Elite Season 4: Bingeable for all the Wrong Reasons
Updated: Nov 14, 2021
By Kayla Dungee
In the world of TV teen dramas, you either get a team of consistent writers sensibly developing the plot towards the climax, or the screenwriters think the audience has the attention span of a goldish and there’s a plot twist every 15 minutes. Once a show has crossed over to the side of sacrificing character development for the sake of dropping another bombshell, you enter the realm of “trashy” TV — still bingeable, but it’s like watching a burning car and we simply can’t look away. Season four of the Spanish Netflix series Elite lives among the piles of garbage.
The coming-of-age high school drama, (think Gossip Girl meets How to Get Away With Murder) floated above competitors on the same streaming platform because of its ability to build up to a twist so mouthwatering that it didn’t matter that it took a couple of episodes to get there. At least it used to for the first three seasons. Once upon a time it made sense, but the show now is overcrowded with randomness and a gazillion plot twists that force you to rewind at several points to make sure you got it all down.
Despite half of the original cast departing after season three, the walls of Las Encinas preparatory school were once again flooded with an unfathomable number of rendezvous and drama that only 17- and 18-year-olds could deliver on. Like previous seasons, the plot centers around an apparent murder among the cast and backtracks to how the crime unfolded. Same old plotline, some of the beloved OG characters, and the exploration of themes like sexual assault, sexual orientation, and grooming — what could go wrong, right?
The difference this season is that the same tired backpedaling of a crime doesn’t work. Seriously, how many times can these kids keep killing each other off at a party? Hoping for character development beyond weaseling out who was branded this season’s psychopath or tying up loose ends from last season is apparently too big of an ask. Instead of playing the normal game of Clue and guessing whodunit (since each character normally has a compelling reason for killing off the deceased), it became obvious way too soon who was behind the crime.
Before the train wreck of a season derailed, we’re firstly comforted by the return of some familiar faces, namely Samuel (Itzan Escamilla), Guzman (Miguel Bernardeau), Omar (Omar Ayuso), Ander (Arón Piper), Rebe (Claudia Salas), and Cayetana (Georgina Amorós). For the first time, any drama between them is seemingly buried at the beginning of the season, where they all consistently gather in the same break room at school to discuss the latest gossip, or plot how to start some.
Naturally, the happy family is disrupted by the addition of five new cast members: Encina’s new principal, Benjamin (Diego Martín) and his three kids, Patrick (Manu Ríos), Ari (Carla Díaz), and Mencía (Martina Cariddi) who are studying at the private school too. The incredibly random addition of a celebrity prince turned student, Phillipe (Pol Granch), also makes for an odd, new storyline. Rather than trying to fill the shoes of the former cast members, production opted to make them agents of chaos that destroy everything in their way. Hooray for the plot line and obvious new plot devices, but 4 out of the 5 newbies (excluding Mencía) are horrendously unlikeable. You’re waiting on your toes for them to not be little assholes, but by episode eight, you’ve realized they’re characters you love to hate.
The season is heavily centered around romances, which is totally fine for someone dropping in on season four with no context to the other seasons. However, the sudden dissolution of romances that the show spent 24+ episodes building up to is frustrating. Chalk it up to them being finicky teenagers, but playing mix and match with a bunch of characters feels like the turning point where writing gets lazy and production is running out of ideas. The number of sex scenes and random hookups took up more space than the formation of actual relationship. We spent ages investing in Omar and Ander, and their breakup was two minutes long and never to be addressed again. As hinted in the season preview, Guzman and Nadia called it quits and three scenes later, he’s making a move on Ari. Elite is now in the game of pissing loyal fans off, but now we’re forced to keep watching to see what romance develops out of thin air.
Romance takes a sharp turn to a much darker theme when sexual assault is brought into the picture. At first, it’s easy to be proud that the show brought up a topic that 1 in 5 women are personally familiar with, but the rate of the subplot’s progression glosses over the reality of the situation. The show used to be applauded for how it addressed modern issues (think back to how Marina’s HIV diagnosis was built up). What could’ve been several scenes exploring the emotional rollercoaster following trauma turned into a single scene. There’s also room for said predator to have a redemption arc, which would be entirely problematic. But if he’s cast as the villain, it’s too similar to season three’s storyline where everyone despised Polo so deeply that you started to feel sorry for the literal murderer. It’s a lose lose either way.
And where there’s one problem within the show, there’s bound to be another. When Mencía’s escort arc enters the mix, it becomes so convoluted that you’re waiting for it to wrap up as soon as possible. Spoiler if you couldn’t do the math: the reason she’s toting around designer shopping bags in the preview and getting loads of cash from men is prostitution. It’s the first time grooming has been featured in the show, but it’s as if they stole the entire plotline from another Netflix series, Baby. Baby was all about teenage girls falling into escorting, where at first it was “glamorous” and then turned very dark, with characters incredibly similar to Mencía. It feels more exploitive than informative, while also being way too rushed. Golly gee, literal minutes after leaving her house, Mencía finds herself living in a luxury apartment that an older man, Armando (Andrés Velencoso) suddenly gifts her. Elite has a moment to again, give respect and light to another significant issue, but instead it turns into a completely unrealistic series of coincidences that leads Mencía to stick to that lifestyle.
When there are so many coincidences, the story lacks the opportunity to give Mencía choices, the epitome of building up a character. Not to say there shouldn’t be a chance encounter here and there, but not the entire construction of her plot. She ends up flatlining as a character since everything in her life is “right place, right time.” If the point of the show is to capture aspects of authenticity, there needs to be an aspect of realism.
And the final dash of ridiculousness is added when the show ever so slightly leans into the theme of drug overdoses. Not to give away all the juicy details, but a cast member ODs in a club, recovers after a good night’s rest, and the overdose is literally never talked about again. Excuse me, a 17-year-old nearly dying over molly gets 5 minutes of screen time? Why even bother bringing it up? Might as well have thrown in another sex scene than use an overdose as filler because it changes nothing about the plot.
If anything good is to come out of this season, it’s Samuel. While he’s always been the protagonist to root for, it’s heightened this time around. He’s not justifiably seeking revenge like past seasons. He adorably joins the debate team and actually has a goal he’s actively trying to achieve. We’re also forever rooting for Cayetana, who for the first time is shown as more than a poor girl who’s an opportunist. She’s designing clothes and getting noticed for her talents. It’s just refreshing to see positives that don’t revolve around this season’s bleak idea of “romance.”
You’d think that every possible scenario that production could’ve created would lead to the wrap-up of the series, but no. The cliffhanger ending where several cast members cover up a murder (that so obviously will catch up to them) means there’s a season five. But what’s a season five without Guzman and Ander (who both publicly announced their departure from the show)? Instead of bringing more characters into the mix, there firstly needs to be development of the remaining cast. It’s bingeable for all the wrong reasons: you’re waiting for the show to get better, waiting for the mess to clear up and live up to past episodes, but the burning car of a season withers away into nothing remarkable.
You can watch Season 4 of Elite on Netflix.