The prospect of spending a six-hour TV season at a high-end Hawaiian resort, with a cast of cosily recognisable actors swanning around on a glossy HBO budget, sounds like a relaxing summer treat, a soapy escape for those of us still trapped in some way or another. But in the unsparing hands of Mike White, Enlightened’s creator, a balmy idea of heaven quickly becomes a clammy vision of hell and a promised getaway for us, and the characters of The White Lotus, takes us closer to, rather than further away from, the many problems that so many of us have been grappling with. Sipping cocktails by the pool and learning to scuba-dive are soon replaced with uneasy discussions about race, consent and privilege, with no one let off the hook, including us.The White Lotus Seasons 1.
It’s a natural companion piece to White’s devastating 2017 comedy Beatriz at Dinner, dubbed the first real movie of the Trump era (despite being made before he came to power), which saw Salma Hayek’s holistic healer endure a dinner party of obnoxious bourgeois extremity with John Lithgow playing an embodiment of everything that’s wrong with moneyed white America. It was a jolt of a movie, especially shocking in its hopeless finale, and White has taken ideas raised there and expanded them for what might well be his magnum opus. His writing has always been uncomfortably incisive but here, his cuts are sharper and deeper than ever before, tackling the impossible – how does one even try to cover Where We’re At Right Now in fiction – with remarkable ease, not a foot put wrong, an exceptional achievement arriving at an opportune time.The season starts with a death or at least the awareness that death is coming. Someone has been killed at The White Lotus resort in Hawaii. We don’t know who or why or how but the action then jumps back to the start of the week as we try to figure out the specifics.