Elite (TV series)
Elite is a Spanish thriller teen drama web television series created for Netflix by Carlos Montero and Darío Madrona. The series is set in Las Encinas, a fictional elite secondary school and revolves around the relationships between three working-class teenage students enrolled at the school through a scholarship and their wealthy classmates. The series features an ensemble cast including María Pedraza, Itzan Escamilla, Miguel Bernardeau, Miguel Herrán, Jaime Lorente, Álvaro Rico, Arón Piper, Mina El Hammani, Ester Expósito, Omar Ayuso, and Danna Paola. Jorge López, Claudia Salas, Georgina Amorós, Sergio Momo, Leïti Sène, Carla Díaz, Manu Ríos, Martina Cariddi, and Pol Granch joined the cast in later seasons. Many of the cast previously featured in other Netflix works produced or distributed in Spain and Latin America.
Elite explores concepts and themes associated with teen dramas, but also features more progressive issues and other sides to its clichés. These include many diverse sexual themes. Structurally, the series employs a flash-forward plot that involves a mystery element, with each season taking place in two timelines. The first season, consisting of eight episodes, was released on Netflix on 8 October 2018. It received positive reviews from critics and audiences, with many hailing the series as a "guilty pleasure", and praising its writing, acting and portrayal of mature themes. In October 2018, the series was renewed for a [|second season], which was released on 6 September 2019. A third season was ordered in August 2019 and was released on 13 March 2020. In January 2020, Netflix renewed the series for a fourth and fifth season.
Season 1After their school collapses, three working-class friends – Samuel, Nadia and Christian – are offered scholarships to Las Encinas, the most exclusive private school in Spain. The scholarships are sponsored by the construction company at fault for the school's collapse. At Las Encinas, the three are initially ostracized by the wealthy students. As the school year progresses, their lives intertwine in a clash of lifestyles, resentments, envy, and sexual attraction. Through a series of flash-forward scenes of police interrogations, the audience is shown stories of the characters' relationships that lead to Marina's murder.
Season 2After the revelation of the murder, the second season deals with the lead-up to the disappearance of Samuel. Meanwhile, three new students – Valerio, Rebeca, and Cayetana – join the school where each of them have their own dark secrets. They befriend the students in their class whilst Samuel continues with his plan to clear the name of his brother Nano, who was accused of Marina's murder. Meanwhile, Polo attempts suicide to clear his conscience, but eventually learns to live happily with the help of Cayetana. Ander's mental health deteriorates due to the burden of keeping Polo's secret. After Samuel tricks Carla into revealing Marina's murderer, Polo is arrested, but is released two weeks later and returns to school.
Season 3The students enter their last semester at Las Encinas. In a flash-forward plot, the students are interviewed about Polo's death during their graduation party. Polo and Cayetana are left as outcasts by their peers, with the exception of Valerio. Samuel and Guzman continue their plot to bring justice for Polo's crimes. Lu and Nadia compete for a scholarship to Columbia University, leading the two to form a mutual friendship. Ander is diagnosed with leukemia and begins chemotherapy, causing friction between him and his loved ones. On the night of their graduation, in a drunken stupor, Lu accidentally stabs Polo, who stumbles and falls to his death. Samuel, Guzmán, Ander, Omar, Nadia, Carla, Valerio, Rebeca and Cayetana agree to cover up the murder. Unable to find a suspect, Polo's death is eventually ruled as a suicide and his parents tell the police he confessed to Marina's murder. Two months later, Samuel, Guzman, Ander and Rebeca return to repeat their final year with Omar, who has enrolled as a full-time student.
Cast and characters
Introduced in season one
- María Pedraza as Marina Nunier Osuna, Guzmán's sister and love interest of Nano and Samuel. She comes from a wealthy family and has a streak of falling for the 'bad boy'. She rebels against the hypocritical ways of her family, while maintaining a youthful and joyful spirit. In season 1, she is murdered by Polo with the school trophy and Nano is framed for the crime.
