Elite is the new soapy Netflix drama that’s being described as a mix of Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and How to Get Away With Murder. The Spanish show follows three working class students: Samuel (Itzan Escamilla), Christian (Miguel Herrán), and Nadia (Spanish actress of Moroccan descent Mina El Hammani). They are awarded scholarships to attend Las Encinas, a swanky private school, after their own school collapses under mysterious circumstances. The three students are forced to adapt to their new environment – especially their new classmates including star student Lucrecia (Mexican actress and singer Danna Paola), the popular Guzmán (Miguel Bernardeau) and his sister, the rebellious Marina (María Pedraza), tennis pro Ander (Arón Piper), heiress Carla (Ester Expósito), and loyal Polo (Álvaro Rico). Samuel, Christian, and Nadia work to balance their new relationships with old loyalties and family drama – oh and the murder of one of their classmates. At the center of Elite is a murder mystery about who died, who did it, and why.
Elite’s storyline pulls the viewer in. It starts with the murder, at first not revealing who was killed. It then flashes to the events that preceded it. Knowing what’s coming only makes watching more intense. Elite acts as a puzzle, laying out the pieces for the viewer to put together. At the same time it’s hard not to get caught up in the glamour of costumes, the sweeping sets, and overall lush atmosphere of the teen drama.
The 8-episode series is created by Spanish writers Carlos Montero (El Tiempo Entre Costuras)and Darío Madrona (Génesis). The show is so popular, Netflix has already renewed it for a second season. (And after that ending, we’re going to need it!) But if that’s not enough to convince you, here why you should be watching Elite.
Elite is currently streaming on Netflix.
It's a Compelling Murder Mystery
From the very first scene, Elite puts the focus on the show’s big mystery. It opens with the aftermath of the murder, viewed from Samuel’s perspective. His heavy breathing echoes off the walls of the dark school pool as as blue and red police lights reflect off his face. The filming is close up, creating a claustrophobic feeling, one that will be repeated in the interrogation scenes that appear throughout the series. For the majority of the first episode we don’t even know who died, just that for some reason Samuel was found covered in blood. It creates questions right away, allowing the viewer to play detective and put the clues together.
It isn’t a new form of storytelling, but it’s done extremely well. The episodes cut back and forth between the students’ lives and their interviews with the detective (Ainhoa Santamaría), sometimes revealing that not everyone is telling the whole truth. As the episodes go on and we get to know the characters better, the mystery intensifies and the lines blur even more. Almost everyone has a motive from the teacher to the parents and the students themselves. These little details pull the viewer into the show and make it easy to hit the “next episode” button.
In a murder mystery show, to care about the stakes, you have to care about the characters. The performances and writing give Elite a cast of well developed and easily likable characters. The show spends time developing each backstory. We are given a look at how family dynamics are different in each household, from Guzmán and Nadia’s overbearing parents to Samuel’s barely present (both physically and emotionally) mother. Plus because of the type of show Elite is, everyone has plenty of secrets to hide from their past, making it all the more juicy.
The characters are also surprising in their dimensions. Someone like Christian in any other show would be resigned to the role of class clown. On Elite while he is the guy with the best one liners and the most bravado, he is also smart. He wants to use his time at Las Encinas not to study, but to network with the upper class students. Unlike Samuel and Nadia, he isn’t afraid to try and fit in. Herrán plays Christian with such joy and abandon it’s hard not to want to see him happy. And it is Christian who is faced with some of the season’s toughest choices regarding his loyalty.
The Swoon-Worthy Romance
Elite is one of those rare shows where every pairing of characters is shippable. It’s hard to decide who you want to end up together. The actors all ooze chemistry. And Elite is does not shy away from showing all the juicy hookups. There is even a three person couple, whose relationship is explored (for the most part) without judgment and in the same way as all of the others. And of course there are plenty of love triangles, including one involving Samuel and his just-out-of- jail older brother Nano (Jamie Lorente) and the girl they both care about.
