Staying In: Élite

Old-school opulence, murder, and passion find a fresh new flame in Élite

Image courtesy of Zeta Producciones

Best for: Mystery lovers; Riverdale escapees; tea enthusiasts  

By: Zach Siddiqui, Copy Editor

Why did you have blood on you?

That, translated from Spanish, sets the tone for Netflix’s Élite. Released on October 5 last year, the series covers the tangle of social classes as middle-class students Samuel, Christian, and Nadia receive scholarships to Spain’s most famous private high school, Las Encinas.

It’s instantly volatile, as the scholarship kids spark resentment to smoulder in Las Encinas’s shamelessly bourgeois student body — for reasons that are much more complex than you might guess at first. But tension tends to end in a snap, and what starts with friction ends in a student’s death . . . The resulting investigation is intercut with the students’ salacious day-to-day lives leading up to the poolside murder.

Dealing with classism, death, romance, and high drama, it’s hardly new to compare Élite to shows like Gossip Girl, How to Get Away With Murder, and Big Little Lies (look, another murder-weapon trophy!). But the show polishes and repurposes iconic-but-tired dramatic tropes and character archetypes, spinning them into a wholly refreshed narrative that gleams more opulently than Cartier watches.

It’s yet another dead-girl mystery, but the plot has far more at stake than just the victim. Characters like resident alpha-bitch Lucrecia and the egotistical Guzmán seem too familiar, but they quickly develop in un-expected routes.

Even the romances vary wildly. On one hand, we get the stale love triangle between Samuel, his paroled brother Nano, and disenfranchised rich girl Marina. On the other, we also get fascinating ones like Christian being drawn into the complex, newly open relationship of wine-heiress Carla and her boyfriend Polo.

Élite does justice to the rest of its strong ensemble, too. Nadia and her brother Omar, raised in a traditional Palestinian Muslim home, get surprisingly nuanced and culturally resonant portrayals. Meanwhile, Omar, Christian, Polo, and unhappy tennis star Ander all explore their non-heterosexuality in diverse and distinct arcs.

What I really loved about the show, though, is the moral balance. The characters are sympathetic, but never completely moral. They’re fascinating, but you know you’re not looking at role models. Élite captivates with the scandal, but it stops just short of unhealthy romanticism.

Like Lucrecia tells the police: “When a new species is introduced in an ecosystem, it is always altered.” Check out Élite to see what happens when coincidence and intrigue adds three scholarship kids to the mix of Spain’s richest communities.

Élite is available on Netflix.