So The White Lotus finale was a lot. After a season brimming with secrecy, scandal, and sex, creator Mike White did the unimaginable and killed off Jennifer Coolidge.
While Season 2 took us on a dizzying Sicilian adventure plagued with adultery, failing marriages, and a relatively clueless Tanya (Coolidge) trusting "the gays," the series' wild opening credits answered all of the finale’s unravelings and hinted at its twist ending from the very beginning. So if you’re ready to nitpick a bunch of Renaissance-style paintings with Cristobal Tapia de Veer’s iconic theme song accompanying us, here are all the ways The White Lotus teased its finale in that opening sequence.
What happened in The White Lotus Season 2 finale?
The TikTok theories on Quentin’s (Tom Hollander) Wyoming cowboy were true. In a strange twist of events, turns out Tanya’s husband Greg (Jon Gries) was actually after her money, planning to override their prenup by murdering his wealthy wife in Sicily. To do so, he enlisted the help of his old friend Quentin, who’s been madly in love with him after a stint in their youth, and who’s somehow tied to the Italian mafia. Yes, it’s all very wild.
Anyways, Quentin befriended Tanya in a brief, but beautiful couple of days that saw Coolidge and Co. getting wild in Italy. This quickly turned south in the finale as Tanya and her assistant Portia (Haley Lu Richardson) gradually realized Quentin and his friends' real intentions. But the plan failed, for a brief second, when Tanya managed to shoot up their yacht before accidentally falling off and hitting her head on her potential getaway vehicle. She served, she slayed, and yet she couldn’t take off her heels to simply use the boat’s stairs to escape.
She served, she slayed, and yet she couldn’t take off her heels to simply use the boat’s stairs to escape.
Meanwhile Portia’s British fling, Jack (Leo Woodall), was posing as Quentin’s nephew but was actually his secret sugar-baby instead, helping Quentin to orchestrate his diabolical plan. And all the clues for this rollercoaster mess of a Sicilian meet-cute, were right there for us from the very beginning.
What did Jennifer Coolidge's title card tell us about Tanya?
In an interview with the show’s credits designers, Mark Bashore and Katrina Crawford, Mashable’s Belen Edwards learned, "Every second of the White Lotus title sequence was an opportunity to tell a story. Each time you see an actor's name onscreen, the corresponding fresco speaks to their character in some way." With that in mind, the titular frescos for Coolidge and other actors within the show suddenly start making a whole lot of more sense.
Coolidge's title card for example, shows a lonely woman clinging onto a chained monkey, with the latter famously being a symbol for men entrapped within their own sexual desire in art history. It's a double entendre for Coolidge’s character who simultaneously spent this season either seeking out sexual validation from her husband, or being whisked away into a lavish world of men's follies, aka Quentin's hedonistic posse. Much like the chained monkey pulling at the woman in her fresco.
Jack's big secret and Portia's escape were hinted at in the opening credits.
Richardson’s title card also hinted at where Portia was going to be by the season’s finale: alone. Her fresco depicted a young woman with nothing but a goat by her side. Goats are famously symbols for lust and desire within art, which resonates with Portia’s narrative arc and final moments, seeing that it was her own lust that ultimately ended up backfiring. Portia frivolously pursued Jack despite all his red flags, and let a pseudo fantasy of a Sicilian summer romance distract her from the tangible reality of Jack's actions, leaving her all alone, with no bags, no Tanya, and no job.
Speaking of Jack, Woodall’s title card blatantly revealed that his character was caught up in a gay love affair, and it was so painfully obvious I feel ridiculous for being caught off guard by that scene. You know the one. The scene where we all thought The White Lotus was suddenly going to turn into House of the Dragon? Well, Jack may not have been having sex with his uncle, but he was still getting busy with Quentin, and Woodall’s title card hinted at their whole sugar baby dynamic. In Woodall's fresco, you’ll see two men talking with one towering over the other, a perfect portrayal of Jack’s own relationship with Quentin, and the biggest clue in the show’s opening credits that we all somehow missed.
The opening credits spoiled how Tanya was going to die.
Perhaps the most symbolic painting in The White Lotus' opening credits, is a scenic landscape of a hilltop castle on fire with a large boat sailing beneath it. The dramatic scene is coupled with a person watching it all happen from the beach and two men hiding underneath a nearby stone arch while performing oral sex. And just in case the painting wasn’t wild enough, there’s two goats fully going at it behind some bushes. Yes there’s a lot going on in this specific still, but broken down each element foreshadowed how the show’s deaths were going to unravel.
While the castle on fire could symbolize the White Lotus hotel itself, it’s also symbolic of Quentin’s villa in Palermo. A villa that’s a sea away from the hotel, much like the painting’s castle, and a villa that was drowning in disastrous secrecy. We then have the boats, almost sailing towards the burning castle, and alluding to how Tanya’s first trip on the yacht to Palermo marked both the beginning of her demise and the setting for her final moments. Then, we have the two men hiding a big secret, almost too keenly echoing Quentin and Jack’s entire ordeal.
This leaves the lone person at the beach, watching the boats sailing and the castle blazing, unaware of the goings on nearby. It's an image that undeniably alludes to Portia’s role in this fiasco, distracted by smaller details rather than the major plot happening right under her nose. From the boats, to the burning castle, to the secret blowjob, everything about this painting was hinting at the social dynamics and literal settings at the core of the show’s final deaths. But I was too distracted by the two goats going at it, and maybe that was the whole point of the show.
The secret in Daphne and Cameron's marriage was hiding in plain sight.
So we can all agree that the kids aren’t Cameron’s (Theo James), right? In a subtle, yet incredibly loaded moment in episode 5, Daphne (Meghann Fahy) “accidentally” shows Harper (Aubrey Plaza) a picture of her kids after describing her personal trainer, Lawrence, as a blonde hunk with big blue eyes. When she goes to show Harper a picture of him, she instead shows a picture of her kids who, coincidentally, also have blonde hair and big blue eyes. Yes, Daphne plays it off as a mistake, but we all know she was purposefully showing Harper her secret upper hand in her marriage. The biggest UNO reverse card: the kids aren’t Cameron's.
So Cameron can go off and cheat to his heart’s desire, but Daphne will at least always have this one major thing to one up him. Ridiculously twisted? Yes, but a girlboss, gatekeep, gaslight, move nonetheless. And Fahy’s title card is an homage to the latter. At first you’ll think the two babies shown in her fresco testify to her maternal instinct, but after Daphne’s reveal they speak to her secret weapon — and the prime way she ensures she doesn't feel like a victim in her own life.
And with that, The White Lotus' opening credits gave us every major twist that was going to happen this season. While the first season of The White Lotus was concerned with wealth and subordinating lower classes to maintain it, this season was all about sexual politics and the influence gendered dynamics have on how we approach love, sex, and marriage. We see it playing out through all the characters' courtships and betrayals, whether through their one night stands, secret affairs, or complicated marriages. And with clues to these happenings sprinkled throughout the opening credits, the show told us everything right from the first episode.
I can only imagine how wild Season 3’s credits are going to be.
The White Lotus Season 2 is now streaming on HBO Max.(opens in a new tab)