‘The White Lotus’: Murray Bartlett on Armond’s Downward Spiral & That Shocking Ending
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for The White Lotus, Season 1, Episode 6, “Departures.”]
If viewers of HBO’s The White Lotus have learned anything watching the first season, it’s that things probably won’t work out for the little guy.
The Season 1 finale certainly proved that, while also delivering plenty of surprises and a shocking death. It turns out that the individual Shane (Jake Lacy) is so touchy about in the airport is none other than resort manager Armond (Murray Bartlett). The two have repeatedly butted heads over Shane’s unsatisfactory lodging, and in the finale, Armond is finally pushed over the edge when he learns that Shane’s complaint will lead to his termination.
Drugged and boozed-up, Armond attempts revenge by entering Shane’s suite to defecate in the hellish guest’s luggage. When Shane returns to his room unexpectedly, the manager is forced to hide as the guest investigates the scene. Following the Mossbacher family’s hotel room robbery, Shane has a knife ready on the nightstand as a means of self-defense against possible intruders. He rounds a corner and accidentally walks his knife right into Armond.
And just as the hospitality professional is shipped off to his final destination, The White Lotus’s guests also make their exit. Below, Bartlett opens up about Armond’s season arc and fate, collaborating with Mike White, and shares his thoughts on Season 2.
Poor Armond is Season 1’s mystery victim. How did you feel about his arc and ultimate demise?
Murray Bartlett: I think it’s such a wonderful aspect of the show, this suspense of who it’s going to be. I wasn’t completely shocked, because he was kind of going off the rails. And so it seemed like a possibility at least, but I was still kind of shocked. I think it’s an amazing end for this character, [in the sense] that I don’t know where he would go after this. Not to say that he should die by any means. But I think in the moments after it’s happened and the shock and pain have sort of made their mark, there’s some release in death. He plays into this whole hierarchy and system of privilege that they’re all in, but he’s also a casualty of it. This system of privilege and entitlement doesn’t serve anybody in the end.
Who would you say is most responsible for Armond’s death? Himself, Shane, or is it the rigged system they’re a part of?
All these people have just got intense issues with everything around them. I mean, Armond’s issues and the events that happened along the way, definitely drive him forward towards his end, but I think the show is setting up this hierarchy of people with money and privilege at the top, and then this whole pyramid downwards. Ultimately, when we’re valuing some people over others, no one ends up happy, really.
I feel like the big picture is, can we be kind and compassionate to each other through this? In the microcosm of this show, these people aren’t. It’s uncomfortable to watch in a lot of ways because we’re guilty of a lot of these things. These characters all exist inside of us, and we could all go the way of Armond. This kind of system does drive you crazy. And if you have addiction issues or whatever, it can heighten them. It’s ultimately a tragedy.
Nobody does win, except for maybe Quinn Mossbacher (Fred Hechinger) who escapes his family at the airport to lead a life in Hawaii?
I think you’re right. Maybe he hasn’t been inundated by this kind of system as much. He’s still a bit of an outsider and innocent enough to not be pulled into it too much. And also I think he connects with the local people and nature and with the bigger picture stuff that’s all around us.
This is Mike White’s project through and through. What was it like getting to collaborate with him?
It was dreamy, really. I’ve always wanted to work with Mike White. He’s just a good person. He’s kind and creative and wants you to take risks. And he creates this atmosphere of play on set, where you feel like you can try things out. So you can do mediocre or great work, but you’re still going to be saved by these incredible scripts. You’re starting with such an advantage.
And it was a very unique experience, shooting during a pandemic, where we’re all quarantined together, kind of like a summer camp, if you can call it that in the middle of a pandemic… we were all close together. And with Mike as the conductor of all this, it was just incredibly fun and creative. And we all felt incredibly lucky to be working during the pandemic.
The scripts are amazing. Was there any moment or thing that stood out to you when reading them?
One of the amazing things about these scripts is that I had multiple moments where I laughed out loud at my character and other characters. I feel like it’s so evenly balanced. I’m a huge fan of everyone who’s in the show. When I read the scripts and knew Jennifer [Coolidge] was in it, I loved imagining her in the role [of Tanya]. I laughed when I was reading it, and yet she completely goes beyond what I could have ever imagined and is so brilliant. But I don’t know, there are so many great moments in the show.
One of the things I loved for my character is the sort of face-offs with Shane. They’re such brilliantly written scenes and the conflict is so clear because they both want completely different things and they’re never going to give in. They’re funny, but I think they’re also kind of uncomfortable. I was really excited about playing those scenes, and Jake Lacy is just such an awesome actor, so we had a lot of fun in those scenes.
I was going to say, I don’t think I’ve cringed or laughed as much during one show. And I mean that as a compliment.
I know what you mean, but I think that’s the genius of Mike White. It’s a really clever device because he’s playing with a lot of themes. The comedy is sort of disarming in a little way, but there’s a real kind of ugliness underneath a lot of what’s happening in the show. It’s a real kind of double-edged sword.
The show has been renewed for Season 2. Despite Armond’s fate in this chapter, would you consider returning if asked?
Well, I think that Armond should come back in the second season as a ghost and advise them in person. What do you think?
That would totally fit with the tone of the show, I love it. But it would be even better if Armond was wearing his pink coat.
I mean, I don’t know whether you get to wear a pink coat in the afterlife. But who knows? If anyone could do it, Armond can.
The White Lotus, Season 2, TBA, HBO