'The White Lotus' Creator Mike White Explains Why He Killed Fan-Favorite Character — and Teases Season 3

White Lotus creator Mike White put a lot of thought into the story told on season 2 of the HBO series — and he has big plans for what's to come next season

The White Lotus - Jennifer Coolidge
Photo: Fabio Lovino/HBO

This post contains spoilers for The White Lotus.

Mike White put a lot of thought into plotting out the stories on The White Lotus.

After the acclaimed drama's season 2 finale aired Sunday, the series creator revealed in an HBO Max featurette his reasoning for killing off fan-favorite character Tanya (Jennifer Coolidge). In fact, the origins of Tanya's shocking demise can be traced back to the show's season 1 finale.

"In the end of last season, Tanya is sitting with Greg [Jon Gries] 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,'" said White, 52. "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: the journey to death."

Tanya's Italian getaway with her husband, Greg, was rocky from day one. It was clear the newlyweds were no longer in the honeymoon phase, and Greg abruptly left the trip after a whispered call made it seem like he was having an affair.

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Things began looking up for Tanya when she connected with a group of gay men led by a British heir named Quentin (Tom Hollander), but her paranoia was triggered after she found an old photo of Quentin with a man who bore a striking resemblance to Greg.

After a disturbing phone call with her assistant Portia (Haley Lu Richardson), who also felt something bad was happening, Tanya grew even more nervous on her yacht ride with her new friends back to Taormina from Palermo.

Haley Lu Richardson, Jennifer Coolidge HBO, The White Lotus, Season 2 - Episode 3
Haley Lu Richardson and Jennifer Coolidge in The White Lotus. Photograph by Fabio Lovino/HBO

Fearing she was being set up to die, Tanya panicked and shot the men in self-defense. When she tried to jump from the yacht to a smaller boat to make her way back to the White Lotus resort, she slipped on her chunky heels, was knocked unconscious and drowned.

"Not that I really wanted to kill Tanya because I love her as a character and obviously love Jennifer," White said in the featurette. "But we're going to Italy, she's such a diva, a larger-than-life female archetype, it felt maybe we could devise our own operatic conclusion to her life and story."

White believed that seeing Tanya "dying at the hands of someone else felt too tragic."

"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," he added. "It just made me laugh to think like she would like take out this cabal of killers and after she successfully does that and she just dies this derpy death and that's so Tanya."

Mike White 'The White Lotus' TV show season 2 premiere
Matt Baron/BEI/Shutterstock

Though it seems like the HBO anthology series closed out Tanya's journey, White teased the possibility that the aftermath of her passing could be explored 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, it feels like there's gotta be somebody who's gonna track it down to Greg," he said. "But maybe you'll have to wait to find out what happens."

The White Lotus was an overnight success after its July 2021 premiere. It also went up for a number of Emmys this past fall, with Coolidge scoring a win for her work.

The show has only grown in popularity with its second season, premiering in October. It even nabbed an early season 3 renewal last month.

In the HBO Max featurette, White shared his hopes for what's to come in the third installment. He, in doing so, also indirectly confirmed rumors the new season will take place in Asia.

"The first season we highlighted money and then the second season is sex," he explained. "And I think the third season, it would be maybe a kind of satirical and funny look at death in Eastern religion and spirituality — it feels like it could be a rich tapestry to do another round at White Lotus."

The first two seasons of The White Lotus can be streamed in full on HBO Max.

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