Is Elite getting a reset?
The third season of Netflix's addictive Spanish-language teen soap seemingly wrapped up the stories of our favorite Las Encinas troublemakers. At the end of the latest eight-episode jaunt, the unlikely group banded together to protect their friend/enemy (depending on who you ask), Lu (Danna Paola), from going to jail after she accidentally pierced Polo (Alvaro Rico) in the heart with the broken champagne bottle at their high school graduation party. It was a death that could have been avoided, had Lu -- angry she missed out on a life-changing scholarship to Columbia University -- given Polo the chance to explain that her scholarship was actually still on.
But tragedy and drama usually follows the kids of Las Encinas, who split off at the end of the season: Lu, enemy-turned-friend Nadia (Mina El Hammani) and new kid Malick (Leïti Sène) were off to New York City; Carla (Ester Expósito) was studying abroad; and Guzmán (Miguel Bernardeau), Samuel (Itzan Escamilla), Ander (Arón Piper), in remission from cancer, Omar (Omar Ayuso) and Rebeca (Claudia Salas) all returned to school for one last year. Was this the end of their time on Elite?
With the end of what appears to be the first part in the Elite saga complete, ET sent off our biggest questions to co-creator Dario Madrona for the scoop on the genesis of Polo's death, the original season 3 mystery, romantic forecasts of our favorite couples and the future of the series.
ET: The stakes have always been high on Elite, but this season felt different, more mature even. How did you approach season 3?
Dario Madrona: We knew it was going to be the season where we would end the story that started in season 1, the Marina saga, so to speak. And that allowed us to have an ending for our characters, to experience how much they have grown through this whole ordeal, and that matched perfectly with the idea of them finishing high school and entering adulthood. Growing up means a lot of things: You can become wiser, learn how to better deal with pain and sorrow, mature as a person. But you'll also have to make painful choices, start to worry about your future, even become more aware of your own mortality. And those are the themes of most, if not all of our plotlines on season 3.
Season 1 was about Marina’s death. Season 2 centered on Samuel’s disappearance. Polo’s death served as the anchor for this season. When did you know this was the mystery you wanted to pivot the season around?
[Season] 2. During the development process, we circled several ideas. And then we settled on one... that was not Polo's death. For a while, there was going to be this massive fire in the school at the end of the season, and the mystery in flash-forwards would be both who provoked it and who died in it. It was a result of all the tension accumulated during the season since Polo came back to Las Encinas. And in the end, he turned himself in. But to his credit, [co-creator] Carlos [Montero] wasn't happy with it. We kept discussing it and we realized that we had never considered Polo's death because it felt a bit too obvious, when in fact, it was the logical, coherent thing to do. It made us go full circle with Marina's death, and have a definitive ending to the story. And it made the most sense: Half of the characters wanted to see him dead before the season even started anyway.
Alvaro Rico told us he learned of Polo’s fate during season 2. When did you land on Polo as the victim? Why was his death the most impactful?
Yes, Alvaro learned about it when we were shooting season 2 and writing season 3; as I said, having Polo as the victim made us come full circle. In a way, it gave us the "happiest" ending we could give to the character. When Lu kills him, in an accident (at least, an incident that is not premeditated), that is quite similar to Marina's murder, every other character can put themselves in Polo's shoes for a second, understand him a bit for the first time, to the point of helping the murderer get away with it. That does not mean they condone his actions, but for the first time, they feel empathy towards him.
It also allowed us to give Polo the thing he most wanted in the world: to be forgiven by Guzmán. And last, it also allowed us to close the dramatic arches for Guzmán and Samuel. At some point in the season, they both were claiming for blood and when they actually get it, they feel awful. There was a line that got cut from the last episode -- because it didn't quite work, and that's on me, the writer -- that explained it maybe too explicitly. Rebeca and Samuel were watching Polo's dead body and she said something like, "Are you happy? Isn't this what you wanted?" and Samuel answered, "No." That the instant he got it, he realized he never actually wanted it in the first place. And that also goes to the theme of growth. It was important for us that this didn't end as a revenge story. Polo's death is not a triumph. Nobody is happy about it; every character wishes things had been different. They just want to stop the madness and they do something, which they think Polo would have understood -- and he did, that's why he said "I know" at Lu when she says she did not mean it -- and that way they kind of understand him too.
One of the most heartbreaking scenes came in Polo’s final moments. After seeking empathy from his friends all season, Guzmán tells Polo he forgives him. Was there anything Polo could have done to save himself?
