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“Elite” Season 7 Review: All Glamor, No Grounding

3 Stars

Álvaro de Juana as Dídac and Nadia al Saidi in season 7, episode one of "Elite."
Álvaro de Juana as Dídac and Nadia al Saidi in season 7, episode one of "Elite." By Courtesy of MATÍAS URIS/NETFLIX
By Dylan R. Ragas, Crimson Staff Writer

This review contains spoilers.

With its season seven premiere, the latest installment of “Elite” signals the definitive death of the show’s core identity.

Sitting at number six of Netflix Spain’s best shows of 2023, “Elite” has been a household name since the premiere of its first season in 2018. Its early seasons were tightly structured, with well-developed characters and an intricate plot that wound up nicely at the end of season three. Up until this point, the show, in all its glamor and theatrics, explored what it means to cross socio-economic class lines, and did so in a glamorous and engaging manner. The show’s basic premise revolves around a group of high schoolers at an elite private school — Las Encinas — and it typically includes a new criminal subplot per season. Its characters generally remain impressively grounded within their uber-wealthy society, and the show’s characteristic drama is accompanied by a clever enough plot to make the early “Elite” a coherent work. In seasons four through six, new crimes remained the grounding force for the show, including the murder of a student’s sexual abuser, the murder of original cast member Samuel (Itzan Escamilla) by his own headmaster, and an incident where one student ran over another with a car.

However, what began as a soapy yet entertaining teen thriller has devolved into confusion. Where the show’s structure previously built up to a murder each season, season seven departs from this trend. This choice robs the show of the usual pronounced dark element that accompanies the glitz and glam of the lives of Madrid’s richest teens, and leaves the new season feeling unmoored and lacking direction.

To say that “Elite” has reached the ranks of “Riverdale” in its lunacy would be an overstatement — however, it’s safe to say that the show has been suffering the drawn-out fate of the likes of “Pretty Little Liars” and “Grey’s Anatomy” for some time. After most plotlines from the original cast were tied up in the season three finale, many new cast members flooded the scene, and this second wave has again almost been completely replaced in season seven. Season seven marks the third of the show’s cast and plot line — a cycle that has sacrificed the show’s depth and makes its newest season feel contrived.

Season seven starts out lacking momentum. Where other seasons relied on the introduction of scandal and violence to tie in new plotlines, the first two episodes of season seven are stagnant, with most of the emphasis on familial drama between returning characters Dídac (Álvaro de Juan) and Isadora (Valentina Zenere), who are entangled with the mafia and real estate tycoons, respectively. Given that these characters and their lives were minor and one-dimensional in past seasons, it is unclear why audiences should care about this conflict without the presence of any dramatic endgame. Dídac does seem to hint at a sinister plot line when he describes his family as “murderers” in an outburst in the second episode, but it remains unclear how this relates to the world of Las Encinas throughout the rest of the season.

The remainder of the main drama concerns Iván, a student reeling from the loss of his father, Cruz (Carloto Cotta), who was murdered in a brutal hate crime after he came out as gay in season six. This season, Iván is unaware that his mother, Carmen (Maribel Verdú), who has so far been absent from his life, has come to claim her pension from Cruz and, after being denied her money, is intent to meet her son.

Things get more complicated when Carmen’s daughter Chloe (Mirela Balic), a new student at Las Encinas, sets her eyes on Iván (or in other words, her own half brother) as her future boyfriend — and things escalate to an concerning degree when Iván makes out with his mother later on in the season. It’s worth noting that this is not “Elite”’s first run-in with incest — the show featured a prolonged relationship between half-siblings Lucrecia (Danna Paola) and Valerio (Jórge Lopez) in season three. While incest is legal upon consent in Spain, the choice to repeatedly feature incestual plot points puts the show’s audience in an uncomfortable position when it comes to considering characters’ morality and value systems; especially given the show’s international audience.

Although “Elite”’ remains committed to exploring what it means to cross class lines, season seven is a clear diversion in its effectiveness at engaging audiences in this endeavor. The show still interrogates the extremities and problems that the children of the Spanish elite face, and with the inherent intrigue of attractive, wealthy teens making the most of their utmost freedom, “Elite” is still entertaining and engaging on a surface level. But, in its endeavor to preserve this illustrious world, the show’s plot has devolved past a point where any emotional and political message can be gleaned from it.

Season seven marks the loss of “Elite”’s former grace in telling its signature story, with a lack of coherence stemming from the underdevelopment of its myriad of characters and plot devoid of momentum. After a promising and carefully-planned first three seasons, seasons four through six of “Elite” signaled the show’s definitive decline, and unfortunately, season seven seems poised to be the final nail in the coffin.

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