Warning: Major Elite spoilers ahead.
Netflix’s brand new soap Elite – with its murder, teen pregnancy, blackmail, cover-ups, and more – is a delicious mix of perfect pop cultural influences. There’s a little bit of The O.C., Riverdale, Cruel Intentions, She’s All That, and Gossip Girl bubbling around the Spanish-language series, which you really need to watch in its original language with subtitles. But, no touchstone seems to loom over Elite more than Big Little Lies.
Like the HBO juggernaut before it, Spain-set Elite begins with the news that someone is dead, but it’s a complete mystery who the bloodied victim actually is. By the final minute of “Episode 1,” the wait is over — we learn it is troubled, rich, and pregnant high schooler Marina (María Pedraza), who was murdered in the Las Encinas pool with that much talked about scholarship trophy.
While Elite pretty quickly explains who its teen bludgeoning victim is, the thriller waits until finale “Episode 8” to actually reveal who Marina’s killer is. And the answer will surprise you: it was the teen’s brother’s best friend Polo (Álvaro Rico). Marina’s lover Nano (Jaime Lorente), who is later formally accused of the crime, is innocent.
Yet, almost every major player in Elite had an accidental hand in Marina’s death. So, let’s break down all the steps you may have missed that led to the teen’s murder.
Although it seems like the end of year party on the Las Encinas campus began the chaos that ended in Marina’s death, that isn’t exactly correct. Rather, Marina’s brother Guzmán (Miguel Bernardeau) inadvertently put the idea in Polo’s head earlier, during the school day before the party. At the beginning of “Episode 8,” Polo fights with his ex-girlfriend Carla (Ester Expósito) in the middle of the hallway. Carla has officially broken things off with Polo after their throuple game with new, working class student Christian (Miguel Herrán) went awry. Now, Carla is considering seriously dating Christian, which infuriates the extremely rich Polo.
So, Guzmán, the richest of all the rich boys, gives his pal some advice. First, he chastises Polo for letting “that guy” steal his girlfriend (Guzmán may have fallen for a working class girl himself, but he is still prince of the classists). “Stop talking,” Guzmán demands. “Show her you love her. Take action. Do something!”
Polo decides to “take action” by taking back the watch Marina helped steal in a confusing robbery-turned-blackmailing scam with Nano, the father of her baby. Nano began blackmailing Carla’s father to an inadvisable degree in the hopes of funding a new life in Morocco with Marina. One of the watches Nano stole in an earlier episode had documents incriminating both Carla’s dad and Marina’s dad, who are business partners. Asking for 90,000 Euros was smart, but upping the ante to 1,000,000 Euros was dumb, leading both powerful families to get desperate. Few people were as desperate as Carla to get the watch back, since her father blamed his daughter for the theft.
In the midst of all this drama, Nano gave Marina the watch in “Episode 7” to prove he wouldn’t out her already-arrested father’s even shadier business secrets. So, Marina heads to the last day of school with the watch, where she and Nano would make the exchange and then run away together to raise their baby. Also, Marina confusingly suggests to cutthroat Carla, whose life may be ruined by the release of the watch’s information, that she is in possession of the watch. Carla then tells Guzmán and Polo the news.
This is where Nano’s brother Samuel (Itzan Escamilla) comes in. Throughout season 1, Marina was torn between sweet Samuel and bad boy Nano. In “Episode 5,” Marina has sex with Samuel and then promptly makes out with Nano, whom she has already hooked up with. Like any 16 year old, Marina was torn. But, she eventually settles on Nano, especially since they’re expecting a baby. Still, towards the close of the year-ending party, Samuel goes to Marina, who is collecting her thoughts alone in the pool room and still has the watch, to beg her not to throw her life away by fleeing with his brother. The request isn’t even romantic — it’s pragmatic. Yet, Marina refuses.
Desperate to save Marina’s future, Samuel goes to Guzmán to beg him to talk some sense into his sister. Because Guzmán and Polo are best friends, Polo is right there during Samuel and Guzmán’s exchange. Guzmán, fed up with his sister’s endless rebellion, says to let her leave. Here, Polo gets an idea: with all the information available, he can be the one to get the watch back from an unprotected Marina and save Carla. This will be his big romantic gesture; he will finally be able to defeat Christian.
Speaking of Christian and Carla, the former refuses to break into Marina’s locker on the latter’s orders, leaving the watch in Marina’s hands. Then they start having sex in the locker room, so they’re way too busy to care about who has the loaded accessory, leaving Polo as the only one worried about it.
So Polo heads to the pool to confront Marina and retrieve the watch. She laughs at him for thinking that getting a watch will fix anything with Carla, who wants nothing to do with him. Polo becomes infuriated over Marina’s giggling, reminding us of the wisdom of Margaret Atwood’s words, “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.” Polo begins shoving and assaulting Marina over her laughter. When Marina finally slaps Polo and says she pities him, he retaliates by picking up that scholarship statue in a rage and bludgeoning her. He immediately cracks Marina’s skull open and leaves her bleeding out on the floor.
This is where Nano finds his girlfriend. She collapses one final time in Nano’s presence and then dies. Nano, fresh out of jail and on parole, runs, knowing how terrible the scene looks. His brother Samuel, who had been in the locker room changing back into his uniform out of his party clothes, sees Nano exit the bloody scene. Then, it is suggested Samuel ran to Marina’s body and then wandered away upon realizing she was dead. This is how police found Samuel covered in the girl’s blood.
Essentially, Polo murdered Marina, and both Nano and Samuel were witnesses after the fact. The biggest moment pointing to the murderer in an early Elite episode arrives during “Episode 2,” when Carla tells Polo, “They suspect Guzmán,” while exiting the interrogation room her ex-boyfriend is entering. The only reason to drop such a helpful hint is to notify the actual murderer who the lead suspect is. That way, the true killer can supply even more evidence against the patsy.
Now, we can all only hope for a second season of Elite, to see how Guzmán will one day react to finding out his very best friend is his sister’s murderer.
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