Note: the following contains spoilers for “The White Lotus” Season 2 finale.
“The White Lotus” Season 2 finale made good on the show’s promise to reveal exactly whose bodies were floating in the ocean in the season opener, but few were prepared to discover that Jennifer Coolidge’s Tanya was one of the victims. According to creator and showrunner Mike White, the seed for Tanya’s death was actually planted in the Season 1 finale of the HBO series.
In the final episode of Season 2, Tanya finally realizes that Quentin (Tom Hollander) and his friends are not who they appear to be. Quentin clearly is old friends with Greg (Jon Gries), and when his yacht arrives back in Taormina, Quentin makes some excuse as to why Tanya can’t get off the boat just yet. Instead, they’re waiting for Niccolo (Stefano Gianino) to show up and personally escort Tanya back under cover of night.
When Tanya goes through Niccolo’s bag and discovers rope, duct tape and a gun, she confirms they’re trying to kill her so Greg can inherit all of her money. She, hilariously, takes all but one of them out with the gun, but when trying to jump down from the yacht into the smaller boat to go ashore, she hits her head and drowns.
In a behind-the-scenes video from HBO that aired after the episode, White said the entirety of Tanya’s Season 2 arc was crafted around her eventual death.
“In the end of last season, Tanya is sitting with Greg in the last episode and he’s talking about his health issues and she says, ‘I’ve had every kind of treatment over the years. Death is the last immersive experience I haven’t tried.’ And I was thinking it’d be so fun to bring Tanya back because she’s such a great character, but maybe that’s the journey for her is like a journey to death.”
“And not that I really wanted to kill Tanya because I love her as a character and I obviously love Jennifer,” White continued. “But I just felt like you know we’re going to Italy, she’s such a diva, larger-than-life female archetype, it just felt like we could devise our own operatic conclusion to Tanya’s life and her story.”
It was important to White, however, that Tanya not die at the hands of someone else.
“I just think her dying at the hands of someone else felt too tragic,” he said. “It felt like she needed to give her best fight back, and that she in a way had some kind of victory over whoever was conspiring to get rid of her. So it just made me laugh to think she would take out [this] cabal of killers and that after she successfully does that, she just dies this derpy death. It just felt like that’s so Tanya.”
“The White Lotus” Season 3 has already been ordered by HBO, and given that this is an anthology series the plan is to have a new location and new characters. However, in the post-finale video White alluded to a continuation or some kind of closure to Greg’s murder plot in Season 3.
“I think as far as what happens to Greg and the conspiracy of Tanya’s death, it’s possible that I think Portia is scared enough to just leave it alone but the fact that all of those guys die on the boat feels like there’s gotta be somebody who’s gonna track it back down to Greg. But maybe you’ll have to wait to find out what happens.”
Just as Coolidge was the only character to reprise her role from Season 1 in Season 2, could we see Haley Lu Richardson’s Portia return as she tries to dig deeper into what happened to Tanya? Or Greg? It would fit with the theme White teased as central to Season 3.
“The first season kind of highlighted money, and then the second season is sex, and I think the third season would be maybe a kind of satirical and funny look at death and Eastern religion and spirituality, and it feels like it could be a rich tapestry to do another round at White Lotus,” White said in the video.
Stay tuned, folks. This particular story may have come to a close, but there’s more “White Lotus” to come.