Netflix's 'Élite' is the scandalous teen drama you deserve
TV / 26 October 2018, 3:00pm / Sonia Roa/Washington Post
We aren't blind to the fact that everyone's list of shows to watch on Netflix rivals the length of a CVS receipt. We, too, are guilty of nodding along as a friend insists we must stream some miniseries about cults, only to promptly - and maybe purposefully - forget the title. Peak TV is both a blessing and a burden.
And yet! If you are a fan of teen dramas about class conflict and forbidden romances, you simply must watch "Élite," Netflix's Spanish-language series set at Las Encinas, the most exclusive fictional high school in Spain.
The show, which premiered earlier this month and has already been renewed for a second season, tracks three working-class kids who wind up at the school after an earthquake destroys their old one. It is thrilling, pulpy and full of navy blazers in a way that sort of feels like "Gossip Girl" before it went off the rails.
Oh, and did we mention "Élite" is also a time-hopping murder mystery? Turns out there's a little "Big Little Lies" mixed in as well. Here's a closer look at what the Netflix show entails.
- Messy relationships, some of which are secret (gasp!)
The longevity of "Romeo and Juliet" proves that we will never tire of forbidden romances. The same goes for people from different worlds falling in love: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Edward Cullen and Bella Swan, Jackson Maine and Ally What's-Her-Name - you get it.
Such romances abound in "Élite," supported by characters who contain enough idiosyncrasies to keep their story lines fresh. Here are a few examples, with slight spoilers: Arrogant popular kid Guzmán (Miguel Bernardeau) develops feelings for Nadia (Mina El Hammani), the reserved new girl who, unlike most of her peers, tries her best to focus on schoolwork. This leaves his enamored friend-with-benefits Lucrecia (Danna Paola), who rules the school a la Blair Waldorf, in the dust. Guzmán's best friend Ander (Arón Piper) and Nadia's brother Omar (Omar Ayuso) fall for each other but keep their relationship a secret, for neither one has come out to their family.
The most risque relationship is a throuple, consisting of bored couple Carla (Ester Expósito) and Polo (Álvaro Rico), who use their pretty faces and social clout to attract Christian (Miguel Herrán), a wannabe influencer.
A murder mystery to solve (double gasp!)
There's been a murder ... in Las Encinas.
"Élite" opens with an interrogation run by a detective who, admittedly, does a pretty awful job of keeping important case details to herself. As the show progresses, it splices in clips of her interviewing each character about their relationship with the victim, who was killed near the swimming pool with a sought-after statuette. Colonel Mustard is nowhere to be found, so pretty much everyone else is a suspect.
Beautiful people to crush on, obviously
Teen drama scripture holds that almost every character who appears on screen for more than five minutes total must be hot. It is why Serena van der Woodsen and Marissa Cooper need only bat an eyelash to get away with their often heinous behaviour, and why all the male actors on "Riverdale" post thirst traps on Instagram.
Everyone on "Élite" could easily book the modelling gigs Christian dreams about, but this especially applies to Omar and Ander. The prospect of these beautiful souls sharing a scene will keep you glued to your computer screen, even though that means you'll have to put up with sometimes tiring things like Marina (María Pedraza), Guzmán's sister, making terrible decisions.
Familial drama, complete with also-hot parents
The Las Encinas students had to get their good looks from somewhere! Though the parents on "Élite" aren't nearly as perfect as "The O.C.'s" chief bagel provider, Sandy Cohen - who could forget those eyebrows? - or the hot dads of "Riverdale," they successfully passed on their nice jawlines and propensity for stern looks. Parental drama among the rich involves questionable business practices and potential jail time, while it remains limited to stern parenting among their working-class counterparts.
The juiciest family feud is born out of a "Vampire Diaries"-esque love triangle between Marina and two brothers: her well-mannered boyfriend, Samuel (Itzan Escamilla), and his rebellious older brother, Nano (Jaime Lorente).
Tricky subject manner
In addition to the aforementioned class conflict - which seems to be a key ingredient in every quality teen drama - "Élite" touches on racism, sexuality and sexually transmitted infections. Nadia faces expulsion if she doesn't take her hijab off at school; Omar fears his parents' reaction to him being gay, while Polo grapples with his simultaneous jealousy of and attraction to Christian; a character is publicly revealed to be HIV positive, but the reaction is more respectful and informed than it might have been years ago.
"Élite" avoids coming off as an after-school special by carefully folding all the subjects into its well-paced plot. If you wind up binge-watching the series - it's hard not to! - be sure to watch with Spanish audio and English subtitles so you can witness the witty banter as it is meant to be witnessed.