I personally don't think he forgives him. He just realizes Polo is about to die and still loves him enough that he wants him to leave this world happy, to get closure, which for me it's even more heartbreaking! (Although, it is open for interpretation.) As in every tragedy, everything seems to conspire against Polo, leading him to his fate. The only thing he could have done for sure is turning himself in, which he was about to do right before his death.
What was the thought process behind having Lu be Polo’s killer? How does this change Lu moving forward?
As in season 1, we get to an ending where every character could be the killer. And when we choose who is it going to be, we, of course, need to surprise the viewer. But the main thing for us is what story it allows us to tell, because in a way it shows what the season, and the show, had been about all along. In season 1, Polo being the killer and the cover-up by Carla, allowed us to tell the story of Christian's betrayal; the nicest guy in the show being corrupted by money and power, and how the higher classes can literally get away with murder while the lower classes have to pay the price. In season 2, Samuel's disappearance allowed us to tell the story of how Samuel and Guzmán, the two characters who had been more at odds during the show, actually worked together and became allies. They sort of lead the two groups in Elite who had been antagonistic from the very beginning, but now the lines start to become blurred. There is hope.
We wanted to go deeper with that in season 3, and we loved the idea of everybody coming together to do the cover-up this time, to forget their differences and become one group at the end (a family, as Lu would say). And Lu was the best character for that because she was the closest thing we had to a villain in seasons 1 and 2. She was the character others despised the most. To have the rest of the gang take that huge leap for her speaks not only of Lu's growth in season 3 but of everybody's growth, of this idea of people coming together in the end, despite their past issues and the class abyss between them.
Did you look at other culprits? If so, who?
We did, of course. I'm pretty sure we went through everyone and we ruled out first the ones that seemed too obvious (Samuel, Guzmán, Carla, Ander). But once we had the idea of everybody covering for Lu, that was it.
Earlier in the season, Rebeca slammed Samuel’s head against the same glass wall Polo fell through. Does she hold some responsibility in his death?
I think the real responsibility is with the management of the club for allowing people to get close to that broken glass! (Just joking. In fact, for us the glass breaking was a nice metaphor for the way things start deteriorating little by little, how tension builds until it finally explodes) Also, I think Polo would have died from the stabbing to the heart anyway!
The group comes together to protect Lu. This wasn’t something they would have done in the first two seasons. Is this a sign of how much they’ve grown?
Definitely. As I said before, It was made more powerful by the fact that most of them despised Lu from most of the show -- and others weren't huge fans either. We are optimists. We wanted to explore the idea that if people have time to actually get to know each other, maybe they can overcome what separated them in the first place.
Lu and Nadia’s friendship was a surprise, especially after they started off as adversaries in season 1. When did you first get the idea that they should actually be friends?
I think when we were talking about the love triangle between Lu, Nadia and Guzmán, we realized we were dangerously close to repeating ourselves and start chasing our own tail. That is why we decided to end Lu and Guzmán's love story once and for all in the Valentine's [Day] episode. But we also loved the scenes between Lu and Nadia [and] their relationship. We started to toy with the idea of them becoming friends. We actually thought of it as the love story of the season. It made sense to us. They are both very similar: super smart, competitive, loyal, and there is always this underlying respect between them. I think in season 1, Lu tells Nadia something along the lines of, "We are the same." As in every great love story, they see on each other the person they wish they could be. Nadia admires Lu's determination, her strength, and Lu wishes she can be as good a person as Nadia is. They learn from each other, they make each other better. I think it was the easiest thing to write in the whole season and we couldn't be happier with the end result.
Ander’s cancer storyline was gut-wrenching to watch. Why was it important for Elite to depict this journey and for Ander to be the one to go through it?
Ander is the most closed-off character of the show, the ones who hides his emotions the most. So I think it was really tempting to give him the most emotional story, to see how he would deal with it. And again, one of the things that happens when you grow up is that you start to be more conscious of the idea of death. Young people think they'll never die; even the people who knew Marina may have thought that would never happen to them, that they would have never put themselves in that position. But cancer can happen to anyone. It also helped us with other characters' growth. No other thing could have put Guzmán and Polo in the same room voluntarily -- as it happens at the end of episode five. Guzmán starts to see the futility of this thirst for vengeance with Polo when faced with the idea of his best friend's impending death. Even his hatred for Polo feels a bit small at a time like that.
