Review: Netflix’s Elite season 3 is sexy, salacious – and surprisingly deep

The Spanish teen drama stays true to itself as it powers into a third season on Netflix

Netflix drama Elite

It’s sexy, salacious and utterly ridiculous – but three seasons in, Elite has pulled off the surprising feat of keeping its central characters grounded in reality. And that’s what makes it such a compelling TV show.

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It’s something that similar shows such as Gossip Girl and How to Get Away with Murder never quite managed to master. Like so many other teen dramas, they both jumped the shark by the end of season two as the screenwriters struggled to find increasingly-zany situations to thrust upon a bunch of inexplicably-attractive teenagers – even if these absurd storylines added nothing of worth to their characters’ arcs.

In fact, Elite has a depth to it that no other teen-themed series has achieved in years. The only other drama operating on the same level is HBO’s Euphoria, but that actually only made its debut a year after Elite’s critically-lauded first season hit Netflix in 2018.

Netflix show Elite

On paper, Elite doesn’t look so promising. A bunch of rich kids at a private school tearing each other apart sounded all very ‘been there, done that’. But one glance into the Spanish TV drama’s perfectly crafted world of sex, lies and murder and it’s impossible not to be hooked.

From class differences, poverty, racial injustice, and LGBTQ themes, the show doesn’t tiptoe around issues that are at the heart of teens’ lives nowadays. Sure, it may come in an unwaveringly glossy package, but in its underbelly lays a gritty sense of realism that isn’t afraid to push the envelope.

As with its first two seasons, Elite returns with another shocking crime that sees the students scrambling to place blame and find the culprit – alongside that utterly useless detective who, yet again, finds herself at the end of endless sassy retorts from teenagers half her age.

It’s these moments where the show descends into a gritty telenovela that make it so wildly enjoyable. Committing a brutal crime behind closed doors? So passé. But waiting to do it in front of an entire nightclub full of witnesses so you can be interrogated by police in vintage Chanel? Honestly, these privileged teens are just everything.

As the season starts out with Polo released on bail and every other character gunning for him, aside from Cayetana, who’s willing to ignore all red flags because he’s hot – see, grounded in reality! – We’re left to watch as the clues slowly begin to unravel.

Lucrecia describes the ensuing drama so perfectly in that sass-ridden drawl we’ve come to adore her for, telling her classmates: ‘Let the Hunger Games begin!’

Okay, but wait. I can’t go on any longer without talking about Carla.

Frankly, I don’t know a better woman. From season one, episode one, Miss Caleruega has served us endless looks and carved herself out as the defining character in an ensemble show, à la Rachel in Friends.

Season three sees her continuing as the puppeteer of her classmates’ drama, seamlessly slipping between real and fake emotions to the point where it seems like even she’s beginning to forget where the line blurs.

While last season maintained what fans have loved about the show, there was a sense that the influx of new characters came at the price of pacing during some episodes.

Thankfully season three only bothers to introduce one or two new faces, leaving every minute dedicated to the central mystery and wrapping up the storylines of the ones we actually care about.

That’s important, because rumours are already swirling that the show is set to be rebooted with a new cast for season four. Still, if that is the case, at least these incredible characters are getting the send-off they deserve.

But if this is the final act, then it begs the question: will these self-serving, jaded, privileged teens whose favourite activities include murdering their friends, destroying lives and cheating on their loved ones get the happy ending they categorically don’t deserve? Either way, I have no doubt that you’ll find yourself rooting for each and every one of them as the season reaches its climax – just as I was.
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Elite season three is available on Netflix from Friday 13th March 2020