Elite is a Spanish teen crime drama that promises to be a clichéd high school murder mystery but is actually a gritty and culturally relevant drama. Teenage high school shows on Netflix have been getting worse and worse for a long time. This reached a peak in the musical episodes of Riverdale, and the predictable plots that run through every Netflix original. Comparatively, Elite feels like a breath of fresh air.
When the local public-school collapses in an architectural disaster, three students – Samuel, Christian, and Nadia – receive scholarships to attend an exclusive private school. The disapproval that their entry creates sets off a dramatic chain of events which culminates in the death of Marina (a student from the school). Much like Big Little Lies, the show begins with scenes from the end of the season, revealing that Marina has been murdered, and then cuts back and forth between past and present events. This not only creates tension but causes you to continually change your opinion on who murdered her.
Each character’s perspective and past are fully explored, resulting in intriguing character development throughout the seasons which gives Elite depth. The character’s lives are set against their social status according to wealth, sex, and power, allowing the show to address controversial issues. Each episode tackles questions of racism, religion, sexuality, drug use, and poverty in a rich and relatable way. In turn, the links between the characters slowly appear, creating a complex web of social relationships. This pits characters against each other while ultimately bonding them together. Elite retains a tension throughout all three of its seasons, with a clever story arc demonstrating how events from the first season leave characters forever scarred.
Elite is addictive enough to watch in a few days, but complex enough that you will want to watch it again. The only TV show that comes close to its depth is Euphoria, as they both address mature issues that are stereotypically brushed over in teen shows such as Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars.
Visually, the show is opulent, but this is effectively set against scenes of poverty. From designer clothing and million-pound houses to sketchy, abandoned buildings and gang violence, the directors contrast two lifestyles to an extreme. The clashing of these two different worlds leaves the characters lusting over lives they cannot have, or in many cases, cannot even afford to associate themselves with.
At first, Elite’s Spanish language made me apprehensive of watching it, but the subtitles actually added to my viewing experience. The necessity of reading the subtitles to understand the plot meant I was always fully engaged, and I was sucked into the story. Since I had to focus on the show, I didn’t go on my phone or try to multitask whilst watching it: instead I was glued to the screen and the hours flew by. The cultural differences also added another intriguing element to the show. The ridiculously good-looking cast perhaps also helped with plot engagement, albeit while taking away a sense of realism. Their looks contribute to the central theme of exclusive status and power, making their lives feel all the more unattainable. Elite is the perfect name for a series anchored in the status and prejudice that define elitism.
Featured Image Source: Elite via Netflix