- Itzan Escamilla as Samuel García Domínguez, one of three transfer students, who is the love interest of Marina and later falls for Carla. A hardworking, shy and kind-hearted guy. He always looks out for the people around him. He is justice-driven and will go to extreme lengths to ensure that everyone gets what they deserve. His mysterious disappearance which turned out to be a trap to expose the truth of Marina's killer is the pivotal storyline for the second season.
- Miguel Bernardeau as Guzmán Nunier Osuna, adopted brother of Marina, and Lu's ex-boyfriend, who falls for Nadia. A hot-headed popular guy at school. He believes his way is always the right way. He is extremely protective over his sister, and does not bond well with the transfer students. He would do anything for his friends.
- Miguel Herrán as Christian Varela Expósito, one of three transfer students, who gets into a relationship with Polo and Carla. A comical and carefree transfer student who tries to stay connected with his past, while trying to assimilate with the richer students. In season 2, he is deliberately run over by Carla's father, leaving him seriously injured, and has him transferred to another hospital in Switzerland to prevent the truth about Marina's murder from being revealed.
- Jaime Lorente as Fernando "Nano" García Domínguez, Samuel's older brother who just got out of prison, who is also a love interest of Marina. His handsome and dangerous aura draws Marina in. He struggles to pay a debt from prison and will do anything to get his hands on money. He is caring and sensitive to the people close to him. He often finds himself in trouble.
- Álvaro Rico as Leopoldo "Polo" Benavent Villada, Carla's ex-boyfriend and Cayetana's love interest. He is submissive in nature and will follow the orders of the people he is close to. He is extremely wealthy, the son of two mothers, and suffers from anxiety attacks. He is bisexual. In season 3, he dies after Lu accidentally stabs him with a bottleneck and he slips and falls from a second floor.
- Arón Piper as Ander Muñoz, son of the principal who falls for Omar. He is a star athlete and under constant pressure from his parents to excel in everything he does. This pushes him to take drugs. He is driven to get what he wants while caring deeply for the people that matters most to him. He is gay.
- Mina El Hammani as Nadia Shanaa, one of three transfer students, the daughter of Palestinian immigrants and the love interest of Guzmán. She is academically driven and holds her religious and personal values close to her. She was eventually banned from wearing the hijab at school, and the more she assimilates with the school culture, the more she gains her independence from her overprotective parents.
- Omar Ayuso as Omar Shanaa, Nadia's brother, who falls for Ander against his father's wishes. He is a closeted gay guy who struggles with pleasing his parents while living his true self. He dealt drugs in order to make enough money to move out. He is shy, detail-oriented and best friends with Samuel. In season 3, he resumes his school studies and enrolls at Las Encinas.
- Ester Expósito as Carla Rosón Caleruega, Polo's ex-girlfriend and Christian's sex partner who later falls in love with Samuel. She is beautiful, cold and manipulative. She is the daughter of a Marquess and is extremely wealthy. She uses her sexuality to get what she wants. A softer side of her is shown as she cares about the people she loves and will go to extreme lengths to cover up their faults and supports them.
- Danna Paola as Lucrecia "Lu" Montesinos Hendrich, Guzmán's ex-girlfriend who shares an incestuous relationship with her half-brother, Valerio. She is strong-witted, competitive and manipulative. She will go to extreme lengths to secure what she believes will bring her happiness however she is aware that no matter how much she has, she will never be satisfied. She had a strong dislike for Nadia but they eventually become friends. She is also extremely wealthy.
Introduced in season two
- Jorge López as Valerio Montesinos Rojas, Lu's half-brother. He is a drug addict, likes to party, and will do anything for Lu with whom he shares an incestuous relationship. He eventually befriends Nadia.
- Claudia Salas as Rebeca "Rebe" de Bormujo Ávalos, a rebel, wealthy girl, who has a crush on Samuel. She is different from the other wealthier students in her class as she likes to extravagantly flaunt her wealth through her clothes and jewellery. She was not born into wealth which causes her to sympathise a lot with Nadia, Omar and Samuel. Her mother engages in the drug business.
