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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Illustration for article titled Netflix’s horny teen drama iÉlite /iis haunted by the future in season 3
Photo: Manuel Fernandez-Valdes (Netflix)
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There is a moment in the first episode of the latest season of Élite, Netflix’s sexy Spanish noir teen drama, when our still-unnamed inspector confronts Carla (Ester Expósito), one of the series’ many tortured rich students. Carla has refused to play nice in court and the detective, who probably cannot believe that these damn kids refuse to get off her investigative lawn, is pissed. “What were you thinking?” she asks. Carla’s answer: “My future.”

The question of the future hangs thick in the air as the students of exclusive Las Encinas high school continue to grapple with love, hormones, and way too many crimes. The first season of Èlite had spoiled rich kids fighting to maintain their status quo after the introduction of three scholarship students threw everyone’s world off balance. The second season saw the characters trying to return to a past that had been destroyed. These new episodes center on the big questions the clique faces with the prospect of adulthood: “What future do I want to build? What future do I have access to? And what future can I expect when my entire high school experience has been defined by the murders of not one, but two of my classmates?”

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For those who have yet to indulge in one of Netflix’s most popular shows worldwide, a brief recap: In season one, we learned that the person who killed the popular, tragic Marina, whose death was the central plot point, is Polo (Álvaro Rico), one of the school’s golden boys and the best friend of Marina’s brother, Guzmán (Miguel Bernardeau). Season two followed Guzmán and Samuel (Itzan Escamilla), a scholarship student and Marina’s former boyfriend, in a convoluted scheme to take Polo down. The season finale showed Carla, Polo’s ex-girlfriend, finally revealing to investigators that Polo had committed the crime. There was only one problem—detectives still hadn’t located the murder weapon. Cayetana (Georgina Amorós), Polo’s new girlfriend, had made the move to hide it in her home. With the entire case hinging on Carla’s testimony, Polo is allowed to return to Las Encinas.

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As for season three, the first two minutes depict a young man crashing through shattered glass and falling from the second story of a club balcony, smack into the middle of the dance floor, as revelers shriek in horror. The identities of the new victim and murderer, as well as how this all ties back to Marina, are the major driving force in this new batch of episodes.

If this all makes your head spin, that’s the point. Élite has always embraced its soapy, pulpy take on teen angst, prioritizing twists and turns over cohesive narrative. The best way to approach it—and enjoy it—is by accepting that all elements will have a tinge of the ridiculous. This is a teen world where adults are either absent, villainous, or a complete afterthought. Uniform dress codes are routinely violated and going to school is merely a formality. Character motivation and introspection are explained in a flash, if at all. It’s a show where 16-year-olds have the kind of satisfying, freewheeling sex life that empowered swingers in their forties dream of. (This can be refreshing in its own way, but it does require some suspension of disbelief.) Everyone’s eyebrows are so perfectly coiffed, you’d think El Greco had a hand in them.

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Illustration for article titled Netflix’s horny teen drama iÉlite /iis haunted by the future in season 3
Photo: Manuel Fernandez-Valdes (Netflix)

On the other hand, Élite has proven to be more intelligent than it might seem at first. The drama is at its best when it uses the trappings of high school drama to explore class divisions and the many ways society marginalizes individuals, forcing us all to keep certain façades for survival. In other words, power—who has it, who wants it, and who is afraid of losing it—is at the core of many of the characters’ conflicts. One of the most delicious aspects of this season’s first two episodes is noting the shifting alliances that occur when the promise of a privileged, prosperous future for all characters is at risk. A highly entertaining montage of everyone bombing interviews with prospective colleges shows exactly how much baggage they still carry and how woefully unprepared they are to leave the confines of what they know, even if what they know is a school drenched in blood, cocaine, and illicit romps.

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Guzmán and Samuel continue to be an unlikely duo, united by a sense of righting wrongs that few of their classmates share. Cayetana, the Instagram influencer scammer and social climber, is clinging to Polo and dragging that romance into problematic, stalkerish territory. Ander (Arón Piper) and Omar (Omar Ayuso), the heart-stirring gay couple, must learn to navigate unexpected news that could forever tear them apart. Valerio (Jorgé Lopez) is back to make everyone uncomfortable with his incestuous relationship with mean girl Lucrecia (Danna Paola), and their bond might very well destroy the carefully constructed image that she has maniacally sought to maintain. Returning to her role as the dutiful, ambitious daughter in a traditional Muslim family, Nadia (Mina El Hammani) is still haunted by a sex tape that may exclude her from college scholarships. Carla, ostracized and carrying the weight of maybe the worst high school experience ever, broods. Thank God for Rebeka (Claudia Salas), the mini Rosalía who curses like a sailor but has a heart of gold, to provide some much-needed comic relief and unexpected tenderness amongst the grit.

Illustration for article titled Netflix’s horny teen drama iÉlite /iis haunted by the future in season 3
Photo: Manuel Fernandez-Valdes (Netflix)
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There are also two new characters this season, Malick (Leïti Sène) and Yeray (Sergio Momo). It’s the first time Élite has had any Black characters on the show, and it will be interesting to see how they develop as the season progresses. Both are presented as love interests for Nadia and Carla but are given little else to do in the first two episodes, other than try to swoon the girls. So there are already about twenty narrative threads being thrown at the viewer in just the first two episodes, all supposedly weaving together into this season’s main mystery. It’s worked well for Élite in the past and this season doesn’t deviate from the formula its audience has come to expect. The use of flashbacks and flash-forwards prevails, as well as the mechanism of using the inspector’s interrogations to keep up the intrigue.

If the constant return to Marina’s murder is wearing on viewers, they can rest easy. Creators Carlos Montero and Darío Madrona have announced that the third season will tie up all loose ends regarding Marina’s murder, a welcome respite. At this point in the series, Marina has become a bit of an exhausting ghost and, frankly, a less interesting callback than her alive counterparts. One hopes that the payoff at the end of season three will be worthy of all those champagne bottles the teens keep popping—because to see Élite crash into the ground, like a bloody corpse, would truly be a sad sight.

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Ines Bellina is a writer, storyteller, and bon vivant. When she's not working on her novel or overscheduling herself, she sings love songs to bulldogs.

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