Racy and irresistible, this Spanish import dazzles and intrigues -- but think twice before showing it to teens, though it's supposed to be about high schoolers. The students at Las Encinas indulge freely in illicit sex, drugs and alcohol, Cruel Intentions-style sexual mind games, and, of course, murder. But it's not all seamy appeal. The setup also drags in a layer of rich vs. poor class struggle which, interestingly, has different angles than the same conflict in America. In the show's first episode, a rich boy explains to a scholarship student that his 16-year-old sister's elaborate coming-out party would have once been about finding a husband quickly. But now it's more about "networking, although the husband thing is not ruled out."
Largely through the character of Nadia, Elite also has compelling things to say about race and ethnicity. Consistently greeted with contempt for her "turban" and "attitude," Nadia's set up for a downfall by a classmate clearly threatened by her smarts and bravery, and given a complicated home and inner life that makes her actions hard to predict. Sexuality is treated in a similarly layered way, with a gay student looking for hookups online, an HIV-positive teen, and a couple who gets kicks from voyeurism all in the mix. It adds up to a show that's glossy, sometimes shocking, compulsively watchable, and only for the most mature teens.