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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

November 21, 2018   |   Ithaca, NY

Life & Culture

Review: Spanish drama series is strong, not sugarcoated

Elite

Netflix

Las Encinas is a high school that pushes students to become leaders, promotes success over failure and helps students secures future careers. It is also the scene of a crime — a student is found dead on school grounds.

From creators Carlos Montero and Darío Madrona, “Elite” is a Netflix Original Spanish teen drama series. It follows the lives of ten students from a preppy and private high school, Las Encinas, where children from Spain’s wealthiest families are sent to study. When this elite environment is threatened by a murder case, a group of students becomes suspects.

Outcasted by the school due to their social status, three students struggle to navigate the halls while being stared down. Samuel Domínguez (Itzan Escamilla), Christian Varela Expóstio (Miguel Herrán) and Nadia Shana (Mina El Hammani) are the new kids on the block at Las Encinas. They’re viewed by the rest of the student population as the “scholarship kids.”

Samuel is sweet and sensitive, a character the audience roots for to remain innocent. Samuel cares about others and is always willing to help, which can be a fault. Christian is the comedian in the group. He can either be loved or hated by viewers. His actions are sometimes infuriating and at other times, admirable. Nadia is a fighter and leader, determined to accomplish her goals. Despite holding positive qualities, Nadia lacks the ability to stand up for herself. Overall, the three characters contain reputable qualities and flaws that are well explored.

Throughout this eight-episode series, topics such as class inequality, freedom of religion, HIV and homosexuality play important roles in developing the storyline. Samuel, Christian and Nadia are able to attend Las Encinas because the school that housed the working side of society collapsed from its poor construction oversight. The company that was in charge of construction funded three scholarships in order to avoid backlash by the students’ families. “Elite” honestly depicts the differences that arise between the lower and upper classes. The friction that is born between the lowerincome students brutally points out an important issue that is present in numerous societies.

Nadia is passionate about her religion, so when La Encinas’ principal tells her that she will be expelled if she wears a hijab on school grounds, Nadia is forced to choose between religion and academics. This series highlights a vital concept freedom of choice. “Elite” does a good job in impacting viewers when it’s made clear by Nadia that she chooses to wear the hijab. The show moves forward by demonstrating that people should work to be open-minded and accepting of others.  

While “Elite” focuses on the murder investigation behind a student’s death, the show truly revolves around the lives of the main characters prior to the incident and how relationships were formed and destroyed. Characters like Ander (Arón Piper) and Omar (Omar Ayuso) are reallife depictions of the negative effects parents’ expectations can have on children. Ander and Omar are two characters who are in love yet struggle to confront their own sexuality, choosing to keep their feelings hidden in order to avoid disappointing their families. Their stories are truthful, moving and beautiful. Their relationship engages the audience, who wants them to stay together, but their inability to fight for their happiness is frustratingly heartbreaking.

Marina, played by María Pedraza, is also a vital character to this show as she highlights the stigma placed on people diagnosed with HIV. Marina feels ignored by her family because they choose to keep her diagnosis a secret. Marina’s brother is also very protective; he finds it necessary to keep her sister’s health status in the dark, demonstrating his fear of others’ reactions to the news.

“Elite” is more than just a teen drama series. The storyline is not sugar-coated and honestly highlights characters for their flaws. While doing so, this series focuses on the challenges that push people to hit a breaking point.

“Elite” sucks the viewers into its storyline, trying to connect the dots and ponder over the killer based on each character’s actions. It that allows native-Spanish speakers in the United States to embrace a show that doesn’t require them to turn on subtitles. It’s also an opportunity for Americans to enjoy a series in a different language. Students learning Spanish should keep an eye out for this show to augment your vocabulary.

It’s a series that brings in a fresh and realistic perspective on issues that are also relevant in American society. The viewpoint on the mentioned topics is being depicted from another country’s perspective, allowing all viewers, whether or not they speak Spanish, to attain a more global perspective.

“Elite” should be marked as a must watch. The show is a welldeveloped series that delves into substantial issues prevalent in society including class inequality and religious freedom. It also candidly explores each characters’ personality instead of just focusing on one main character. The recent confirmation of a second season only affirms the need to continue developing the plot, but until then, the wait leaves its audience at the edge of its seat.