- Georgina Amorós as Cayetana Grajera Pando, the daughter of a cleaning lady who lives a fraudulent lifestyle and is the love interest of Polo. She is manipulative to the extent of fabricating a whole lifestyle in order to assimilate with the wealthier students in her class. She befriends Lu, and will go to extreme lengths to prove how wealthy she is. Her mother, a cleaning lady, works at the school where she disapproves of her daughter's lies.
Introduced in season three
- Leïti Sène as Malik, a love interest of Omar. He is flirtatious, and manipulative, using Nadia as a beard to get closer to Omar. He is wealthy and puts on a performance to appear to be a 'good' Muslim.
- Sergio Momo as Yeray, a love interest of Carla. A young wealthy student who started up his own business. He was initially overweight and was bullied for it constantly, but Carla gave him the confidence to change his habits. He is superficial as he sees Carla as an ornament he can parade around, but ultimately he shows a more caring side.
Introduced in season four
- Martina Cariddi
- Carla Díaz
- Pol Granch
- Manu Ríos
- Ramón Esquinas as Ventura Nunier, Guzmán and Marina's father
- Jorge Suquet as Martín, a school teacher
- Ainhoa Santamaría as the police interrogator
- Irene Arcos as Pilar Domínguez, Nano and Samuel's mother
- Abdelatif Hwidar as Yusef Shanaa, Nadia and Omar's father
- Elisabet Gelabert as Azucena de Muñoz, the school principal and Ander's mother
- Rocío Muñoz-Cobo as Laura Osuna, Marina and Guzmán's mother
- Alfredo Villa as Antonio Muñoz, Ander's father and tennis coach
- Farah Hamed as Imán Shanaa, Nadia and Omar's mother
- Lola Marceli as Beatriz Caleruega, a marchioness and Carla's mother
- Rubén Martínez as Teodoro Rosón, Carla's father and Ventura's business partner
- Yaiza Guimaré as Begoña, one of Polo's mothers
- Liz Lobato as Andrea, one of Polo's mothers and CEO of an important magazine
- Marta Aledo as Victoria Pando, Cayetana's mother
- Eva Llorach as Sandra Ávalos, Rebeca's mother
- Jorge Clemente as Alexis, Ander's friend
Development and themesOn 17 July 2017, it was announced that Netflix had given the production a series order for a first season; it is the second Netflix original series in Spain after Cable Girls. The series is created by Carlos Montero and Darío Madrona who are both credited as executive producers of the series; as Netflix announced the order, The Hollywood Reporter wrote that the series' team "boasts one of the most successful writing teams in Spain's current TV landscape". Montero and Madrona came to develop the series after being told that Netflix was looking for a teenage show and were asked to produce an idea, with Montero coming up with the basic premise; the pair worked on it before presenting to Netflix a month later.
Erik Barmack, Netflix's VP of original series at the time, said that Elite would be "a very different kind of teen thriller that will cross borders and affect audiences globally". Still, the creators said that the series has a lot of Spanish themes and Spanish identity, to give it "a sense of place and time, that it is a series of this moment and of this country", and to prevent it from becoming a "series that could happen anywhere in the world that can be understood everywhere, in the end it is not understood anywhere". In September 2018, it was announced that the series would premiere on 5 October 2018. Producer Francisco Ramos spoke about some of the decisions in creating the show in an interview before it was released. He said that the choice to set the mystery drama in a high school was important because "it is the time of your life when things matter the most", allowing them to explore the pressures of fitting in as an elite alongside the other plot lines.
On 17 October 2018, Netflix renewed the series for a second season. During this period it was increasing production in Spain after having constructed new production facilities in Madrid. As Netflix renewed the show, it announced that there were still discussions on which characters would appear. The second season was released on 6 September 2019; it began production after the viewership for the first season was known, in January 2019, though it had been written before season 1 had been released.
The internal structure of the show uses flash-forwards to advance the plot and the mystery, which Variety compared to that of Big Little Lies. When speaking of the innovation in the second season, co-creator Darío Madrona said that they "wanted to keep the fast-forward formula as a staple of the series, but at the same time be different". Madrona said: "In the first season we were conscious that we were making a series for Netflix, and tried to put everything into it For season 2, we thought that we had the opportunity to explore the characters and the new ones as well. But it was an instinctive decision." Variety wrote that the second season therefore may be similar to Stranger Things season 3 in the way it compares to its more plot-driven predecessor seasons and how it "drives deeper into interaction, in continued coming of age narratives which are deeply inflected by class and economics". The production values and costs were also raised for season 2, to allow the creators more freedom.
