By Trey Mangum
From the final season of FX’s spy drama, The Americans, to BBC America’s cat-and-mouse thriller, Killing Eve, 2018 has brought us some great television. But with a whopping 495 original scripted series airing this year, it can be a lot to filter through everything, and it’s even harder to keep up. However, there’s one series that has probably been hiding right under your nose (or Netflix queue), and you absolutely need to watch it before the year is over: Élite.
After their school collapsed due to construction failure, three working-class students are sent to Las Encinas, an exclusive private school where the children of Spanish society’s most élite attend. Their arrival sets off a series of events between the two factions that results in a murder straight out of your wildest true crime podcast.
While in the past decade there has been a flurry of teen dramas that have tackled murder, none have perfected this sub-genre quite like Élite. Taking a formula that has been tried by the likes of Pretty Little Liars, Gossip Girl, 13 Reasons Why, and Riverdale, while adding the murder-mystery flashback elements successfully featured in How to Get Away With Murder and Big Little Lies, Élite gives something fresh while tackling topical themes.
So, if you need a holiday binge, here are four reasons why Élite needs to be your next Netflix binge before the end of 2018 — and with only eight episodes to watch, it’s actually feasible:
The complexity of its characters
In television and film, we’re often told that for protagonists to be likeable, they have to be perfect. In Élite, no one is subject to perfection. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. All of the characters exist in a moral grey area where they do good things, while also doing things that are pretty fucked up. This is extremely important because fictional teen characters are not often a reflection of actual, everyday imperfect people like ourselves (like the Riverdale‘s teen crime lords and freelance detectives). For example, take the character of Lucretia (portrayed by Mexican superstar Danna Paola): She may be a much more vindictive version of Regina George, but ther’s a method to her madness. The same goes for all of the show’s main characters. For Élite, each character is multi-faceted, and we aren’t stuck with one-dimensional caricatures.
Issues surrounding race, class, and sexuality don’t come across as superficial
Despite its glitzy, coastal Spain setting, the way Élite tackles race and class and other social themes does not come across as superficial. Of Middle Eastern descent and of the Muslim faith, the characters of Nadia (Mina El Hammani) and Omar (Omar Ayuso) are not tokens. The series has two gay characters, Omar and Ander (Arón Piper), and their individual story lines, in addition to their relationship, are portrayed authentically. While a good deal of their love story focuses on the trials and tribulations of them trying to be together, it isn’t approached in a perfunctory way, but in one that is told with care and depth. There’s even a story line that deals with another character named Polo (Álvaro Rico)’s sexuality and the boundary-pushing of a non-monogamous relationship involving Carla (Ester Expósito) and Christian (Miguel Herrán). The care that Élite has when it comes to these issues differs from the way Gossip Girl haphazardly introduced a polygamous situation as a plot line for guest star Hillary Duff or the unstable relationships that were saddled on Pretty Little Liars‘ lesbian character, Emily (Shay Mitchell).
The format provides for killer easter eggs
Usually, by the end of many murder mystery shows, we as viewers can either pinpoint or have a good idea of who the killer is. At the end of How to Get Away With Murder Season 3, we knew there was no way that Conor (Jack Falahee) could have killed Wes (Alfred Enoch). But alas, in Élite, the killer reveal in the season finale is really a twist that most people will not see coming. And the best part was that we got hints of the identity of the killer throughout the whole season. The format of the series has it so the story is told in past scenes and present-day police interrogation sequences. Because we as viewers are so engrossed in the mystery of it all, it’s hard to realize that the truth is being told to us bit by bit as the confessions go on. The audience has no idea how important they will become to the overall murder story at hand — so pay close attention.
It could be the first foreign-language breakout series of the streaming era
Netflix has had some success with scripted foreign-language titles in the past with its Portuguese-language series 3% and the German-language time-traveling saga Dark. But now Élite has the chance to take The Crown (pun intended) with its narrative twists and delicious drama. And with other foreign-language offerings like Alfonso Cuaron’s tender Roma — an Oscar hopeful — also on the streaming service, it proves that Netflix is becoming the force when it comes to global-appealing content. From rising hits like The Rain (Denmark) to Sacred Games (India), the streaming giant hopes to soon have over 100 foreign-language series in production.
Élite is already a game changer when it comes to storytelling and representation, transcending language and tired teen drama tropes, and it could be even more of a force when its second season arrives — so stay ahead of the game and get on board now.
Élite is currently streaming on Netflix.