Season Five of “Elite” Brings New Twists to a Sexy Soap Opera

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Patrick (Manu Rios) and Iván (André Lamoglia) in episode five of Elite.
NETFLIX/MATÍAS URIS

The fifth season of the naughty Spanish Netflix series “Elite” has the students at Las Encinas, a private school in Madrid, returning for another year. While there is the matter of Armando’s (Andrés Velencoso) death — the cliffhanger from last season — that is being investigated, most of the students are more concerned with sex than studying.

Omar (out gay Omar Ayuso) is missing his boyfriend Ander and hooks up with Patrick (Manu Ríos) for “sex and a chat” when both feel down. Patrick is having boyfriend trouble too — because he is crushed on Iván (André Lamoglia), a hunky new student who keeps teasing the perpetually horny Patrick all the while insisting he is straight. Their early scenes together in a shower or sharing a bed are full of insanely homoerotic tension that will appeal to gay viewers.

Iván has a hot dad Cruz (Carloto Cotta, of “Diamantino” fame), a famous soccer player, who has a sweet, if oddly comic exchange with Patrick when he catches his son’s friend masturbating. It also foreshadows a storyline that gains traction later in the series after Patrick has been told by Iván that they will always be friends and never intimates.

“Elite” thrives on the characters playing toxic games with one another. Iván admits his bromance with Patrick “soothes him,” but he arouses more than Patrick’s interest when they watch a porno together in their underwear during a sleepover. Complicating matters, Iván makes a play for Ari (Carla Díaz), Patrick’s sister. Ari, however, is romantically involved with Samuel (Itzan Escamilla) — even though their relationship is having some issues because Samuel is currying favor with Ari’s father, Benjamin (Diego Martín), the school principal. How that storyline plays out involves various tests of love and betrayals.

The relationship between the show’s queer females is not much better. Ex-girlfriends Rebeka (Claudia Salas) and Mencía (Martina Cariddi) are not talking at the start of the season, but both secretly want to get back together. When Rebeka begins seeing another student, it irritates Mencía. The exes must negotiate their relationship as various moral situations arise when Armando’s death is investigated. Both Salas and Cariddi do well expressing and repressing their emotions for one another throughout the season, but their storyline never quite excites.

Another disappointment is that Omar, a fan favorite, doesn’t get much to do with Ander gone. He does meet Bilal (Adam Nourou), a troubled youth, who needs money and a place to stay. A scene where Bilal discovers Omar is gay is a bit awkward, but once Bilal’s storyline ends, Omar is relegated to the show’s sidelines, getting very few scenes, and little to do but look concerned or act supportive. Ayuso deserves better.

If “Elite” seems to keep making room for the new students and providing less for the senior cast members, it does wisely incorporate new characters. This season, Ibiza empress Isadora (Valentina Zenere) makes a grand entrance. She is smitten with Prince Phillipe von Triesenberg (Pol Granch), who is seeking forgiveness from the working-class Cayetana (Georgina Amorós), whom he raped the previous season. Their love triangle plays out in not unexpected ways, with Isadora and Cayetana having some nice heart-to-hearts as their relationship shifts from enemies to friends.

One of the pleasures of the stylish series is that the fabulously rich characters wear over-the-top fashions and attend glamorous, outrageous parties. In episode two, Patrick throws a “no rules” bash that has everyone — even the disgraced Prince Phillipe — making out with someone of their same gender. A later episode, featuring a Valentine’s Party, has Cruz and Iván bidding on possible lovers that results in an awkward double date.

“Elite” delights in pushing the envelope, spinning these characters into each other’s arms (and legs), and playing with sexual fluidity. There is a pretty erotic gay sex scene in episode five, and the show also addresses serious social issues ranging from drug addiction, to rape, and of course, murder. (Again, every season involves some criminal investigation.)

Yes, the series is a heightened, sexy soap opera, and it is hard not to root for the queer characters. Even if Patrick is self-destructive as he throws himself into the arms of the absolutely wrong guy after Iván breaks his heart, he is sympathetic. Patrick cannot quite be the son his father wants — Benjamin is focused on Samuel for that role, much to Ari’s dismay — but a scene where Benjamin tries to talk to his son is as affecting as the father/son scenes between Iván and Cruz.

Both Carloto Cotto and André Lamoglia are welcome additions to the series because their characters spice things up. Likewise, Valentina Zenere comes into her own once her haughty character lets down her guard.

“Elite” is admirable for its queer representation, but it is memorable for featuring rich, beautiful people behaving badly. These reasons, as well as the blinding gorgeous cast, is why this juicy series remains so addicting.

“ELITE” Season 5 | Now streaming on Netflix

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