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'The White Lotus' Season 2 Ending Explained: We All Got Played

It's choppy out there. Let's dive in, shall we?

Lucia and Mia dressed in colorful outfits and smiling out in the streets
Lucia and Mia really turned things around for themselves.
HBO

So much for Tanya McQuoid being the connective tissue between the two seasons of The White Lotus. Obviously, spoilers up ahead for the season 2 finale, in which Jennifer Coolidge's character finds herself on a party boat that definitely isn't a party.

The seventh and final episode of the HBO Max series was a master class in social commentary, witty writing and gorgeous shots from writer/director Mike White. It wrapped up pretty much every loose end, while leaving one dangling strand involving Ethan and Daphne. And keeping that mystery unsolved is the point.

Warning: Spoilers ahead for the season 2 finale of The White Lotus.

But first, Tanya. It was always going to stretch credulity having yet another person die at a White Lotus resort, but White chose the wildest and weirdly most believable option. The wealthy Tanya did indeed find a picture of her husband Greg and bankrupt British expat Quentin in cowboy hats together. (Although this isn't explicitly confirmed.) She and her assistant, Portia, conclude that Greg colluded with his ex-lover Quentin to have Tanya killed, because their prenup prevents Greg from taking any of her money if they divorce.

In a truly frightening sequence, a shaking Tanya loses Portia on the phone and has to face a boatful of people who want to kill her. She stalls for as long as possible before Quentin's man arrives to take her to shore and likely murder her on the way. Seizing her one opportunity to save herself, Tanya brazenly grabs her killer-to-be's duffle bag and locks herself in a room. Inside the bag, she finds a gun. As the door is kicked in, Tanya braces herself and squeezes the trigger, shooting anyone who comes at her.

Jennifer Coolidge as Tanya sitting on a bench in a fancy room

Poor rich Tanya.

HBO

In one of many examples of absurd hilarity, Tanya makes sure to ask Quentin before he coughs up blood and dies whether Greg was cheating on her with another woman. Quentin stares at her incredulously, before carking it (dying, that is, in British English). Sadly, as Tanya attempts to climb down off the boat and escape via a dinghy, she slips and smacks her head on the dinghy's railing before crashing into the water, where she drowns. Her colorful dress made it look like the dead body we partially see in episode 1 was wearing bright boardshorts.

Many thought Tanya would be the only character to appear in every season of The White Lotus, which was renewed for a third outing last month. In one of many smart rug pulls, White has eliminated that possibility. Why would Tanya spend all her time at White Lotus resorts anyway, if they're a hotspot for murder?

Aubrey Plaza and Will Sharpe as Harper and Ethan, sitting in each other's arms in an airport with an erupting volcano in the background

Harper and Ethan have fully accepted one another.

HBO

He could also potentially use one of the new characters introduced in season 2 as a familiar link. Let's pray it's Aubrey Plaza's Harper, although that seems unlikely. In a bittersweet turn of events, her eye-rolling, at first strongly principled, lawyer assimilates the same performative marriage facade that Cameron and Daphne put on. It's the only way now for her and Ethan to move forward -- whether they believe each other's stories about cheating or not, it doesn't matter. They're both willing to act out a happy marriage and allow each other to hold some level of mystery. Resting in each other's arms at the airport, they look a picture of peace and solidarity.

This is all after Ethan and Cameron have their inevitable showdown in the sea, but maybe it would have been too obvious and extreme if one or both of them died. The more unexpected turn of events involved Daphne taking Ethan to nearby island Isola Bella -- the shot looks like one of those Instagram pictures of couples leading each other down a path. It's left open to interpretation whether something happened between them, but it seems likely, since Daphne was unfazed by Ethan's worry that Cameron and Harper might have cheated together. She suggestively tells Ethan: "You don't have to know everything to love someone. A little mystery? It's kinda sexy..."

Daphne wearing a pink playshirt leading Ethan down a beach path toward an island

The mysterious leading the mysterious.

HBO

In a similarly messy situation, the Di Grasso men leave Sicily 50,000 euros poorer, yet they all seem surprisingly unfazed. Young Albie is momentarily put out by the revelation that Lucia was playing him the whole time, but he's swiftly on to the next opportunity: a changed Portia, who's now had her fair share of excitement and wants to settle for nothing more than the safest, most boring romantic option possible. (At least she looks mortified for one short moment about the fact her boss has just drowned to death.)

Finally, in a nice 180-degree flip, season 2 sees no deaths and an optimistic outcome for the staff of the White Lotus, Sicily. Unlike season 1, this time it's the underprivileged who take advantage of the rich guests. Lucia has had a stellar payday, Mia is living out her dream as a singer and hotel manager Valentina has embarked on her sexual awakening. She's already less bitter in life for it, allowing her previous crush Isabella to work the concierge desk with her grateful fiancé, Rocco.

Best friends Lucia and Mia swirl down the cobblestone streets Elena Ferrante-style, basking in the glow of their accomplishments. Lucia briefly says hello to the now smiling waiter who chased her and the Di Grasso family down in a car, revealing that was all a ruse to convince the three generations of men that she was a hurt puppy in need of rescue.

It was a super satisfying end to an even better season of the genius show, Italy's fountains and volcanoes erupting in perfect climax. Maybe it would have been interesting to see Albie's father's reaction to his son being played, just like he suspected, but other than that, this was a truly immaculate capper to the season.