The character Cayetana, introduced in season 2, is said to tackle the topic of appearances being everything–a theme of the series–from a different angle. She is a social media influencer and, according to Amorós "isn't at all what she seems". Social media is another theme examined in season 2, with Darío Madrona and actress Mina El Hammani commenting on how it gives a perception of someone being good if people like who they are on the Internet, which can be dangerous.
On 29 August 2019, it was reported that the series was renewed for a third season, before the second season had aired. The third season's logo has been stylized as "ELIT3". The third season premiered on 13 March 2020.
On 20 January 2020, it was announced that the series had been renewed for a fourth and fifth season.
On 22 May 2020, Netflix officially announced the show's renewal for the fourth season which was already in development.
CastingVariety writes that the show's characters all "border stereotypes" but "escape total buttonholing"; director Silvia Quer said that she was attracted to the show because of the well-constructed characters. The series creators have been questioned on their choice to continue with the tradition of casting adult actors for all the teenage roles, reporting that it is "a purely practical matter" based on labor laws, as well as noting that most of the actors were aged between 19 and 22 when filming, whereas American series often use actors closer to 30. The production was involved in casting for the show.
The initial main cast was confirmed before the series' debut, featuring several actors from other Netflix series and films either created or distributed by Netflix España y Latinoamerica, including Itzan Escamilla of Cable Girls, Danna Paola of Lo más sencillo es complicarlo todo, and María Pedraza, Jaime Lorente, and Miguel Herrán of Money Heist. However, acting newcomer Omar Ayuso was also cast, as a character bearing his own given name. For season two, another actress from a Netflix series, Georgina Amorós of the Catalan Welcome to the Family, was added to the cast. Announced shortly before its release, she was joined by Claudia Salas and Jorge López. Two new members of the cast for season 3, and their characters, were introduced in a short Netflix video shared by actress Ester Expósito, on 4 October 2019. They are also actors from other Netflix series: Leïti Sène of Welcome to the Family and Sergio Momo of The Neighbor.
Paola has said in interviews that she almost lost the chance to audition for the show, as the message was sent over email but landed in her spam messages folder. However, she retrieved it and sent in a video audition; the for this involved an early scene where her character is having a tense conversation with the character Nadia. In the scene, Paola says that she ad-libbed using the sarcastic term of endearment "darling", which the creators liked and has since become a catchphrase on the series. On 28 January 2020, it was announced that the series will consist of a new main cast for the fourth season. On 19 May 2020, it was confirmed via Élite's Instagram account that Mina El Hammani, Danna Paola, Ester Expósito, Álvaro Rico, and Jorge López will not return for season 4. Sergio Momo and Leiti Sène, who appeared in a main role in season 3, won't also return for season 4. On 22 May 2020, Itzan Escamilla, Miguel Bernardeau, Arón Piper, Omar Ayuso, Claudia Salas and Georgina Amorós were confirmed to reprise their roles in season 4.
On 19 July 2020, Carla Díaz, Manu Ríos, Martina Cariddi, Pol Granch, Diego Martín and Andrés Velencoso were announced to have joined the fourth season's new main cast.
FilmingThough the school in the series, Las Encinas, is located in the mountains, it is filmed in Madrid, including parts filmed in San Lorenzo de El Escorial.
The first two seasons were shot entirely in 4K. In a tweet shared by Expósito in October 2019, the actress revealed that the third season had already completed filming.
MusicLynn Fainchtein serves as the music supervisor of the series.
