While I should have been catching up on cable television or one of the many, many shows my friends, family and colleagues
harass encourage me to watch (“Euphoria,” “Peaky Blinders,” “Fleabag,” the list goes on), here I was, turning on a Spanish-language Netflix original that I’d never heard of before. What could have been a disastrous decision turned into a two-week binge of subtitles, scandal and questionably graphic sex scenes.
“Elite” was just renewed for a third season as of August (before the second had even aired, may I add), and for good reason. The show is like if a telenovela had a baby with “Gossip Girl,” and as decidedly nuts as it is...it’s really good, OK? The show picks up after a high school literally collapses, displacing most of its students. As way of apology, the construction company that built the school sends three teens to the exclusive private school on the other side of town on a scholarship. The kids at Las Encinas are rich, attractive and have little sense of right and wrong and, naturally, tensions clash.
Are you catching the parallels?
Amid petty (and some not-so-petty) high school drama, there's a murder investigation going on, for which flash-forwards are used to move the whodunnit forward. While every actor -- who, of course, is playing a character much younger than they are -- sells their crazy narrative with ease, it’s Mexican actress Danna Paola who really sold me on this wild show.
Paola plays Lucrecia (you can call her Lu), resident mean girl with a never-ending agenda. Season 1 of “Elite” found Lu vying for the attention of Guzmán, the Spanish equivalent of the popular-football-player-who-runs-the-school trope of American film and television. Lu’s season 1 arc (or lack thereof, really) relies on her one-liners, and her character primarily exists solely to help the other characters along their own plots.
But her performance doing so is beatific. There’s something particularly alluring about the mean girls in movies, how you love to hate them but end up respecting them in a way, if for no other reason than that they’re good at what they do. Lu’s pretty-girl snark doubled me over at times, cringing for whoever was at the butt of her insult, and other times had me cheering at how she could roll with so many punches and still come out on top.
By season 2, it seems the execs over at Netflix realized Lu’s worth. She got her very own messy plotline (involving some mild incest, but it’s nothing compared to “Game of Thrones”) and was able to expand her character beyond the vapid rich girl. Don’t get confused, though -- she was still the vapid rich girl, but Paola had more opportunity to flush the character out with raw emotion and some backstory.
The result, going into season 3, is a portrait of a girl who uses snark, sarcasm and spite to keep everything else well hidden.
Lu’s going to rule the world, everybody. Or at least Las Encinas.
Season 3 of “Elite” drops sometime in 2020.