Unique to “Elite” is the manner in which the students at Las Encinas convey much deeper, and darker, revelations about the significant cultural and socioeconomic differences of their society. “Elite” does pander to conventional teen shows in a myriad of ways, but the students’ infinitesimal world goes beyond gossip and sex to illustrate conflicts between the working class and the upper echelons of Spanish society. Although the distinction between the wealthy students and their scholarship-reliant counterparts is overplayed at times, it serves its purpose in making “Elite” one of the more genuinely realistic Spanish shows.
One student, Samuel, works waiting tables to support himself and his single mom while his older brother is in and out of jail. Subject to endless snide remarks and referred to as “the waiter,” his character nevertheless demonstrates an admirable integrity and earnestness lacking in many young adult protagonists. Among the rest of the cast, stereotypes abound, from the cruel, wealthy jock to the petty, well-styled popular girl. However, as the season progresses, unusual depth is unveiled, making “Elite” worth the initially conventional characters as their development shines through.
Opulence characterizes the lives of wealthy students, who are in direct contrast with the scholarship students coming from working-class backgrounds.
Some acts of so-called rebellion—the principal’s son buying a joint with sweaty, shaking hands and crumpled cash—have been seen before, and done before. “Elite,” though, captivates with individual storylines. That same principal’s son, for instance, introduces a theme not commonly explored in Hispanic media as he explores his sexuality and exposes masculine vulnerabilities typically shunned in portrayals of male athletes. Rougher characters, drug dealers and jailbirds alike, have their moments of vulnerability too, breaking the confines that commonly bind teen characters to the prescribed actions of stereotypes.
Outperforming tropes at each turn, “Elite” contrasts the grittiness of the blue-collar world with the champagne-drinking casualty of the rich with ease, infusing light-hearted subplots that reveal characters with a breadth surprising for their age and the show’s premise.