There’s a new teen show to obsesses over, and it has a sexy Spanish accent. Elite, Netflix’s Spanish teen thriller premiered last month and within days it was all-over social media with stars like Lea Michele and Kevin McHale tweeting their love. In recent years, Netflix has been ramping up its international originals content. While many of these series have done well in the past, they don’t always connect with American audiences. Elite, Netflix’s second Spanish production, defied those odds, gaining lots of buzz and earning a second season renewal within two weeks of its debut. Elite’s success merits a closer look at what about the teen thriller has resonated with audiences.
A Satisfying Mystery
Elite opens with a familiar premise, the arrival of three working-class students (Christian, Samuel and Nadia) to Las Encinas, an elite prep school in Spain throws everything into chaos. Jealousy, class tensions, and murder are quick to follow. Yes, murder. Elite is basically the Spanish lovechild of Gossip Girl and How to Get Away With Murder and by the end of the pilot one of the main characters is revealed as the murder victim. The mystery at the center of the Elite‘s first season then becomes the investigation on who the murderer is. It won’t surprise anyone to know that every character is a suspect with secrets they want to keep hidden. It’s a compelling and well-plotted mystery. The show uses it’s eight episodes effectively to tease out the mystery and actually has a satisfying reveal on who the murderer is.
Characters Beyond Stereotypes
While the murder mystery is great at hooking you in, it’s the characters that really make the show stand out. You definitely get a lot of the stereotypes you expect from a teen show; Lu is your smart mean girl, Guzman is your snobbish jerk, Nadia is the dutiful muslim and Marina is the rebellious rich girl, but the characters quickly go beyond those defined roles in surprising ways. There are nuances to the characters and their relationships. Elite is not afraid to push boundaries on the issues and storylines it pursues. One of the characters has HIV, a reality rarely seen on teen shows. While Nadia and her brother Omar are Palestinian muslims facing Islamophobia on a daily basis. Elite also gets major props for it’s LGBTQ storylines.
I am of course talking about, Omar and Ander (#Omander), Elite‘s gay couple that will have you swooning from day one. Omar and Ander, come from two every different social and religious backgrounds. Omar is a closeted muslim who sells drugs on the side, while Ander is the son of the principal at Las Encinas and a frustrated tennis star. They meet when Ander buys drugs from Omar, and a whirlwind romance follows. The two have very different coming out experiences that contrast how socio-economic issues and religion can impact your coming-out experience. Despite all the challenges, Omar and Ander have the sweetest relationship and are probably the nicest and most decent people on Elite.
Elite is a show full of the teen tropes we know and love, but it elevates them by constantly trying to put a different twist on them. Take for example the classic love triangle. Elite has several of them, but the one between Carla, Polo and Christian is the most unconventional one. Christian, one of the scholarship students, immediately sets his sights on Carla who is already in a relationship with Polo. To the surprise of Christian, they suggest he join their relationship. Their “throuple” starts as two bored rich kids looking to spice up their lives, but leads to some unexpected explorations on relationships, expectations and sexuality. It also leads to some very steamy scenes, and theirs are not the only ones. Let’s just say Elite is a bit risque (there’s a lot of beautiful teens hooking up, okay).
It’s also just really fun. The cast has great chemistry. The plots and twists are engaging and interesting. The shipping is first rate, I haven’t even mentioned my favorite ship, the slow-burn torture that is rich-asshole Guzman and Nadia, the intelligent Muslim student. Beautiful teens behaving badly is not something new, but Elite is a really great addition to the genre and just a blast to watch. It’s a teen show worth investing time in and audiences seem to have agreed.
One last thing, Netflix automatically defaults to the dubbed version of their international show. You can totally binge and enjoy Elite with the English dub, but I’d recommend watching Elite is the way it was filmed, in Spanish. I know reading subtitles can be annoying, but it’s totally worth it, I promise, as it really ads to the whole experience. Vale?
Elite is now streaming on Netflix.