Spain’s answer to Gossip Girl is back with it’s fourth season and it’s as eccentric, sensual and melodramatic as ever. This season saw the arrival of four new students, each wreaking havoc on the lives of our beloved OG cast. And Shock! Horror! There’s another mystery to solve. This time, who pushed newcomer Ari into the lake?
Written by Tresca Mallon
The injection of a host of new characters is the breath of fresh air the show desperately needed. Season 3 saw the departure of some of the most interesting characters. Danna Paola’s Lu was a particularly huge loss. She left a massive, lovable antagonist void to be filled. In addition, after wrapping up the three season arc surrounding Marina’s murder, the show was begging for a new focus.
Firstly, we have the arrival of the Blanco siblings, who also happen to be the uber privileged children of Las Encinas’ CEO and new principal Benjamin (Diego Martín). Ari (Carla Díaz) is a #girlboss who is an uptight, snobbish prude until she gets a whiff of alcohol and suddenly she’s a #girlbossgonewild. This dichotomy in her character quickly gets her embroiled in a love triangle with tenuous besties Samuel (Itzan Escamilla) and Guzmán (Miguel Bernardeau). Both relationships are completely unbelievable with minus chemistry, only serving to drive a predictable conflict between the boys. She is the least developed and likeable of the siblings, so the choice to make her the focal point of the overriding mystery is… interesting.
The Elite show-runners know their audience and this season is extra queer. Sibling number 2, Patrick (Manu Ríos), brings the sex to season 4. Wasting no time before aggressively flirting with Ander (Arón Piper) in episode one. Patrick injects some badly needed sensuality into a relationship that had long grown stale. “Omander” were the hot topic of season one and two. However, as the series progressed, their sexual chemistry and emotional connection diminished significantly. The excitement of their earlier forbidden love unfortunately did not translate when confronted with comfortable domesticity. Patrick renews the audience’s interest in the couple while also giving us a devilish, yet ultimately sympathetic character that we can invest in.
Third sibling, Mencía (Martina Cariddi), is layered and well-developed. While at times irritatingly brattish, the vulnerability behind her coquettish exterior makes her a root-able character. With the mass exodus of leading female characters last season, Rebekah (Claudia Salas) is deservedly thrust into a spotlight position. Rebe has always brought some well-needed self-awareness and humor, not to mention outrageous looks. However, it was about time she formed a sincere and mutual connection which she finds with Mencía. Mencía also brings a darker tone to the show as she becomes embroiled with prostitution and the menacing middle-aged pimp Armando (Andrés Velencoso). Some of these scenes are gut-wrenching and Cariddi does an excellent job of ensuring the fragility of the teenage character shines through.
The fourth new student is Prince Phillipe (Pol Granch). The Prince arrives at Las Encinas in episode two in a media frenzy after escaping his native country from an unknown scandal. Notorious social climber and expert liar Cayetana (Georgina Amorós) makes a swift beeline for the Prince in search of her fairytale fantasy. In previous seasons she was an outcast, but after the events of season 3, Caye has been accepted into the fold. However, her story line with the Prince is still somewhat separate to the overriding plot. Despite being relatively charming, almost immediately it is evident something is not quite right about Philippe. It slowly emerges that he is a serial sex offender, however the writers choose a very uncomfortable way to reveal it. Early in the season, the audience is asked to dismiss the prince’s non-consensual recording of Cayetana having sex, as a security measure. We are also asked to have sympathy for the privileged royal by not-so-subtly shifting blame to his overbearing mother for her son’s abhorrent behavior. He is even painted in a somewhat heroic light in the final scenes. Elite had an opportunity to make a powerful statement with this character and completely flummoxed it by giving an irredeemable character a redemption arc.
Season 4 follows the show’s signature flash forward format, bookending each episode with snippets of future events. A sensational mystery overrides the plot with each episode providing clarity or obfuscation. After three seasons of the same arc, it was the perfect time for a fresh start. However, season four’s climax is a major let down. The perpetrator and victim of the crime are both introduced this season, giving the audience no time to invest in either. Each character’s motivation is weak and convoluted and this is starkly highlighted in the finale episode. Wrapping up all interpersonal conflicts in a neat bow without any proper resolution felt rushed and there was little satisfaction for those who actually cared about the rift between Samuel and Guzman (though I suspect this was the minority of viewers). The swift wrap-up is probably due to Arón Piper and Miguel Bernardeau’s decision to exit the cast this season.
Elite has long abandoned giving their characters any level of depth, opting for style over substance and doing it with flare. The fans have come to expect satisfying drama , copious amounts of sex and enough glitter to kill every pigeon in Spain. Season four delivers on this promise, but made some questionable narrative choices and fell at the final hurdle; producing a finale that anyone cares about.