‘The White Lotus’ Finale: What Does ‘Faustian Bargain’ Mean?

The White Lotus Episode 6 premiered Aug. 15, thus concluding the addicting first season. Fans are still unpacking the shocking finale of The White Lotus. And Alexandra Daddario’s character, Rachel Patton, made some particularly head-scratching decisions. In Rachel’s scene with Belinda in episode 6, Rachel talks about making a “Faustian bargain” with her marriage to Shane. But what is a Faustian bargain? And how does it apply to Rachel in The White Lotus?

[Spoiler alert: This article contains spoilers for The White Lotus Season 1 Episode 6, “Departures.”]

Jake Lacy and Alexandra Daddario in 'The White Lotus' Season 1 Episode 6. In 'The White Lotus' finale, Rachel Patton talks about making a 'faustian bargain' with her marriage to Shane. In this photo, Daddario wears a hot pink, patterned, long-sleeved dress with her hair up in a bun. She gives Lacy a tense look in a hotel room. Lacy wears navy blue shorts and a light pink shirt and his back is facing the camera. Sunlight's coming in from an off-camera window. The walls are beige and slightly striped.
Jake Lacy and Alexandra Daddario in ‘The White Lotus’ Season 1 Episode 6 | Mario Perez/HBO

‘The White Lotus’ finale recap

The White Lotus Episode 5 ended with Rachel fearing she made a terrible mistake marrying Shane. Episode 6 started with her panicking over telling him that. She mustered the courage to do it, but Shane couldn’t compute what she was saying. Rachel knew she wanted to leave him and knew she had to tell him that, but actually committing to those feelings was a different story.

After six addictive episodes, The White Lotus finally revealed who died. Tragically, it was Armond, the hotel manager. And it was Shane who killed him. But not in a violent way like some fans thought he might. Rather, the death truly was an accident. But it was a devastating result of Shane’s abhorrent treatment of Armond. Shane might not have meant to kill him, but he absolutely is to blame for the circumstances that led to that point. (Armond also didn’t do himself any favors by pooping in Shane’s suitcase, but Shane still has the majority of the blame here.)

Rachel hated the way Shane treated Armond all season. His long tantrum over the Pineapple Suite is what sparked her doubt about their relationship in the first place. And yet, even after Shane murdered Armond, she decided to stay with him. Rachel met Shane at the airport and promised him she would “be happy.” Not sure we believe you, Rach! And also, what the heck are you doing?!

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Rachel called her marriage to Shane a ‘Faustian bargain’ in ‘The White Lotus’

Rachel spent the entire season worrying about what marrying him meant for her career, but she realized the career she carved out was neither the peak of journalistic success nor very profitable. She clearly wanted more for herself, but was no longer confident she could get there on her own. But with Shane, she had an immediate ticket to the upper echelon. Would she go against her morals to maintain that lifestyle? It turns out, yes!

Rachel agonized over having to make this (extremely privileged) choice when she confided in Belinda, who for some reason was still willing to help the rich white women at the hotel figure out their issues. (Belinda deserved so much better.) Rachel said:

“I mean, I was always gonna live life on my own terms. Obviously. But then what I manifested is pretty mediocre. But, like, could I live with myself if I made this Faustian bargain where I just ended up being someone’s arm candy for the rest of my life?”

Essentially, a Faustian bargain is when someone sells their soul for some kind of material benefit, knowing the being offering the trade is evil. In the end, the person who sells their soul learns their soul was always more valuable than what the evil was offering. Daddario did great work showing Rachel’s genuine conflict in this scene, as well as her sheer obliviousness to how privileged she sounded. Natasha Rothwell’s response was also delivered perfectly, as were the rest of her scenes this season, frankly. Emmys for Rothwell!

Alexandra Daddario as Rachel in HBO's 'The White Lotus.' She's sitting on the edge of the bed in a sundress while Jake Lacy lies down behind her, reading a book.
Alexandra Daddario and Jake Lacy in HBO’s ‘The White Lotus’ | HBO/Mario Perez

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Rachel’s ending in ‘The White Lotus’

When Belinda saw Rachel crying in the spa, she gave her her card out of sympathy. Based on what Belinda knew about Shane from her own experiences, it seems she might have sensed Rachel felt she was in danger with him and offered her help because of that. That would explain why, after hearing Rachel explain what was really wrong, Belinda responded, “You want my advice? I’m all out.”

Rachel also calling her situation a “Faustian bargain” could have very well triggered Belinda’s response. Here was this white woman complaining about being extremely rich and the “problems” wealth is causing her to a working class Black woman who doesn’t have nearly the same freedom of choice as Rachel.

On top of it all, Rachel’s husband is the man who caused Armond, Belinda’s friend and co-worker, to relapse. The self-awareness? It’s nonexistent. And the irony is she already made the Faustian bargain by marrying Shane. She recommitted herself to it by choosing to stay with him. And the fact that she chose to stay with him after he killed a man says everything you need to know about her.