AS MANY of us practise social distancing, I am hopeful that more people will become aware of the value and benefit of the arts. When the world seems to be ending and we are unable to be with our loved ones, it is to art that we must turn to find solace. For this reason, many people in quarantine will find joy and happiness, anger and sorrow, as well as vast amounts of humour and knowledge in the arts. People will read more and people will draw or paint. The Italians have already demonstrated how to use music by playing and singing from their balconies, while the COVID-19 virus stalks the streets. Many, many people will turn to Netflix and other online sources of television shows and movies. For example, we in Guyana face a crisis in the form of a global pandemic, along with political turmoil stemming from GECOM’s handling of the results from the March 2nd general elections, and to cope I have been watching ‘Kingdom,’ a Korean show about political intrigue and upheaval among the royal family, while a plague of zombies rampages across the kingdom. I suppose that the fantasy involving emperors and queens caught up in a pandemic involving the undead is better than the reality of local politicians trying to hoard power amid the escalation of the coronavirus in Guyana. Whatever the case, many other people will be using Netflix to overcome the trauma of their realities in the upcoming weeks, and that is okay,
Another show that I watched is the third season of the popular Spanish series, ‘Elite.’ I have written about ‘Elite’ before and addressed specifically its entertainment value and the fierce performance of the actress, Ester Exposito, and the importance of viewing her character as a modern-day Lady Macbeth. Even in those previous articles, there is still much left to unpack from ‘Elite,’ which might be a testament to how strong the show is and the fact that it should definitely be regarded as a far superior and more challenging undertaking than other similar English-language shows, like ‘Riverdale’ or ‘Gossip Girl.’
As in the previous seasons, the new season focuses on a group of students who attend a prestigious private school in Spain, and like the previous seasons, a murder of one of the core members of the group forms the focal point of the season. While definitely relying on a formula of murder, sex, loneliness, anger, drugs, friendship, and teenagers, ‘Elite’ is truly anything but formulaic as it barrels through the season, taut with excellent writing, bold twists, strong direction, and fantastic, out of this world, performances by the main actors.
Much can be said about the fine acting work done in this newest season of ‘Elite.’ It seems as if the acting of the main cast has gotten even better as their characters developed, or perhaps their skills are better manifested now that there are more complexities and nuances to their characters. Mina El Hammani, for example, who plays Nadia, truly excels in this season, where her depiction of a bright Muslim teenager, battling her devotion to her parents and religion alongside her sexual desires and need for freedom and acceptance, comes across as particularly strong with a fervent flare of energy, giving the performance her all as the character she plays rises and gains the strength to stand up for herself and demand the things she desires. Danna Paola could have been stuck playing the trope of the spoilt rich girl who is out to cause trouble, but the actress surpasses everyone else in the show by peeling back her character to reveal layer after layer of emotions and an entire history of longing and loneliness. Paola’s performance as Lucrecia cements her status as one of the most formidable actresses in the show, particularly in the very last episode, and she is definitely the MVP of the season. Similarly, Alvaro Rico, whose character, Polo, murdered one of the most-loved characters in a previous season as he subsequently became the most reviled character on the show gave us an arc and an inside look at the way his character’s guilt led him to be transformed into an individual who was worthy of our love and pity rather than resentment. None of the roles in this show are particularly easy to essay and credit must be given to the actors and writers who constantly defy the audience’s expectations and always ensure that their characters are always rooted in reality.
The other important thing about this season of ‘Elite’ is its ending. I am not certain if this is the final season of the show, but almost all of the narrative threads have been so neatly, and satisfyingly, wound up that I would actually not mind if this is the end – and I say that as a fan of the show. It is difficult to end a story that has eight other stories within it. I’m sure that we can all remember the travesty that was the final season of ‘Game of Thrones’ or the surprise cancellation of the fantastic, ‘Penny Dreadful’ after its last season ended on a splendid cliffhanger.
The truth is that in the world of pop culture, audiences are not always guaranteed a satisfying ending to the shows that they love and dedicate their time to, and this is why I am so grateful for the conclusion of the third season of ‘Elite,’ where, without spoilers, I can say, without a doubt, that it is one of the most fulfilling, though not entirely happy, episodes of television that I have seen this year.