Spoilers ahead, proceed with caution!
Everyone’s favourite Spanish teen LGBTQ+ crime-drama is back on Netflix for a fourth season. Elite follows the interconnected stories of students at a private school where the confrontation between working class students and wealthy students leads to murder. Centering on themes of modern-day political and social issues, the show’s been a hit since its release in 2018.
The new season starts off with a bang — another murder — in the first episode, “The New Order,” which is decidedly the best in the season.
Fan favourite characters such as Lu, Valerio, and Carla are noticeably absent from season four, but characters such as Guzmán, Samuel, Rebeka, Ander, Omar, and Cayetana are back with a vengeance.
Cayetana and Rebeka have stand out moments in the episodes, and Samuel has lost his annoyingly broody personality from seasons one and two, making him far more enjoyable to watch.
Joining them in the main cast are the new principal Benjamin and his three children Ari, Patrick, and Mencia, as well as mysterious French prince Philippe. The new characters (save Philippe, who is introduced later in the season), are given intriguing backstories. Ari is introduced as a potential love interest for both Guzmán and Samuel, causing tension between both.
The rest of season four, however, fails to impress and reach the levels of development set by seasons one to three.
Multiple plot points feel like a retread of past stories such as the love triangle, two polyamorous couples, Ander and Omar cheating on each other, and even the inevitable grand party in the finale (where things often go south, and where the murder often occurs).
The problem, of course, is that previous seasons manage to do this far better, and many characters seem to regress.
The character that suffers the most from this regression is Guzmán — losing 24 episodes worth of development. First by breaking up with Nadia as soon as he meets a new girl, then by going back to his elitist bullying towards other characters. In many ways, the Guzmán of season four feels like a repeat of his season one appearance, except without the charm.
The other previous characters are also at a standstill in their development but have not regressed as much as Guzmán. Ander’s and Omar’s characters, in particular, have a cheating subplot with new character Patrick (who only exists to hook up with them), in a way that feels reminiscent of their season two and three plotlines.
The new characters are also disappointingly derivative of previous ones. Ari feels like a lukewarm version of season one Lu with a similar quippy personality, but with none of the layers or development that Lu goes through. Patrick has the manipulative nature of Carla and the hedonistic tendencies of Valerio.
Season four also introduces a new character, Mencia, who is an underaged sex trafficking victim involved with an abusive middle-aged pimp named Armando — a plotline that felt out of place with the rest of the show. Elite is not a series that shies away from controversy by any means, but this felt harrowing even by those standards.
The show should also stop fetishizing LGBTQ+ couples and polyamorous couples and treat them as equally as they do the heterosexual couples.
There is a significant lack of diverse characters — considering the show could have implemented Afro-Spaniards in general — which I hope will change in the upcoming season.
Previous characters, such as Carla and Lu, making a comeback could prove to be a pleasant surprise considering they’re fan favourites. As well, their characters saw major development in season three, and more of this growth in season five would benefit the show by giving viewers something to look forward to.
Overall, the new season was underwhelming, but not without its cliffhangers. Elite certainly has not lost its touch, but improvements must be made with a greater focus on character development, avoid retreading past plotlines, and ditch the murder mystery flashback format.