Privileged, greedy, traitorous and pretending to be woke – the characters in HBO’s hotel drama hit new lows in villainy. But who was the worst?
Last modified on Tue 21 Sep 2021 06.18 BST
Mike White’s series The White Lotus, which concluded its UK run last night, has been the breakout hit of the summer. This is partly because it acts as an amuse bouche for Succession’s return in October – they both feature rich people doing terrible things in beautiful locations – and partly because its characters are all so unbelievably ghastly that you can lose days trying to quantify precisely how ghastly they are.
With that in mind, here is my official White Lotus character ranking, from least awful to most awful. Should you disagree, I would like to hear about it. Before you read on, beware: this piece is absolutely dripping with spoilers for the whole series.
It is saying something that the least dreadful person in The White Lotus was Quinn (Fred Hechinger), a privileged white tourist who abandoned his family for an invented colonial paradise among the magical locals. Nevertheless, he comes out on top here. Forced out of the hotel by his awful sister, he gradually slowed down enough to appreciate the smaller things. In this world, this counts as unbelievable growth.
The only crime Belinda (Natasha Rothwell) was guilty of was being sucked into someone else’s orbit on the promise of money. Tanya – grief-stricken and needy – promised to be her benefactor for a new business, before pulling out at the last minute, leaving Belinda back at square one. However, square one was a well-paying job that she apparently enjoyed, so there are worse fates.
Greg (Jon Gries) is a man with simple needs. At the end of his life, he just wanted someone pretty to have sex with. He got it, it made him happy and nobody else got hurt. If only everything was so easy.
Tanya’s awfulness largely stemmed from her obliviousness. Played with just the right amount of naivety by Jennifer Coolidge, she glommed on to Belinda from the outset, making her feel special and promising her money, before reneging on a whim as soon as a better offer came along. If this was anyone else, Tanya’s actions would be unforgivable. But she is grappling through the fog of bereavement. Might she be a better person in happier circumstances? We will never know.
On the surface, Murray Bartlett’s character was one of the biggest villains of the piece. He stole drugs, took drugs, manipulated a co-worker into sex and went out of his way to spite his guests. To which I say: yes, but have you seen his guests? If I had to deal with people like that every day, I would turn into a monster too. And, let’s not forget, the poor guy ended up dead. Let’s cut him some slack, I say.
Like Armond, Kai (Kekoa Scott Kekumano) worked in the service industry. However, unlike Armond, he made the mistake of trying to help his guests. He broke into a suite and attempted to steal some incredibly expensive bracelets on the say-so of Paula, with whom he had enjoyed a holiday romance. He was caught and imprisoned, his life effectively over. He is a victim, to be sure – but also a victim who committed a number of felonies.
It was Paula (Brittany O’Grady) who convinced Kai to steal the bracelets. Although her motivation was sound – she thought Kai could use the money to hire a lawyer after the government stole his family land – she also refused to help him once he was caught. Perhaps the most superficially woke of them all, Paula fails spectacularly when it is time to turn her beliefs into actions.
Alexandra Daddario’s character was another outsider – a journalist of moderate income who was sucked into the world of obscene wealth when she married a millionaire. She was unhappy from the outset, but nevertheless earns this place for two reasons. First, when presented with the opportunity to stick to her principles by choosing work over wealth, she declined. Second, she is a freelancer who writes listicles for a living. I am also a freelancer who writes listicles for a living. Therefore, every commission she gets is money I could have earned. For that, I want to see her destroyed.
I am combining the Mossbachers (played by Steve Zahn and Connie Britton) because even I cannot rank their dreadfulness. He cheated on his wife and reacted to upsetting news by indulging in some genuinely ugly drunken behaviour. She was pitiless and treated everyone around her with a cold dismissiveness. Neither of them is actively evil, but they are too blinded by privilege to notice the ill effects they have on the world.
There wasn’t a lot to separate Olivia (Sydney Sweeney) from Paula, since they were joined at the hip for much of the series. However, although Olivia used the same social justice warrior lingo as her friend, she did it from a place of extraordinarily cosseted wealth. She read all the right books and said she wanted change, but would never want to do anything to upset her position of unbelievable privilege. Sociopathic.
Of course, the winner is Shane (Jake Lacy). Shane, who dripped with unearned wealth. Shane, who lost his mind with rage when given the wrong room. Shane, who tried to buy his new wife out of her career. Shane, who hung out with his mother on his honeymoon. Shane, who straight-up murdered a guy. It is hard to argue with this one, surely.
All episodes of The White Lotus are available now on Sky Atlantic and Now TV