Between Cable Girls, Money Heist and Elite, three Spanish-speaking Netflix original shows, you’ve got a list of some of the best Netflix Originals on the platform today.
For those who let a fear of subtitles curtail their entertainment choices, a word to the wise: you’re really missing out. As Bong Joon Ho, director of the Oscar-winning film Parasite, said, “once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films,” and, in this case, the same applies for television.
Elite tells the story of a group of uber-rich high schoolers attending the posh school, Las Encinas. It kicks off with the arrival of three new students, Nadia, Christian and Samuel, all of whom are attending Las Encinas on scholarship. This immediately makes the three students targets of the popular pack, with attacks primarily led by resident top boy, Guzmán, and his sidekick, on-again, off-again girlfriend, Lu. The season follows the murder of a fellow classmate, whose identity is revealed in the very first episode to be (spoiler alert!) Marina, Guzmán’s rebellious sister who has a history of drugs and bad boys. The story is told in a mix of flashbacks to the beginning of the year, as the new students maneuver the transition to a school full of students vying for their failure, and footage of the present day, as the police investigate who killed Marina.
Season 1 is full of ups and downs and each episode is complete with extravagant parties, lavish Madrid homes and tantalizing drama amongst a group of Madrid’s wealthiest teenage socialites in the buildup to the murder of their classmate. It’s crazy, but just far fetched enough to draw you in and keep you captivated. And if you’re looking for a Spanish fill-in for your Gossip Girl fix, you’ve got your answer.
Seasons 2 and 3 are also available on Netflix and are, arguably, better than the series’ first.
Cable Girls tells the story of four 1920s women who are employed at Spain’s first National Telephone Company — the venture of a lifetime, at the time — and whose lives quickly become entangled with one another and with protagonist Lidia Aguilar’s troubling past. The company is run by the wealthy and powerful Cifuentes family and directed by best friends Carlos Cifuentes, the son of the owner, and Francisco Gómez, Carlos’s best friend and the co-director of the company. Gómez also happens to be Lidia’s long-lost lover, throwing another twist into the mix.
If that doesn’t draw you in enough, the first episode of the series begins with Lidia on the run following her best friend’s death, which she has been falsely blamed for. A corrupt inspector strikes a deal with Lidia, relieving her of a murder charge in exchange for her theft of riches from the National Telephone Company. Naturally, she agrees, heads to Madrid and seeks employment at the National Telephone Company — which is when we realize her name is not Lidia, but Alba. She’s taken on the alias of Lidia Aguilar, a woman who has been recruited for employment at the company, but doesn’t show up, prompting Alba to assume her position, taking on the name Lidia Aguilar to escape from her past and pretending she’s as qualified as the true candidate. Of course, employment at the company means an imminent reunion with Francisco, who she hasn’t seen in ten years, though neither of them know that’s coming. Our protagonist remains naive to the fact that her name change will not separate her from her true identity, as Francisco will, of course, recognize her instantly.
The show follows the life of not only Alba, but of the three women she befriends on her first day at the company, fellow switchboard operators Marga, Carlota and Ángeles. The four women grow inseparable as they maneuver through life in 1920s Madrid — a place of excessive partying, burgeoning suffrage and corruption — as they uncover company secrets, unravel marriages and each become accomplices in a long line of betrayal and secrecy.
The final season of the show, season 5, was released on Netflix earlier this year, and the conclusion to the leading ladies’ stories was met with rave reviews.
Money Heist is a show about exactly what it sounds like: a heist. But the heist in question is different. The mastermind behind it, “the Professor” doesn't just a plan, but a vendetta. And it’s been stewing in his mind for years.
He forms a team of eight robbers who are known only by their aliases, all of which are city names — Tokyo, Rio, Berlin and Denver, just to name a few — and has strict rules for the group to follow. The team is not to know any member’s real name and romantic relationships between members are forbidden. With these two rules, the Professor’s plan is fool-proof. He’s worked out every detail, accounted for every possible move by the police, and the team has absolute faith in him. As the episodes go on, you’ll end up having absolute faith in him, too, as it seems he’s able to anticipate everything, even making accidents appear as a part of his plan, like a criminal mastermind.
The Professor’s plan is to take over the Royal Mint of Spain in the center of Madrid, take anyone in the Mint hostage and while the building is surrounded by police forces and the robbers are seen to have no escape route, they’ll begin to dig a tunnel under the building that will connect to a tunnel already dug, which leads to their safehouse. The total loot? 2.4 billion euros, printed by the hostages through threat of violence.
It’ll have you on the edge of your seat, unable to stop watching as the Professor advises the team, hostages fall prey to Stockholm Syndrome while others attempt an escape and the identities of the robbers are slowly released to the public. It’s romantic, so unexpected it’s obsessing and it has something for everyone.
The fourth installment of the series was released earlier this month on Netflix, picking up where the third part left off: with a cliffhanger, as always.
If you’re looking for a new show to brighten the dull days of quarantine, branch out and experiment with one of these three or any other of the multitude of foreign language shows available on Netflix. You’re missing out if you’re limiting your options to only English-language shows. Once you’re five minutes in, you’ll forget the subtitles are even there. Don’t let them take seasons of entertainment from you!