And last, it gave us a big obstacle to overcome in Omar and Ander's relationship. They had to endure some pretty difficult things -- having to live together when they have been barely dating for weeks, for a start -- and as writers, we wanted to see if their relationship could survive one of the worst things that can happen to you. And I think they do pretty great. Some people seem to be disappointed at Omar for cheating on Ander, which I don't think actually happens. In the blackout episode, Ander tells Omar that it's OK if he wants to have sex with other people. There was a line that got changed at the last minute and I wish it hadn't, right after that [scene], when Omar comes on to Malick and he says, "What about Ander?" Omar originally replies, "He doesn't care. He doesn't give a damn," which is a very natural reaction some people have when their partner wants to "open" the relationship, to think he does not care or loves you enough when he allows you to be with other people. Ander is not upset that Omar is having sex with Malick; he is upset at the idea that Omar is unhappy by his side and sticking with him because he feels like he has to. That's why he lets him go. They both could have done things better. They could have been more honest with each other, but had I been in their position I would have very likely spent my time punching walls and crying at the injustice of it all. I think they did good, but just to see them trying their best -- and failing sometimes -- was really compelling as a story to us.
Carla is calling the shots on her family’s wineries and appoints Valerio to be her proxy while she’s away. Is this a recipe for disaster?
I think Valerio will be a great PR person for the wineries. But also, he is smart enough to get out of the way and let people who know their stuff run the business side of things. Valerio has also grown quite a bit, and by the last episode of the season, he is the one taking care of Lu for a change. I actually think he will be incredibly successful.
Cayetana could have taken Polo’s moms' offer of putting her through college, but she doesn’t take it. Now she’s a janitor at Las Encinas. Does she regret the decision?
I'm sure she feels pangs of regret when she wakes up very early in the morning to do a cleaning job or after a very long day. But she mostly feels like she did the right thing. Cayetana ended covering for Lu; she was last, the one that was more on the fence about it -- not only for Lu, but because she felt guilty. If she hadn't sent those messages at the end of episode three, Polo would probably be alive in London. That is the worst consequence of all her schemes and lies. That is the turning point for her; that is why she says she does not deserve to have Polo's mothers pay for her scholarship, and why she wants to try and be better, to get ahead in life without using shortcuts. Season 2, Cayetana would have accepted that deal in a minute, but she has grown too.
Guzmán tells Nadia he’s willing to wait for her until she comes back. Do you view them as an endgame couple?
I'm not sure anybody can say a couple are endgame when they are 18. If you ask most people over, let's say 30, they are not with the same person they were in love with when they were teenagers. But a lot of them would still be friends with people they met in high school. I think that is why we focused a bit more on friendships in season 3 because we think that those relationships are more likely to be endgame, to last forever. There is no doubt in my mind that Lu and Nadia, after everything they've been through, they'll always be friends. In Elite, we lean a lot on romantic storylines, but not every happy ending is about "and they lived happily ever after." Nadia's goal from the beginning (as stated in episode one of season 1!) was to work at the United Nations, and by the end of this season, she is much closer to it. In that sense, she got the happiest ending possible. But, when it comes to Nadia and Guzmán, I really don't know. I do hope that they find each other again in the future. If by then, after having had other experiences and met other people, they still want to be together... I guess that's endgame.
Samuel and Carla spent the season with other people, but when there was an opportunity to be together, they chose not to be. Is there hope for them?
I've seen a bit of confusion about this plot point (which means we could have done a better job with it, be more explicit), so allow me to clarify: It's Carla who chooses to leave Samuel behind. And she does it in order to save him. Carla is indeed thinking about her "happily ever after" when she wants to talk to Samuel at the end of episode seven. But then Rebeca reminds her how the fact that she can do whatever she wants with him and Polo gets killed. So, the two people she has had a love relationship in the past and she has been able to manipulate successfully, Polo and Christian, are dead or seriously injured. That is why she wants to get away from him. She needs some time by herself, even if that means being away from the person she is in love with. Carla has always been pretty selfish and that sacrifice shows a lot of growth. I hope they can also find each other in the future. [Put] this whole ordeal in the past, when they can actually have a healthier relationship. And eat lots of macaroni together.
In the end, the group splits up. Lu, Malick and Nadia are off to New York and Carla is studying abroad, while others like Guzmán, Samuel, Ander, Omar and Rebeca return to Las Encinas for one more year. Is this a reset for the show?
I really can't say!
Should fans expect a completely new cast for season 4? Is this the end of the road for characters like Carla, Lu and Nadia? Are Guzmán, Samuel and the returning Las Encinas students officially back?
Ditto, sorry. Everything you have heard about this is not official and didn't come either from Netflix or us!
Lastly, we have to ask about the Glee cameo! Was Kevin McHale a fan of the show? How did it come about?
We learned that he was through Twitter! Both him and Lea Michele, which was incredible. I think it was an idea by the amazing people of Netflix U.S., which contacted Netflix Spain and they both set it up. And we were so incredibly excited about it. He was not only a fan but a dream to work with, and we hope he is happy with the experience too!
Elite is streaming now on Netflix.
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