In the second July of the ongoing pandemic, with his cinephilia fading, Film Quarterly columnist Bilal Qureshi was jolted awake by the biting excellence of HBO’s six-part series The White Lotus, the undeniable water-cooler show of the summer. A classis whodunnit set among a collective of entitled, smug, and vindictive wealthy tourists at a Hawaiian luxury resort, The White Lotus proved a provocative meditation on class, privilege, and the frayed national mood. To have a work of mainstream “prestige” TV—with is lavish production values and characteristic wealthy white angst—inspire confusion and disagreement over issues of whiteness and privilege strikes Qureshi as a welcome shift from streaming’s usual habit of lulling audiences into one-dimensional distraction and cements The White Lotus’s status as a definitive pandemic-era piece of filmmaking.

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