Season 1 (2018)
Season 2 (2019)
Season 3 (2020)
Critical responseElite was met with critical acclaim. On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the first season has a 100% rating with 14 reviews. The website's critical consensus reads, "Elite is highly digestible, technically strong trash TV for anyone with a guilty pleasure palate." Other reviewers also refer to the show as a guilty pleasure. Natalie Winkelman from The Daily Beast gave the first season a positive review, saying that "with Euro-cool style and compelling characters, Elite is trashy, diverting fun." John Doyle from The Globe and Mail likewise complimented the first season in his review, adding that "Elite is no masterpiece but is one of those oddly satisfying, binge-worthy curiosities." Taylor Antrim of Vogue also said that is worth a binge-watch and "goes down like a cold glass of verdejo". Antrim wrote that the series is an example of Netflix "airing global TV shows that slavishly borrow television tropes", saying that "If it were a CW show I'd hardly give it a second look. But a Spanish prep school is seductive terra incognita" in the positive review.
Writing for Variety, Caroline Framke also comments on the series' use of tropes. She notes that being introduced to the show as a combination of many other teen dramas, she was concerned that taking on so many tropes would make it "an overstuffed Frankenstein of a show", but that she was quickly proven wrong when watching it.
Framke compares many of the characters' individual plots to other high school series and films. Of these, she finds the "love triangle between Marina, Samuel, and his brother Nano one of the show's only duller features". She concludes by saying that "Even given a million other options on Netflix alone, this tantalizing and whipsmart entry to the teen show pantheon proves itself worthy of the spotlight". David Griffin of IGN also identifies the series in the same way. He gave the first season an 8.8/10, highlighting that it sets a "new standard for how a high school drama series should be done" and "may be the best high school drama on TV."
In a similar take, Lena Finkel of Femestella looked at how the series was different to many of its counterparts by how it tackled contentious issues. Finkel lists explicitly examples, including that when Elite has sex scenes, they are often about the woman's pleasure; that a character who believes abortion is murder is still pro-choice; that when a male character is come onto by a drunk girl that he likes, he sends her home; that it explores social and class differences when young people come out; that the gay male sex scene is sensual as well as explicit; and that it features characters including a young man unashamedly nervous to lose his virginity and a straight, white, wealthy, woman who is HIV-positive. She writes that the series "absolutely lives up to the height", congratulating it both on including these features and for "a great job depicting each issue, no matter how complex". However, she does note that the trailers "made it seem like yet another cheesy, over-acted teen drama".
Also looking at how the series addresses diverse issues and modern society, Grazia Middle East wrote about the representation of Nadia. Writer Olivia Adams says that the show explores some of the more everyday struggles of racial discrimination towards Muslims by having Nadia be forced to remove her headscarf in school, something that has been considered at some real schools in Europe. She also notes how the home life of the Muslim family is explored, not just the teenagers' interrelations, giving a fuller view.
Genevieve van Voorhis of Bustle notes that the series can feel aesthetically more like a horror than a teen drama as it pairs "wide shots of the school are almost Wes Anderson-like in their color coordination and perfect 90 degree angles" with eerie music.
Kathryn VanArendonk of Vulture stated in a positive review of the series that though "Elite is not pushing new boundaries in television, it’s not a self-serious reboot of an old property" and that "in spite of that — or more likely because of it! — its commitment to breakneck melodrama is undeniably enjoyable." Kemi Alemoru of Dazed recommends watching the show because it is "extra", relishing in showing the excessive world of the elite students with extravagant parties and the means to escalate small fights to high-expense drama, and also for its positive representation of topics. Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya from Thrillist recommended the first season in their review of the series by stating that "Elite might be the only show that could give Riverdale a run for its money when it comes to excessive slow-motion shots." Decider
On Rotten Tomatoes, the second season has an approval rating of 91% based on 11 reviews. The website's critical consensus reads, "Elite is back for another entertaining, edge-of-your-seat mystery that succeeds thanks to charismatic characters and a bloody plot that doesn't take itself too seriously."
Framke also notes that Netflix in the United States automatically defaults to the show with an English dub, and suggests changing the audio back to its original Castilian Spanish for the best experience.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the third season has an approval rating of 100% based on 9 reviews.
Popular responseOn 17 January 2019, Netflix announced that the series had been streamed by over 20 million accounts within its first month of release.
After Netflix posted an image of gay characters Omar and Ander to Instagram, it received homophobic comments. The streaming service responded to one with rainbow emojis.