The Ending of 'The White Lotus' Season 2, Explained

Our breakdown of the finale and those shocking deaths.

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(Image credit: Fabio Lovino/HBO)

The second season of the HBO drama The White Lotus has ended, the surviving characters have boarded their planes, and the viewers are left with...a lot of unfulfilled storylines. Many a fan theory (opens in new tab) has been left floating in the ether after the finale's big reveal of which hotel guest met their demise, and several ticking time bombs simply fizzled out to become a tightly-kept secret. Still, the season finale delivered in stressful scenes and shocked laughter, as each of the plots among the Sicily resort (opens in new tab)'s guest and staff came to their conclusions.

For anyone who wants to commiserate on the end of this must-watch TV event, follow along as we go through this finale breakdown group by group.

Harper and Ethan make up through jealously and (possible) mutual cheating.

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(Image credit: Fabio Lovino/HBO)

Oh, Harper and Ethan. The spouses came on this strange trip expecting nothing more than general awkwardness, joining Ethan's asshole college roommate Cameron and his fabulous, complex wife Daphne on a couples' trip where the couples barely know each other. Instead, they got a severe test of their relationship as Ethan was suspected for Cameron's cheating and Harper used Cameron's interest in her to give Ethan a taste of his own medicine. 

Early in the finale, after some nudging from Ethan, Harper caves and admits that Cameron did kiss her when they went up to their rooms alone. She describes the moment as a "drunken, stupid nothing," and insists that's as far as it went since Cameron is, as she rightly points out, "disgusting." Ethan doesn't entirely believe her, but he focuses on the one part of the situation where there's no doubt: Cameron tried to sleep with his wife, just like he hooked up with all of Ethan's college crushes.

With no hesitation (like, not even a word to Harper), Ethan goes straight to the beach where he fights with Cameron. The two men alternate in attempting to drown each other, but a good Samaritan breaks up the fight after Ethan lands one great last punch. He then goes for a walk on the beach, where he runs into Daphne, sunning and oblivious.

Sweet Daphne has just been trying to ignore her husband's cheating and enjoy her vacation. Ethan ruins that when he directly tells her of her Cameron's infidelity, informing her not of the night with some random locals, but with her husband's tryst with Harper, the woman she was hoping to befriend. She looks sad for a second, before she rallies and gives Ethan a similar "do what you have to do to make yourself feel better about it" speech that she previously gave to Harper. The pair then go on a walk to a secluded part of the beach, where it's heavily implied that they hook up themselves.

In addition to showing that Daphne could rule a small country with her cunning optimism, whatever happened between her and Ethan may have saved Ethan and Harper's marriage. Later that night, after the foursome have one final dinner where everything goes unsaid, Harper and Ethan return to their room and Harper asks what will happen to them. Instead of a fight or a sad separation, the couple who haven't touched each other all vacation finally has sex! We next see them at the airport, cuddling with small smiles on their faces and the reassurance that their marriage just might make it after all. 

Mia becomes the permanent lounge singer.

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(Image credit: Fabio Lovino/HBO)

A quick note for Mia and Valentina, another pairing that could've ended in tragedy but instead finds its way. After their night together in one of the hotel's vacant room, they're woken up by a housekeeper walking in on them. Surprisingly, Valentina just goes back to her post in yesterday's clothes and no one says anything. She makes some major personnel changes with disheveled hair, starting with sending Salvatore back to the beach so Isabella's fiancé Rocco can come back to the front desk. 

Later that day, Mia returns to the resort for her lounge shift, and everything's great between her and Valentina. She even offers to take Valentina to the lesbian bars to find her a real girlfriend. Right after they stop talking, with the hopeful smile still on Valentina's face, Giuseppe comes back! Remember the previous lounge singer who was sent to the hospital after Mia gave him something that definitely wasn't Viagra. He has returned with a full bill of health, only to find Mia at his piano. Luckily for Mia, as soon as the drama is introduced, Valentina solves everything by firing Giuseppe and giving Mia the permanent singing gig. Both Mia and Valentina end the night on top of the world, but between the unjust firing and the dead body that'll be discovered the next morning, Valentina probably won't hold on to her job much longer. (We don't see the aftermath, but that's what headcanons are for.)

Lucia scams the Di Grassos out of 50,000 euros(!!).

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(Image credit: Fabio Lovino/HBO)

Though Daphne is the Internet's favorite character, Lucia is the MVP of Season 2, walking away from a man she only knew for three days with a year's salary in her bank account. After "good guy" Albie promised to help her get away from her "pimp" Alessio in Episode 6, the mark wakes up with big plans, telling her she may be able to come visit him in Los Angeles. He goes to meet Dominic at breakfast with a battle plan, asking his father send 50,000 euros(!!!) to Lucia's account. Albie infuses this ask with a level of entitlement that is something to behold, as Dominic understandably refuses. Instead of backing down, Albie suggests that the money could be "karmic payment" for Dominic's history of cheating on his wife, and the son even says he'll put in a good word with his mother to take Dominic back.

This whole season, Dominic has been trying to change his ways and asking Albie to put in a good word with his mom. Because of this, even though he knows his son is being scammed, Dominic actually sends the money to Lucia's account. He tells Albie at dinner, and the 20-something immediately ditches his family to go receive thanks from Lucia. The sucker and the entrepreneur enjoy a sweet night together, and just when you think that maybe they are in love, Lucia sneaks out of the room in the morning, and Albie wakes up to her closing the door.

The last shot of Lucia and Mia is the last sequence of the episode, and it dispels any remaining doubts that Lucia has pulled off the scam of the century. In a parallel to the pair's first walk to the hotel in the premiere, we follow the women as they walk away down the Taormina street, before they stop to greet Alessio at his post (surprisingly as a doorman at another hotel). He was obviously an accomplice in the scam, not a "pimp" from whom Albie has saved Lucia. So the season ends with the two women on top of the world, and Albie doing just fine at the airport (more on that in a bit).

