This image is from the official trailer for “Elite,” distributed by Netflix.

Content Warning: Sexual assault

Netflix’s “Elite” is back with its fifth season; the Spanish teen drama is famous for its cast of unreasonably attractive people playing filthy rich teenagers who attend the prestigious private school, Las Encinas. Their lives are rife with messy hookups, massive parties and mysterious murders — literally everything except actually going to school. 

So where did we leave off? The disappearance of Armando (Andres Velencoso, “100 Metros”), the manipulative abuser wreaking havoc in all the teens’ lives, remains unsolved by police. Of course, unbeknownst to everyone, Armando was actually murdered by Guzmán (Miguel Bernardeau, “Sabuesos”) and dumped into the lake by him, Samuel (Itzan Escamilla, “Chaval”) and Rebeka (Claudia Salas, “La Peste”). Guzmán and Ander (Arón Piper, “La Corona Partida”) have taken off on their backpacking trip. Benjamín (Diego Martín, “3 Metros Sobre El Cielo”) has turned into the dictator of Las Encinas, imposing harsh anti-social media and physical distancing rules to try to tame the rambunctious students — of course, this doesn’t work. The arrival of Iván (André Lamoglia, “Juacas”), the son of the world’s best footballer, and Isadora (Valentina Zenere, “Cable Girls”), the self-proclaimed “Empress of Ibiza,” proves only to stir the everlasting pot of drama. And as always, everyone fails to keep it in their pants.

Unfortunately, it is exactly that last aspect that the show focuses too heavily on. The loss of almost all the original main characters has impacted the plot heavily. Many of the characters’ original problems vanished with the characters themselves, forcing “Elite” to turn toward half-baked plotlines intercut with raunchy scenes far too often. The original characters that do remain have lost any semblance of the personalities that made them likable in the first place. Ari (Carla Díaz, “Seis Hermanas”), known for her formidable personality and snarkiness in season four, hardly has any scenes and is relegated to the center of a love triangle in season five. Omar (Omar Ayuso, “Matar a la Madre”) may as well have not been in the season with how little his character impacted the overall story. 

One of the more problematic portrayals at the beginning of the season was how the show dealt with Philippe (Pol Granch, debut). Season four had Cayetana (Georgina Amorós, “Vis a vis”) develop an interest in the flashy prince until he sexually assaulted her near the end of the season. In the first episode of season five, we see that one of Philippe’s exes publicly posted a video where she, too, claims to be a victim of assault. Season five depicts Cayetana’s struggle about whether she should come forward with her story or not when the whole school turns against Philippe, ultimately being convinced by Isadora (coincidentally Philippe’s new girlfriend) to take Philippe’s side and help him become a better person. 

The entire ordeal of Philippe’s “redemption” puts the abuser himself in much too passive of a role. Cayetana seems to shoulder the responsibility of helping Philippe, but it’s clear he is only going along with it to win her back. I can’t even begin to describe how wrong that is. For most of the first half of the season, Philippe has the most pitiful puppy-dog expression on his face, which honestly made me want to punch him more than anything. By the end, Cayetana ditches her efforts with Philippe (thank god), who becomes a better man for Isadora when she herself is a victim of sexual assault during a trip to Ibiza gone wrong. Subjecting Isadora to sexual assault to knock her ego down and give Philippe the chance to step in as the hero is just another example of shows using sexual assault as a plot device — something that is unnecessary, done in poor taste and, frankly, a slap in the face to actual victims of assault.

Solving Armando’s murder is the driving narrative of season five, but the decisions that various characters make seem contrived and unreasonable. The murder mystery angle comes to an unsatisfying cliffhanger after eight episodes of confusion. Benjamín’s switch from overprotective father to selfish manipulator happens so fast that you think you might have missed a couple of episodes. 

Though they are few and far between, this season did have a couple of redeemable moments. Watching Cayetana give Isadora the same tough love treatment regarding her party drug habit was a cute callback to the relationship between Lu and Nadia in earlier seasons. Patrick (Manu Rios, “La edad de la ira”) finally gets vulnerable, and we get to see him move beyond his playboy persona as he explores his relationship with himself and his loved ones.

The fifth season of “Elite” delivers on only half of what it’s known for — the affairs. If you manage to catch a break from scenes of never ending parties and orgies, you quickly realize that the more substantial elements of the plot are lacking. The show is confirmed to return for a sixth season and three more short stories, but with the revolving door of characters and shaky plot, I’m not entirely convinced that the hype is still there for this Spanish drama.

Daily Arts Writer Swara Ramaswamy can be reached at