Television Man | Aidan Morgan | August 26, 2021
“A television comes across the room. It has happened before, but there is nothing worth watching now. It’s summer season.” —Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Channel
And so, like the passing of the seasons, The White Lotus (HBO/Crave) has come to an end. After six episodes of mercilessly roasting the rich and their delusions, the show closes with the rich quietly triumphing over their own turpitude.
It Isn’t Called The White Lotus for Nothing
[Major spoilers for season one of The White Lotus]
The series opens with spoiled man-baby Shane (Jake Lacy) at the Honolulu airport, watching a box labelled “human remains” loaded onto a plane. The implications are clear: before the series ends, one of the characters will end their vacation in that box. Except for Shane, of course.
The immediate assumption was that Shane would be the party responsible for putting someone in that box. Earliest events speculated he was on track to kill his unhappy new bride (Alexandra Daddario in a career-best performance), but after a while it looked like anyone might be fair game. Maybe Quinn (Fred Hechinger), the disaffected teenager who sleeps on the beach every night, will get washed out to sea by a moonlit tide? Or will the grief-addled Tanya McQuoid (Jennifer Coolidge) drink herself into a coma? Every episode brought at least one of the characters in close contact with death, as if to say Hey, life is dangerous and death comes for all.
On the grounds of The White Lotus, though, the rich do what they want and skate away from consequences. Shane is indeed the murderer, and the victim turns out to be Armond the manager (Murray Bartlett). The conflict between Shane and Armond plays out as low-key comedy over a booking error that curdles into obsession and violence. The final shot of the two characters in the same frame says it all: Armond in a box, Shane shaking hands with the replacement manager. The rich win, so the rich win.
If you want to watch the rich win some more, it was announced The White Lotus will get a second season with an all-new cast. Maybe the series will turn into a cynical, prestige version of Fantasy Island. Maybe that’s what it already is.
Return of the Titans
Just when you thought it was safe to look at your television again, Titans (HBO Max) returns for a third season. The new season features Barbara Gordon (Savannah Welch) as the Commissioner, as well as Mad Men’s Vincent Kartheiser as Dr. Jonathan Crane, a.k.a. Scarecrow.
Fans of the show’s first two seasons can expect more of the same: a version of DC’s Teen Titans that presents the heroes as irreparably damaged weirdos who beat up criminals to mask deeper pathologies. It’s grim stuff but occasionally entertaining if you don’t mind a bit of adolescent posturing. This season features the character Red Hood and loosely follows Jim Starlin’s “A Death in the Family” Batman run. If you’re familiar with the comic then you know what to expect from this season, more or less.