Mike White is forcing you to fill in the blanks on the season two finale.
Editor's note: Spoilers for season two to follow.
In the second season of White Lotus, we traveled to Italy, where a new gang of vacationers showed off their wealth and dealt with the consequences. We saw sex workers score the long con, a broken family momentarily repair themselves, and even the hit of a rich heiress.
It seemed like everything had come to a perfect close as the waves crashed against the shoreline.
Well, everything except two Silicon Valley power couples trying to figure out if infidelity matters to their marriage.
Let me give you a quick reminder of what exactly played out.
After Harper (Aubrey Plaza) admits that Cameron (Theo James) kissed her, a furious Ethan (Will Sharp) attacks Cameron, punching, kicking, and nearly drowning him before an onlooker intervenes.
Ethan shares his suspicions with Daphne (Meghann Fahy), who repeats the advice she gave Harper in the previous episode—do whatever makes him feel better. Then in a very flirty way, she invites him to join her on a walk to a nearby island.
Later, an invigorated Ethan has sex with Harper, reigniting the passion in their marriage.
The episode ends with them all cuddling their significant others at the airport, all looking very happy.
So what happened on that island? Did Ethan and Daphne have sex? And did Harper and Cameron have sex earlier, with Harper lying to Ethan to get back at him?
These two big questions drive the end of this season's episodes. They both ask the audience to decide what really happened and what the moral is at the end, based on their assumptions.
White Lotus Ends Without Answers to the Show's Two Biggest Questions
So what happened at the end of the season? Do we think the moral is ignorance is bliss in relationships?
My short answer is... sort of. I think Ethan and Daphne had sex on the island. But I also think Harper and Cameron did only kiss. I think Ethan needed to have the sex to realize that his world was consumed by porn and new opportunities were not what he wanted. And to feel like he had the power Cameron had, and realize he didn't need it.
Similarly, I think Harper needed Ethan to know she was wanted. He didn't believe her when she said Cameron got naked in front of her earlier, and the more he did, the more confused he was, which had to hurt Harper.
She needed to show him that he may have changed with more money, that he may want to be someone different. but that different person could easily lose her. When he comes back into the room and wants her, he's choosing to be the person she fell in love with and married, despite his recent windfall.
Later, at the airport, I think both couples have settled into a space where they are happy with one another. Even though this happiness is built on deep insecurity, they seem to have worked it out.
Our season began with the legend of a woman from the area who caught her husband cheating and cut off his head. They lived the rest of their lives in pain, and the hotel is covered in these ornamental sculptures of the head, which is said to resemble the decapitated man.
One of these heads breaks as Ethan and Harper have sex. And your metaphor becomes real life. Maybe it doesn't matter if you cheat, it just matters if you find out. And you find your own satisfaction in this world, you just have to do what you want.
This might be the most cynical lesson of any White Lotus season. And it's certainly a lesson only available to the rich.
But as Mike White said in the aftershow special, this happy ending for the two couples may not last long.
White expanded on these thoughts, saying, “The question of whether Harper and Cameron did more than the kiss, I think probably that’s just all that happened. At the same time, there’s some time that isn’t really accounted for and I think that’s why it’s eating at Ethan.”
White continued, “Did Ethan and Daphne have some kind of a dalliance on the island or whatever happened? That allows [Ethan] to let go of the jealousy that has been brewing with him. It kind of brings back that first kind of sexual charge that happens in the beginning of relationships and sometimes fades away over time.”
So how do we deal with where these couples end? Secure in their love and reliance on one another?
White had some ideas there, saying, “By the end, you’re like, well, maybe what Ethan and Harper needed just a small dash of what Cameron and Daphne have. It feels like Cameron to me is one of those guys that’s not really going to change. Some of the unspoken things between them, you wonder if that’s going to ultimately catch up with them. It is somewhat of a happy ending although there’s dark clouds on the horizon too."
Dark clouds, indeed. Surely, these infidelities and alliances will add up. And you never know when someone will have had enough. Then, heads will roll.
That's just my reading of the scenes. Let me know what you think in the comments.