lotus' Ends in a Perfectly Depressing Way

Rachel's choice in particular felt like a betrayal, but it all makes sense.

the white lotus finale, alexandra daddario, jake lacy
Alexandra Daddario and Jake Lacy | HBO
Alexandra Daddario and Jake Lacy | HBO

Of the vacationers who arrived at the beautiful Hawaiian resort in The White Lotus premiere, Alexandra Daddario's Rachel Patton is arguably the easiest for us commoners to identify with, at least at first. Yes, she's extraordinarily beautiful in that Alexandra Daddario way, but she's also a ball of anxiety and eager to connect. Her growing discomfort with her new husband, the bullishly obnoxious Shane (Jake Lacy), is palpable. Her career anxieties are likely familiar to anyone who's freelanced for a living (especially self-employed writers, who will instantly understand the pain and pressure that comes with deciding whether to take on an assignment for a couple hundred dollars on vacation). You feel for Rachel when her mother-in-law (Molly Shannon) shows up on her honeymoon and tells her she never needs to get a job and that she should just host parties.

But in the final moments of the season, in what is writer-director Mike White's most shocking move, even more so than the death teased in the first episode, Rachel crosses over to the dark side. She becomes the example of how power and privilege corrupt, and how there is little hope for those who try to resist.

Of course, before White gets there, he answers the big mystery of the season: It's the beleaguered hotel manager Armond (Murray Bartlett) who dies; the how was worth the wait. On a bender and reaching his breaking point with Shane's relentless pursuit to make him pay for perceived slights, Armond decides to break into the Pineapple Suite, where Shane and Rachel have finally been relocated, and take a dump in an open suitcase. Before Armond's able to leave, Shane returns to the room, discovers the errant turd, and grabs the knife he'd placed beside the bed after learning of the robbery that had happened to the Mossbacher family. Hiding, Armond attempts to sneak out but startles Shane, who stabs him fatally.

Shane, of course, gets off scot free. He kills a man and walks away. That's what his money and position gets him. His war with Armond, which started when Shane threw a fit over not getting the exact room he wanted, ended in bloodshed and death.

the white lotus finale, alexandra daddario, jake lacy
Rachel and Shane hug it out | HBO

Before the incident with Armond, Rachel decides to stand up to Shane. She tells him she made a mistake in marrying him. She explains she doesn't want to be a trophy wife for the rest of her life. He, in turn, swerves from telling her he'll support her when she comes to her senses to threatening her. One would think that after learning he stabbed someone it would solidify her decision to leave Shane behind, but instead it pulls him back into her arms. She appears at the airport, and they embrace, presumably headed to the next destination on their honeymoon, Tahiti. They will lounge on the beach, leaving a body behind in their wake.

It's a betrayal to anyone who identifies with Rachel, and yet it also makes sense for the character and the show. For as much as Rachel protests against the idea that she would be someone's "plus one" for the rest of her life, she is also suspiciously comfortable with the luxury Shane provides. Earlier in the series' run, writer Jeremy O. Harris tweeted about the purse she carries around, a Goyard tote, which retails for over $1,000. "I need a dramaturgical explanation for Rachel's Goyard bag," he wrote. "That feels incongruous with her discomforts around being a 'trophy wife'...not only is that bag a trophy wife status symbol but so incredibly outside of her price range I don't see her accepting it easily."

By the end, Rachel's Goyard bag and her quiet comment upon finally entering the Pineapple Suite that you "can't really see the ocean" feel right, as does how she tries to make Natasha Rothwell's spa manager Belinda her sounding board. She's not more enlightened than the other wealthy white ladies swanning around the resort; she just hasn't accepted that she's one of them. Rachel's journey was not about her rejecting what Shane has to offer, but learning to embrace it. Being miserable and rich to her is ultimately better than being miserable and poor. "Everything's fine," she tells Shane at the airport. "I'm happy, I promise. I'll be happy."

The last beats of The White Lotus are a brutal reminder of who gets left behind. Shane and Rachel hug while Armond bleeds out. Jennifer Coolidge's Tanya laughs with her new lover after rejecting Belinda's business proposal despite her overtures of friendship and financial encouragement. Brittany O'Grady's Paula gets to return to her life while her fling Kai (Kekoa Kekumano) has been arrested for stealing on her encouragement. Almost all of the Mossbachers (Connie Britton, Steve Zahn, and Sydney Sweeney) have a renewed family connection.

The only guest who refuses to turn his back on the island where these interlopers caused so much chaos is Quinn Mossbacher (Fred Hechinger). He runs away from his parents after they board their flight to row a native Polynesian vessel with the men he met on the beach. It could be a rich teenager's privileged rebellion, but at least it's something. The same cannot be said for Rachel, who turns out to be the most cowardly of them all.

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Esther Zuckerman is a senior entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @ezwrites.