Portia was definitely kidnapped.

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(Image credit: Fabio Lovino/HBO)

Episode 6 ended with only a general vibe that Portia was in danger, as Jack insisted on keeping her away from his "uncle" Quentin's villa. But within her first few minutes of finale screentime, it's clear that Portia's being held against her will, as she discovers that her phone has "mysteriously" disappeared from where she put it to charge. Jack shrugs off its disappearance, pretending that he did not take it, and later at breakfast he reveals that Tanya's heading back to Taormina via yacht, with Quentin and his posse of gays. Jack's going to drive Portia, who's missing her phone and whose luggage is left abandoned back at the villa.

We're about to see throughout this saga that Portia is not the sharpest assistant, but she actually makes a smart move in taking Jack's phone while he's in the restroom. She calls Tanya, they debrief on everything that's going on (including the reveal that Jack and Quentin were sleeping together), and Portia says over and over that she has a "really creepy feeling" about everything that's going on. Before the two women can come up with anything actually resembling a plan, Jack comes back and snatches the phone away. Poor Portia tries to demand that he takes her back to Taormina immediately, but Jack shrugs it off and takes his sweet time getting her to the car to drive her back.

Now, I do get why Portia would feel like she has nothing to do. When Jack's negging is still gentle, he makes some valid points: she probably brought very little money with her, she doesn't speak the language, and her attempts at assertiveness aren't really...assertive. Still, it's hard not to watch and cringe and yell at her to do something as Jack gets more and more frightening. She even confronts him about hooking up with his "uncle," and when he gives a non-response, she still lets him transport her to another location that obviously won't be the hotel. Instead, he drops her on the side of the road near the airport, saying that she shouldn't go back to the White Lotus because the people who hired him are powerful and not to be messed with.

Whether you think she's right to actually listen to Jack's threat, or wrong for not even trying to help Tanya, Portia does walk straight to the airport. We next see her waiting for the flight back to San Francisco, with nothing but her backpack and her ridiculous outfit. There she runs into Albie, who appears to have shaken off the fact that he was taken for literal tens of thousands of dollars. The last we see of them, the duo are exchanging numbers to assumedly date once they get back home. (Mike White, do not let these two show up married next season, I beg you.) 

Tanya doesn't make it off the yacht alive.

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(Image credit: Fabio Lovino/HBO)

And so we've arrived to the last guest of this season and the last person we thought the show would actually kill off. Tanya McQuoid was in the most danger all season, but still, she was the only recurring character. We love Tanya (and Jennifer Coolidge) which is why I was low-key stressed the entire episode. By the finale, the show was toying with the obvious sinister plot, letting Quentin become fully menacing even before Tanya and Portia connected the dots between him, Greg, and the prenup. The strongest fan theory (besides Lucia's plan) was proven true: Tanya's husband was the cowboy Quentin knew from youth and Greg hired Quentin and co. to kill Tanya so he could get all her money. I'm still surprised that the plan wasn't just to blackmail, but I guess the stakes were high this season.

Unfortunately, by the time Tanya figures out that Quentin wants to kill her, she has already gotten onto the yacht. The big boat drops anchor about half a mile offshore, and Quentin lets Tanya know that Niccolò, the mafia-connected dealer she slept with in Episode 6, is arriving to personally take her to the shore that night. It'll just be the two of them, and she won't make it to the shore. Trapped, Tanya makes a solid attempt to ask the captain to help her, but he doesn't speak English, and he's gay too! (Lots of gay villain jokes in this season, not all of them great.) That's when Niccolò arrives, with his trusty black bag that Tanya already knows carries a gun.

Tanya is a lot more enterprising than Portia in trying to escape. (Seriously, Portia, you at least didn't get your phone back in the three-hour drive?!) She knows to stall out the dinner, and she gets eyes on the bag. When Quentin says that it's time to go, she excuses herself to the restroom, and successfully grabs the bag! The next sequence is jaw-dropping, with Tanya pulling up her inner strength and arming herself with the gun, shooting Niccolò, Quentin, and Didier through tears. It's a scene that'll earn Coolidge another Emmy, as she then confronts Quentin not about the murder plot, but with a question that is sooooo unimportant: "Is Greg having an affair?" Tanya's gonna Tanya, but I was so proud of her for escaping her death...until she can't figure out how to get down to the dinghy. Not knowing to look for the stairs, she climbs over the railing in heels, slips, falls, and drowns.

So it was Tanya's body all along that floated to the White Lotus beach. It's a very classic Tanya way to go, and just like the Season 1 ending, fans are left with nothing to cheer for, feeling conflicted on how every character will move on after their trip to Sicily (except Lucia and Mia, who are living their best lives). There's also just so much that could've happened this season that didn't. Albie never found out that both he and his dad slept with Lucia, and Harper and Ethan ended up moving past their issues without a real discussion. For all the Sicilian characters, it feels like we're leaving them before the really interesting stuff happens. There could be a whole Lucia, Valentina, Mia sequel and a Quentin, Jack & co. prequel made out of my lingering questions, but that's not the way White operates. Instead, we'll now have to wait for a third installment (opens in new tab) with a new cast that might be a look at "Eastern religion and spirituality." Whatever happens next, we'll be watching.

Quinci LeGardye
Contributing Culture Editor

Quinci LeGardye is a Contributing Culture Editor who covers TV, movies, Korean entertainment, books, and pop culture. When she isn’t writing or checking Twitter, she’s probably watching the latest K-drama or giving a concert performance in her car.