haley lu richardson leo woodall White Lotus Scene 2022 Culture

The chilling scene of the white lotus that embodied 2022

It came about 20 minutes into the sixth episode of HBO’s new season The White Lotus. At this point in the show, Hayley Lu Richardson’s character Portia, a drifting American personal assistant in search of adventure, has spent a few episodes unexpectedly intertwined with Leo Woodall’s character Jack, an English charmer with a lust for life and probably a drinking problem. Their patrons – the wealthy and/or supposedly wealthy Tanya and Quentin – mingle elsewhere, and Portia and Jack are free to sit idly on a bench in Palermo harbor and enjoy the scene. The children splash around in the water. The waves lap. A painfully perfect blue sky hangs over everything. Jack is having a beer. Portia is eating a complicated-looking dessert.

“You have goals?” she asks.

Jack laughs. “What? Objectives?”


“What are some of your goals?”

“I do not know.” She pauses. “To be satisfied. Yes. That would be nice.

“I think you just have to live each day as it comes, you know what I mean?” she returns fire. “Like, that’s what I do, anyway. Who knows if we’ll be here tomorrow too?”

“It is said. “It’s so true. The world is a messed up place.

Jack scoffs. “What’s wrong?”

“Are you joking?”

“A beautiful fucking good world, I would say.”

“Literally everything is falling apart.”

It’s an echo of a sentiment that at least one other character, Harper, shared earlier in the season. It obviously seems related to the fatalism of climate change, but in that simple statement Portia could be referring to any number of things: fears about the erosion of democratic values ​​in the United States and abroad; the deadly effects of social media; the possibility that when the next pandemic arrives humans will be just as ill-prepared as they were the first time around. Emotionally, at least, she’s right. For much of 2022, it seemed like everything kept falling apart. And here Jack gets a monologue.

“Then you’d rather live in the Middle Ages, wouldn’t you? When they were tearing each other apart, yeah? They were much worse than ISIS or anyone else. It’s a fucking miracle that anyone stayed in Europe. What we’ve done is just tear each other apart and burn each other at the stake. I’m ready for another beer.

Jump off the bench. Below him, hopeful music begins to play. “What I’m saying is, right, we’re fucking lucky, you know what I mean? We live in the best time in the history of the world, on the best fucking planet. If you can’t be satisfied living now, here, you will never be satisfied. He stands directly in front of Portia, appealing to her. She laughs uneasily. “Then let’s get pissed. Ay?” He takes her hand. And they walk away.

Now! (Spoilers ahead.) At the end of the episode we learn that Jack is not at all the happy-go-lucky type he sets out to be and at the end of the season we learn that he is likely an accomplice in attempted murder. Perhaps Mike White, the creator of The White Lotus, he was purposely throwing us off. Maybe she wanted viewers to feel like idiots if they fell for Jack’s pep talk. It is certainly possible: a common view white lotus it’s that it’s compelling because all of its characters are awful. There is no one to root for, just like the real world. But, in that moment, on that bench, White seems to believe Jack’s bullshit.

After a long and stellar career primarily as a screen comedy writer, White is currently having his biggest career moment at 52 years old. He clarified in interviews who does not particularly judge his own white lotus characters, but feels a kinship instead. So, he might be naïve, but it seems possible that he’s speaking through Jack. Because here’s the thing: Portia is right, but so is Jack. Like Vox put it a few years agoin their own calculatedly broad way: “Fewer people are dying of disease and violence than ever before…Child labor is declining and more children are growing up to have educated, happy and fulfilled lives…Fewer people than ever are forced to living in Extreme poverty.”

Saying “things aren’t bad at all” and then shrugging is a cop-out, of course. The only reason things got better is because someone somewhere pushed for them to get better. Without the American labor movement, we would still have a lot of child labor. But watching Jack indulge in his monologue at that moment, well, that’s cool. It feels like a sincere attempt at positivity despite personal failures and huge and never-ending collective international trauma. Which made it feel very 2022. Because to feel hopeful in 2022, you also had to feel, at least a little bit, like an idiot. It’s a mess out there. But it’s also a fucking beautiful world.