There’s a wonderful moment in every successful series where the viewer decides to embark on the journey that the writers have concocted. Tony Soprano’s panic attack, which subsequently leads to a psychiatric appointment in The Sopranosthe explosive emancipation of Heisenberg from within Walter White’s soul in Breaking Badand three little baby dragons born from the fiery bosom of Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones come to mind.
The same phenomenon occurs in the opening scene of HBO’s The White Lotus when an unsuspecting couple chit-chat with a man outside the boarding area of their airport terminal. They find out that he’s a recent newlywed who had stayed at The White Lotus, a Hawaiian resort for the wealthy, where, according to the couple, they heard someone died. A sly edit to a coffin being boarded onto the plane with the words “Extremely Fragile, Human Remains Onboard” painted across the box. They ask where his wife is in the friendliest Minnesotan accent, and he tells them to leave him alone. With crisp dialogue and manipulative editing, its creator was able to brilliantly direct the moment that lays out the mystery at hand. Who died? Was it his wife? And why is he so upset? What happened on this honeymoon? Where is this place he stayed? What is The White Lotus?
Creator Mike White Is Taking Over Hollywood
This is what great series are made of. It is no surprise that much of this credit comes from genius creator, director, and showrunner Mike Whitethe follow-up to his highly-lauded HBO comedy series Enlightenedstarring Hollywood powerhouse Laura Dern. The White Lotus is much better and deserving of the 20 Emmy nominations it racked up this year, including multiple nominations for writing, directing, acting, production design, editing, and music composition. The series especially dominated the supporting actor and actress categories, nagging 9 out of 14 nominations, making their odds favorable to snatch a trophy, if not more.
It’s no surprise. The caliber of the acting on the screen is top-notch, due in part to the terrific writing by White and his firm hand on the vision of his satire on the wealthy. At closer look, the show covers much more than the cozy vacation lives of the rich while uncovering everything from class to addiction, gender, sex, grief, race, life, death, and everything in between, all of it wrapped under the cloak of a murder mystery.
It’s quite the feat, though unsurprising coming from White, who has been quietly taking over Hollywood since his big Sundance break twenty years ago. Rarely does an actor turned director make a mark for himself in both, but White is one of those rare few who can excel both in front and behind the camera. His dry wit and sly humor are made complex by their simplicity. There are no frills here, no CGI or special effects. The only visual effects you’ll see are the deep layers these actors dive into to portray these lush characters. The journey is inward across an exotic, cathartic, explosive landscape, just like the surrounding scenery.
Hawaii, Lush Luxe, and Nirvana: The White Lotus Has It All
The meaning of lush luxury is given a whole new definition thanks to the Hawaiian backdrop, which is a wonderful wink-wink, nudge-nudge from White, who expanded on a familiar storyline from Enlightened. Hawaii is a hypnotic location to center the story around. Many who visit this breathtaking archipelago are said to be infused with renewed hope and a crash course on enlightenment. White understands that if life is a circle, and the ebb and flow of it is multidimensional, then living truthfully in this world means to loop all the way around and finish at the beginning. By ending his story with the same airport scene that started it off, White was successfully able to bookcase a journey that places both character and audience in the same place it started, but with different perspectives.
Hawaii is a place beyond the end of the line. It’s Nirvana, and anyone that has visited can agree that it has a hypnotic quality and is a catalyst that leads to self-exploration. The meaning of life is a vibe that it flows to, and fire and brimstone breed new life and new perspectives, with a visitor at the center of the storm. Though a surefire ensemble piece, the story is really about Shane Patton (Jake Lacy) being a total baby on his honeymoon after the suite that his mom booked for him was given to another couple.
To make it all better, his mother, played by the impeccable (and snubbed!) Molly Shannon, literally crashes his wedding to fix the situation. She only adds fuel to the fire by feuding with the resort manager Armond (the hilarious Murray Bartlett). Their tete-a-tete sets off a series of events that creates a chain reaction that results in more sex, drugs, and heists than an entire season of The Wire.
The Cast & Crew Have What It Takes to Take Home Gold
The bench runs deep in this show, with powerhouse nominees Jennifer Coolidge and Connie Britton sparring against rookies Alexandra Daddario and Sydney Sweeney, who are all vying to take one of those trophies home. The odds are favorable for Sweeneywhose rising star trajectory is reminiscent of a younger Amanda Seyfried, who rode the HBO wave from a phenomenal first start on Big Love to an Academy Award nomination for David Fincher’s Lack. Ms Sweeney is talented enough to follow in tow, so don’t sleep on her.
And don’t sleep on Mike White snatching writing and directing trophies at the Emmys in categories that HBO has dominated since the ’90s. As a writer, he knows how to write complex, nuanced characters that draw A-list talent’s attention, which usually translates into a large, dedicated audience, big budgets, and award-season love. As a director, he steers a ship with a deep bench of department heads, many of which have received nominations for production design, casting, editing, costume, and title design, all sophisticated, elevated work that HBO is typically known for. If Mike White pulls off a much-deserved sweep next month, it will be a clear sign that the film and television gods and goddesses have chosen to anoint Mike White into the filmmaking heavens.
Talk about enlightenment.