The White Lotus Season 2 Misses Murray Bartlett’s Armond
Tragic hotel manager Armond (Murray Bartlett) brought an important to perspective to The White Lotus that's missing in season 2.
This article discusses plot points through The White Lotus season 2 episode 4.
Anthology television series can really be something special on a year-to-year basis if the writers of a show know their themes, continue to rework them in accordance with new characters, and respond to audience trends and desires. This is why a series like American Horror Story continues to be a powerhouse all these years later, and it’s also why True Detective whimpered after its first go-around. The first show has a strong grasp on all of these items of importance, and the latter couldn’t move forward without the novel brilliance of Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson.
The White Lotus clearly knew that it was vital to bring back one character from the first season of the show to bridge the divide in storytelling between the two mini-series. They opted to go with fan-favorite Tanya McQuoid on the back of the powerhouse performance of Jennifer Coolidge. While this was a seemingly-obvious choice to go with, it may not have been the most fruitful one in hindsight. The new season of the show is excellent in its own right through four episodes, but it’s missing that extra thematic juice that was so fulfilling when the vacationers were in Hawaii instead of Sicily. This could be due to the change of setting, it could be the unfortunate reality that lightning is almost impossible to catch in a bottle twice, or it could just be that the resort is missing the bundle of chaotic energy that was Armond (Murray Bartlett).
The hotel manager of the White Lotus’ aloha location was the central character in a show filled with great ones. His back-and-forth ego battle with petulant vacationer Shane Patton (Jake Lacy) was one of the most awkward and nail-biting tug-of-wars on TV in 2021. He struggled with drug addiction, he got caught eating ass, he dropped a deuce in a luggage bag, and he bled out in the bathtub. A roller-coaster character arc that is simply unreplicated in recent memory, Armond was the brightest star in creator Mike White’s galaxy. His line delivery was obscene, as Bartlett never failed to let us know just how grueling it was for Armond to say things with a smile strewn across his visage as hotel guests ran amok and treated him like a second-class citizen.
The timeliness of Armond’s plight came in the immediate aftermath of the quarantine-era, making the whole experience an eerie come-to-Jesus moment for viewers who may or may not have acted in ugly symmetry to some of the guests at the White Lotus. Armond never responded the way he should have, instead retaliating with passive-aggressive barbs, back-handed compliments, and olive branch offerings accompanied with caveats. With so many characters to keep track of, Armond often served as the center-point of the operation. Many of his actions had indirect consequences for other people in the show, making the plot tightly-wound and easy to understand.
The second season of the show has plenty of interesting hotel-goers, but the conflict is all coming internally. Marital spats, infidelity, and sex addiction are the focus at hand right now. This lack of variety could be solved by having a character like Armond who is undergoing struggles caused by the actions of the resort’s guests. Without a sacrificial lamb like Armond, it’s hard to feel invested in the outcomes of the plotlines. Ethan’s (Will Sharpe) lack of honesty with Harper (Aubrey Plaza) only hurts their marriage. Dom’s (Michael Imperioli) sex addiction sets his son, Albie (Adam DiMarco) down the same dangerous path of misogyny that he’s already gone down. In all honesty, who cares? One rich person is hurting another rich person.
These elite snobs learning their lessons and becoming better people doesn’t change the course of society in any way. There’s always going to be hundreds of thousands of others like these people who won’t ever change. For the climax of the season to truly harness the power of the social commentary from the first season, there have to be characters we know on the outside of the upper-class who are wounded by these folks. Otherwise it gives off the appearance that the top one percent is living in a bubble where their stunts only affect each other. There is potential for this to go more similarly to the first season, though, as we know from the first scene of the season that someone is going to murdered due to the wild shenanigans of the visitors just like last time.
Armond was directly impacted by the behaviors of the guests in Hawaii last year. He became a tragic symbol of the ways classism distorts the world, and when he decided to start his own personal revolution, it ended in inevitable demise. His destiny was the country’s: the system is skewed in favor of the people with the cash, and you better never forget it. He was a direct byproduct of the despicable acts from his superiors. The way he went down with the ship was what made him iconic.
New episodes of The White Lotus season 2 premiere Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and HBO Max.