So far, every season of Netflix’s Spanish noir teen drama Élite has begun the same way: with an investigation. A body is found in a pool during a party—but we won’t tell you who it is, because what’s the fun in that? Season three was all about tying up loose ends and closing the chapter on Marina’s death. But this fourth season is about how even when things seem the same on the surface—another mystery, class struggles, and messy romances—we’re entering a new chapter for the remaining Las Encinas students, where they have to come to terms with how much the past can shape their futures.
Before delving into the mystery surrounding the opening events, Élite takes us back to the catalyst for this season’s drama. Ander’s (Arón Piper) mom Azucena (Elisabet Gelabert) discovers she’s been fired as the principal of Las Encinas in an unceremonious way. She finds her belongings in boxes and is introduced to the new principal, Benjamín (Diego Martín). Don’t be fooled by his pairing of blazers with T-shirts and cool glasses—this guy’s motto is “discipline, excellence, achievement.” Benjamín decides that scholarship students Omar (Omar Ayuso) and Samuel (Itzan Escamilla) need to prove they’re worthy of staying at the prestigious school, so they have to take an exam to prove how much they’ve actually learned. Tensions run high, as Benjamín reminds the “becados” (scholarship students) that they’ll never be seen the same way as students whose parents can afford the hefty tuition.
Benjamín isn’t the only new character shaking things up. The first new student we meet is Ari (Carla Díaz). She has the same spunk as season one’s Marina (María Pedraza) along with Lu’s (Danna Paola) mean girl persona and Carla’s (Ester Expósito) prissiness. In other words, she’s Samu’s (Itzan Escamilla) dream girl. But Guzmán (Miguel Bernandeau), who is still with Nadia (Mina El Hammani), albeit long distance, has his eyes set on her, too. Then there’s rebellious Mencía (Martina Cariddi), who gets away with wearing a kink harness to school over her uniform and quickly takes a liking to Rebeka (Claudia Salas). Season three saw Rebeka heartbroken over Samu, but Mencía quickly shows that her intentions towards Rebeka are as more than friends, offering another chance at love.
We also meet new student Patrick (Manu Rios) in the first episode. He’s openly gay, and sets his sights on Ander. But after all the challenges Omar and Ander experienced in the last season, Ander is trying to be extra careful—though he certainly enjoys the attention from his new, good-looking classmate. Rebeka and Ander’s ability to trust is tested as they become involved with Benjamín’s kids. Rebeka opens herself up to the idea of a relationship with Mencía. They’re adorable together and their outfits and makeup rival anything we’ve seen on Euphoria. It would seem like the perfect match, but Mencía hides a part of her life from Rebeka. The silver lining is that even with those snags, Mencía and Rebeka are motivated to make things work because they truly adore each other. On the other hand, Ander deals with Patrick being dead-set on winning him over, while knowing how strong Ander and Omar’s love is. He’s willing to try any manipulative tactics on the couple, and reminds them that saying no is worse than saying yes—a very ominous threat.
Turns out these three new students are siblings who happen to be Benjamín’s kids. But while Ari and Patrick stand by their dad (despite this making it very hard to make new friends at school), Mencía has no interest in sucking up to her him. Instead, she joins her fellow classmates in their protest against Benjamín’s militant ways, giving intel on how Ari is the key to making Benjamín ease up on his restrictions. Though Rebeka suggests Samu should be the one to flirt with Ari to achieve this, the rest of the friend group decides he’d be invisible to Ari. Guzmán should be the one to flirt with her instead, because Guzmán is handsome and rich. Samu and Guzmán’s struggle to win over Ari brings out Guzmán’s old, problematic behavior, where he is constantly reminding Samu that he’s worthless as a low-income student.
This season is a reminder that while Élite always centers the story around a mystery—whether it’s a death or the disappearance of a character—it’s actually about socio-economic class differences, and the fight for power between classes. It raises the question of whether the low-income students and the rich ones can ever actually be friends and respect each other, especially as some, like Samu and Omar, have service jobs that require them to cater to their wealthy peers. Tensions are even higher as they grapple with what life post-graduation will look like.
To drive the class divide even further, this season also introduces a French prince as a new student at Las Encinas, Prince Phillip (Pol Granch). With his arrival, new extreme security measures are taken: security cameras, metal detectors, security guards. Even the boys aren’t allowed to use the locker room showers while Phillip’s in there. His presence shows how much the rich kids can get away with, while the becados risk losing their place at school. And Phillip’s romance with Cayetana (Georgina Amorós) , who dreams of escaping her life as the school cleaner to be a fashion designer, underscores the power dynamic as she grapples with him not being the Prince Charming she imagined, but still envisioning him as her ticket out.
Though Élite falls back on repeating many of the challenges we’ve seen in previous seasons, there are enough twists to keep things fresh, hooking viewers with the fates of both beloved and new characters. And there’s this hope that even while characters like Guzmán take steps backwards, the repercussions for their actions create greater growth than in previous seasons.