Fiorella Beccaglia Managing Editor
“Elite,” the Spanish teen crime drama that hit Netflix in Oct. 2018, has been compared to some of the top twisty teen shows of the past decade. The comparisons are fair. For a show that had little pre-release marketing, it blew up on its own on social media (mostly in the Spanish- speaking world). It’s intriguing plot and characters led Netflix to renew it for a second season, which was released Sept. 6, 2019. I just finished watching this season, and this is my take on it: Americans have to open up to more international entertainment. Just watch it with subtitles.
“Elite” is one of the many shows that could give “Riverdale” a run for its money when it comes to excessive slow-motion shots. Like “Gossip Girl,” it’s set in an exclusive private school in Spain called Las Encinas, where social currency is determined by wealth, power, and following the norm. Unlike many other murder-mystery shows that twist and turn so much to the point where you don’t know what’s going one, “Elite” actually manages to convey a great story. It’s more slow crime than murder thriller and is strikingly grounded in its storytelling.
The show begins with the arrival of three outsiders to Las Encinas private school: Samuel (Itzan Escamilla), a sensitive boy who works as a waiter to support himself and his single mother; Christian (Miguel Herrán), a cocky and effervescent instigator; and Nadia (Mina El Hammani), an intelligent but reserved girl, who is alienated even more than Samuel and Christian because of her Muslim faith. The arrival of the new kids sparks controversy, especially because they are not wealthy and are there because of a scholarship.
Meanwhile, the show really revolves around someone’s death. By the end of the first episode, it’s revealed who that someone is, and from then on, the real mystery is who did it. By the end, the culprit really could be anyone, every central character possesses a compelling motive for the crime. “Elite” doesn’t fall into the same trap “How To Get Away With Murder” and “Riverdale” both have in the past where character development and consistent writing are sometimes sacrificed for the sake of selling a twist. Each of the students on “Elite” have clear and consistent perspectives, motivations, and psychological problems. Their actions make sense, even when they mess up.
While the murder hook is what makes Elite really bingeable, it’s the character development that elevates it into more than just a show. The characters quickly transcend their respective status quos, sometimes in admittedly predictable ways: the bad boy falls for the good girl and vice versa, the queen bee is insecure, and the bullies are secretly sensitive. Despite the fancy events where rich kids drink and party with luxury, “Elite” isn’t a copy of “Gossip Girl.” And even within these stereotypes, “Elite” finds interesting twists that say a lot about society, class, privilege, and sexuality.