The White Lotus lobs its first darkly comedic curveball right out of the gate.
In Sunday’s opening scene of Enlightened auteur Mike White’s six-episode HBO’s limited series, an intensely gloomy and classically handsome dude by the name of Shane Patton (played by Office alum Jake Lacy) is sitting alone in a Hawaiian airport when an inquisitive couple begins grilling him about his travel plans. He reluctantly divulges that a murder took place at The White Lotus resort he had been honeymooning at with his new bride, and the corpse is being transported on the plane he is waiting to board. When the busybodies ask him where his wife is, he abruptly ends the interrogation, which, in turn, raises this tantalizing question: Is Mrs. Patton the victim?!
Before we can get an answer, the action flashes back “one week earlier,” to Shane and his other half Rachel’s (Why Women Kill‘s Alexandra Daddario) white glove, maritime-themed arrival at The White Lotus. Also checking into the swanky aisle of paradise and privilege on this fateful day are a family of five (plus one friend) headed by A-list exec Nicole Mossbacher (Friday Night Lights MVP Connie Britton) and her neurotic hubby Mark (Treme‘s Steve Zahn), as well as scatterbrained heiress-in-mourning Tanya McQuoid (the inimitable Jennifer Coolidge).
We’re also introduced to a handful of White Lotus staffers, including assiduous resort manager Armond (Looking‘s Murray Bartlett), cool, slightly kooky spa director Belinda (Insecure‘s Natasha Rothwell) and frazzled, stealthily pregnant trainee Lina (Orange Is the New Black‘s Jolene Purdy).
White, who wrote and directed all six episodes, spends much of the opening hour getting us acquainted with the new guests, most notably Shane and Rachel. The newlyweds’ trip gets off to a rocky start when Shane — who, twist!, is super-entitled asshat all the time, not just in airports — becomes singularly, psychotically focused on proving that White Lotus management knowingly relegated them to a Presidential Ocean View Suite vs. the plunge pool-suffused honeymoon suite they were promised.
“Forget about the other room,” Rachel later begs her hubs. “Let’s just enjoy our honeymoon.”
I’m calling it: If Rachel does indeed turn out to be victim teased in the prologue it was death by suicide.
Meanwhile, Coolidge’s Tanya — who is traveling with her dead mother’s soon-to-be-scattered ashes — is singularly, psychotically focused on getting a massage. All the therapists are booked for the evening, but Rothwell’s Belinda — realizing the crazy lady is not going to take no for an answer — offers to give Tanya a bizarrely narrated craniosacral instead. The unorthodox treatment goes over so well with the grieving socialite that she begins crushing hard on Belinda, which hopefully portends more Rothwell/Coolidge magic in the next five episodes.
Nicole and Mark are navigating a crisis of their own; the latter suspects he has “testicle” cancer. Said calamity is brought to our attention via an extreme close-up of Zahn’s (or his body double’s) genitalia. “Are they bigger?” Nicole wonders aloud, Britton’s hilariously unfazed eye line now in the direct path of her TV hubby’s junk. “It’s been a while since I’ve seen them.”
To take his mind off of his possibly diseased cobblers, Mark takes Nicole’s suggestion and spends the day snorkeling with their gamer-obsessed son Quinn (Underground Railroad‘s Fred Hechinger). It becomes evident that the diversion has not been successful when Quinn asks his dad, “Why do you keep looking at your d–k?”
Newbie White Lotus staffer Lina is trying mightily not to give birth on Day 1 of her new job. Her mission fails when she goes into labor in the lobby, creating an unprecedented crisis for her bossman Armond.
A top contender for my favorite scene of the episode: Nicole and Mark’s deeply cynical daughter Olivia (Euphoria‘s Sydney Sweeney) and her BFF Paula (Star‘s Brittany O’Grady) conduct a riotously cruel poolside cross examination of (maybe) dead woman walking Rachel.
What was your favorite scene? And what did you think of the premiere in general? Drop a grade in the poll below and then elaborate in the comments.