However, the most swoon-worthy couple at the center of the show is comprised of Anders and Nadia’s brother, Omar (Omar Ayuso), which has already been dubbed #Omander by fans. However, before they admit their true feelings for each other, the two men must face the truth of their own hearts. What unfolds is a tending and sometimes heartbreakingly realistic queer love story. Complicating matters is Omar’s traditional Muslim father and Anders’ rich friends who don’t approve of his lower class lover. It is the star crossed nature of their romance that adds to the appeal and will leave fans eager to see what happens for them in season 2.
There's Loads of Drama
Teen shows like Riverdale are so popular because for most part, what’s shown on screen is nothing like an actual high school experience. Elite is pretty much the same. It’s a totally unrealistic portrayal of teenage life which makes it so much fun to watch. It’s escapism. And it’s easy to get swept up in the show’s world of backstabbing, corruption, and sex.
For kids who are supposed to be 16, they sure manage to find themselves involved in some pretty adult situations. This includes Samuel and Nano, who become involved in a plot to blackmail Carla’s father, whose company is involved with their school collapsing. Nano wants the money so he can pay back the thugs who protected him while he was in prison and get him and his brother a better life. But he’s playing a game he does not understand, one that gets increasingly dangerous as the season goes on.
It's Got a Killer Soundtrack
If you’re going to have romance and drama on your show, it better be set to a good music. Elite delivers with a soundtrack that features English artists like The National and CHVRCHES alongside Spanish artists such as La Casa Azul and Dorian. Actress Paola even has two of her own songs featured in scenes (with her character of course). What’s interesting is the way the music is used, it’s not just in the background, but oftentimes what the characters themselves are listening. In several scenes music plays until a character removes their headphones to engage in a conversation, causing the music to lower or turn down.
The music is to used to draw the viewer into the characters’ worlds. The songs played are the ones the characters use to open themselves up to other such as when Guzmán shares his headphones with Nadia so she can listen to James Blake’s “Overgrown” with him or when Marina shares her love for dancing with Samuel with a performance set to “Hundred Miles” by Yall and Gabriela Richardson. Music allows these two characters to show their more vulnerable sides to the people they care about.
And if you can’t get the catchy tunes out of your head, Spotify already has a playlist of the show’s songs all ready to go.
The world of Las Encinas is extragravant. It’s not just the clothes either, although the crisp blue and red trimmed jackets do pop on screen. The whole show is full of rich environments from the school itself to the homes of the upper class students. There are lots of gorgeous shots of pools overlooking vistas and living rooms bathed in sunlight from large windows. It’s one of those worlds that is nice to imagine yourself living in, whatever the problems might be on the outside.
Another reason to watch is for the parties. The series is bookended by them. It opens with Marina’s coming out party and ends with the party celebrating the end of the school year. Both are opportunities for the characters to dress up outside of their uniforms, showing off their glamorous dresses and slick suits. Besides the usual fights and spiking of the punch they are a bit tamer than most parties in teen shows, but they do provide another glimpse into how the other half lives.
The Storylines Have Substance
While Elite might be a soapy drama, the show also deals with some pretty heavy topics.
There is a storyline involving a character who is HIV positive, a teenage pregnancy, issues of drug abuse, and more than one emotional coming out. These issues don’t make the show any less fun to watch, in fact they enhance it. While it may be hard to relate to some of the #RichPeopleProblems the characters face, underneath they are shown as complex characters with real obstacles to face.
One of the most surprising aspects of the show is the way it embraces the friendships of the male characters. It is so rare to see men talk openly about their feelings on TV and even rarer when these characters are Hispanic. They aren’t portrayed as any less “macho” either. They are just friends who would do anything for each other. In fact, when Guzmán finds out his childhood friend Anders is gay, he is not upset by his sexuality, but because Anders did not feel comfortable enough to tell one of his oldest friends the truth. It’s a telling character moment and one that makes the show stronger. Elite is a better show for not shying away from important issues or big conversations. It adds realism to go along with some of the show’s crazier plotlines.