'The White Lotus': Stellar First Season Gets Underwhelming DVD Release (Review)

The White Lotus took home a whopping 10 Primetime Emmy awards, and it deserved almost every single one. The show, originally announced as a limited series, was a cultural phenomenon last summer, even inspiring HBO to order a second season. Writer/director Mike White (Enlightened) not only pulled down the curtain on the entitled vacationers at The White Lotus Hawaii resort, but he also ripped it to shreds in this six-episode epic. The show finally received a DVD release on Sept. 13.

The series begins with a group of privileged vacationers arriving at the Hawaii resort. There are the dysfunctional Mossbachers, made up of Mark (Steve Zahn) and Nicole (Connie Britton) and their children, Quinn (Fred Hechinger) and Olivia (Sydney Sweeney), who hope to escape the difficulties of life at home. Newlyweds Shane (Jake Lacy) and Rachel (Alexandra Daddario) arrive with dreams of having the perfect honeymoon only to expose the flaws in their relationship. Tanya McQuoid (Jennifer Coolidge) is searching for some understanding in life after her mother died. Olivia's friend Paula (Brittany O'Grady) arrives with the Mossbachers, getting an up close and personal view of their distorted reality. 

While the guests hopelessly try to escape themselves, the staff watches from afar before they are thrust into the guests' lives. Armond (Murray Bartlett) struggles to keep up with the facade of a perfect hotel manager as his demons rise to the surface. Spa manager Belinda (Natasha Rothwell) has a complicated relationship with Tanya that she feels uneasy about. White also ties in the resort's relationship with the native Hawaiian population through Kai (Kekoa Scott Kekumano), a staffer who finds a connection with Paula.

Once all these chess pieces are set on the board, White has a blast playing them against each other. The stories are all weaved together effortlessly and the show is at its best when unexpected pairings are made. These only exacerbate tensions and highlight the absurd self-centeredness of the wealthiest characters on the show. White's writing also shows a bit of restraint by keeping the show down to just six episodes, but he's also without limits when it comes to making us uncomfortable at home. He also deservedly won an Emmy for his directing, as he found a way to make the most out of the limited resort set.

In a testament to just how unimportant physical media is seen for television shows, it took over a year for The White Lotus, one of the most talked about shows of 2021, to reach DVD. Warner Bros. Home Video is not even releasing the show on Blu-ray. The set, released on Sept. 13, splits the six episodes onto two discs.

The most disappointing aspect of this set is the same issue with other recent HBO releases. There are just two bonus features, both of which run less than five minutes and are simply promotional pieces. One, "Cast Snap Judgements," is just members of the cast saying random words about each other. "Invitation to the Set" is a little better, with White popping in to talk about his work in very general terms. Understandably, Warner Bros. Discovery might not want to spend the budget on recording commentaries, but they could at least include the "Inside The Episode" segments that are up on HBO Max. 

The White Lotus Season 1 is an effortless limited series that uses the format to deliver an intricately layered experience that can stand up to multiple viewings. It is an excellent series and it deserves a great home video release to go with it. However, HBO and Warner Bros. have shown little interest in presenting it that way when it is readily available on HBO Max in HD. If you don't have access to HBO Max but want to see what all the fuss is about, The White Lotus: The Complete First Season DVD set is a serviceable, almost bare-bones release that simply gets the job done.

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the DVD I reviewed in this PopCulture.com article. The opinions I share are my own.