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The White Lotus season finale: That devastating ending explained

Warning: Spoilers from the episode "Departures" are coming at you like a massive ocean wave.

Leslie Katz Former Culture Editor
Leslie Katz led a team that explored the intersection of tech and culture, plus all manner of awe-inspiring science, from space to AI and archaeology. When she's not smithing words, she's probably playing online word games, tending to her garden or referring to herself in the third person.
  • Third place film critic, 2021 LA Press Club National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards
Leslie Katz
4 min read

Armond (Murray Barlett) gives revenge a whole new scent in the finale of HBO's The White Lotus. 

Mario Perez/HBO

From the very first scene of The White Lotus, HBO's summer hit about entitled tourists on a Hawaiian vacation, we knew there'd been an unexpected death, and Sunday's finale finally revealed who died. While the six-part limited series ended up being far less big-twist murder mystery than sinister satire of class and white privilege, viewers filled social media and subreddits with detailed theories on which character didn't make it out of the idyllic White Lotus resort alive. 

So who is in the casket being loaded onto the plane in the first episode? Shut your suitcases, folks. We're diving in to answer whodunnit and other lingering questions from the buzzy season 1 finale of the absorbing tragicomedy created, written and directed by Mike White. 

Beware, major spoilers rolling at you like a giant ocean wave. 

Who dies on The White Lotus finale? 

It's Armond (Murray Bartlett), the outwardly cheerful and accommodating but inwardly seething resort manager who comes increasingly unhinged from the stress of having to cater to demanding guests who flash lots of cash and little aloha spirit. Chief among those contributing to his drug-addled downward spiral is insufferable newlywed Shane (Jake Lacy). The real estate heir spends five episodes infuriated at Armond for not getting the honeymooners the vaunted Pineapple Suite Shane's mom booked for them, then stabs him to death in the sixth. 

Did Shane kill Armond on purpose? 

Shane harbors murderous rage toward the White Lotus manager, but in the end his death is an accident. After Armond discovers Shane's unyielding grudge got him fired, the coked-up employee sneaks into Shane's room. There, he drops his khakis, crouches over Shane's open suitcase and leaves an unwelcome gift or two. 

When Shane returns to his room to find the stinky souvenir, he grabs the knife he put by the bed as protection against the  jewelry thief he's heard is on the loose. Then he rounds a corner, startles at seeing Armond and stabs him in the chest, leaving him to bleed out in a luxury bathtub. Armond is a casualty of the pair's escalating rivalry, but more than anything, he's a victim of the intractable social inequities of the world he and his co-workers inhabit. To Shane and his ilk, people like Armond and fellow smiling staff members Kai and Belinda are disposable. It makes sense one of them ends up sacrificing not just his dignity, but his life. 


Alexandra Daddario and Jake Lacy play a not-so-happy couple on The White Lotus. Well, she's not happy (not that he's noticed). 

Mario Perez/HBO

Why is Armond grinning as he dies?  

Only Armond knows for sure. He could be relieved to escape his oppressive upstairs-downstairs world. The smile could be glee at exacting such messy revenge on Shane and his preppy, perfectly folded clothes. Or the grin could indicate Armond's satisfaction that the stabbing could finally bring the arrogant Shane down. But do people like Shane really ever have to deal with the consequences of their actions? Not on this show...

Does Shane pay for what he did? 

Nope. At the end of the finale, he's shaking hands with police officers and boarding a plane back to his regular life -- and the rude way he interacts with friendly fellow tourists suggests he's just as obnoxious as before he thrust a knife into another human's flesh. His briefly estranged wife Rachel (Alexandra Daddario) even comes back to him at the end, though the  resignation in her eyes suggests she's doing it out of defeat. Despite her fleeting defiance in announcing the marriage was a mistake, she simply doesn't have the energy to fight the Man (or the Husband, and all the perks that come with him).  

It appears Shane has come out of the whole honeymoon death adventure unscathed, though he will have to live with Rachel's misery (if he even notices it). 

More questions and observations

👉Love the irony of Shane spending his entire vacation reading Malcolm Gladwell's Blink, a book about intuitive judgment, something he wouldn't recognize if it jumped up and bit him in the leather boat shoes.

👉 It's heartening to see bratty, slightly terrifying college kid Olivia Mossbacher (Sydney Sweeney) finally show a shred of empathy and humanity when she hugs Paula (Brittany O'Grady) despite her conflicted friend orchestrating Kai's ill-fated robbery of the family safe as a kind of meta-comeuppance to privileged people everywhere. Looks like Olivia might actually have a toe on the path to more than just woke posturing. Her parents Nicole and Mark (Connie Britton and Steve Zahn) grow over the course of their weeklong vacation too, so things might be a little more tolerable at Chez Mossbacher post-vacation.  

👉 Nice to see Quinn Mossbacher's eyes open to the world beyond video games. Hoping one of his canoe-mates has a spare couch he can sleep on until his parents return to Hawaii to pick him up and bring him home to his new phone. 

👉 It's predictable yet devastating to see Tanya McQuoid (Jennifer Coolidge, who always manages to bring a poignant pathos to even the kookiest of characters) renege on her offer to help spa manager Belinda (Natasha Rothwell) start her own wellness center after experiencing Belinda's healing touch firsthand. Tanya tells Belinda she's realized yet another "transactional relationship" isn't "healthy" for her, again underscoring how expendable the White Lotus employees are to the travelers who spelunk in for a week, then fly home relaxed and tan, leaving destruction in their wake. 

Maybe in season 2, someone will start a GoFundMe campaign to help the kind and generous Belinda open that business she so deserves. Because...  

Will there be another season of The White Lotus? 

Yes! In August, The White Lotus got renewed for a second season. But since travelers come and go, the second season will focus on different characters. Drama and intrigue will undoubtedly ensue. 

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