From raising children, creating new families, and rediscovering themselves, Elena and Lila may struggle in their friendship but find ways to flourish in their individual lives.

Network HBO
Genre(s) Drama, Romance, Young Adult, Non-English, Historical
Noted Characters
Elena Ingrid Del Genio
Next Gen Elena Alba Rohrwacher
Lila Gaia Girace
Dede Sofia Luchetti
Nino Francesco Serpico
Gigliola Rosaria Langellotto
Pietro Matteo Cecchi
Immacolata Annarita Vitolo
Enzo Giovanni Buselli


Spanning several years, we watch as Elena continues to follow in Lila’s footsteps from getting into a loveless marriage, having kids, and even being seduced by Nino once more. But, not everything is about relationships for Elena or Lila, the romantic kind anyway. Both ladies also reach heights in their work as Lila surpasses her partner, Enzo, in the burgeoning IT industry and Elena? Well, while Pietro is the one always working, Elena is the one who publishes two books over the course of a decade. Both of which focus on what life is like as a woman in a personal novel and then in something far more academic.

But naturally, things aren’t all just about Lila and Elena and their frenemy relationship. Communism and fascism clash throughout not only Naples but the country as a whole and cause death, confrontation, and upheaval. Though, even without that, as the Solara family expands their reach, that means families and businesses are either bowing down or being squashed.

All of this ultimately gives us a rather dramatic season, mainly using Elena’s point of view, that closes the chapter on Elena and Lila coming of age and leaves us with them being full-fledged adults.

Things To Note

Question(s) Left Unanswered

  1. Who is going to be cast as the older Lila?

What Could Happen Next

  1. Nino and Elena breaking up, maybe after she has another kid
  2. Dede and Elena having an immensely complicated relationship – can you imagine her rebellion phase after her father coerced her to know her mother was having an affair with a family friend?
  3. Elena’s family is going to treat her as Lila’s did after she left Stefano, maybe worse
  4. Maybe learning why, in season 1, Elena notes Lila is missing



Understanding The Toxic Relationship Between Elena And Lila

Elena convincing herself to reconcile with Lila

One of the things that I found myself constantly questioning, especially in this season of My Brilliant Friend, is why Lila and Elena remain friends? Is it because neither really have the skills to form new and meaningful friendships, or maybe even capacity? Could it be that, after knowing each other for so long, they don’t want to throw away one of the most significant relationships in their life? Or could it be, as noted multiple times by Lila and seen through Elena’s actions and hearing her inner thoughts, they draw from one another?

In the season, Lila repeatedly notes how she lives vicariously through Elena. Perhaps similar to Elena’s mom, Immacolata, figuring that, if she had Elena’s privilege, she’d go as far, if not father, so to watch her is to get a taste of what she deserves. Yet, as Lila repeatedly says, Elena squanders the privilege of a college education, her youth, and her looks, and you can see a bit of resentment from Lila.

Then, on the opposite side, Elena envies Lila, who only had a 3rd-grade education, being able to command rooms and attention without making as much of an effort. It, in fact, seems to infuriate Elena to the point of obsession. As if Elena is in a constant need to one-up Lila to prove she has truly done something, and not exist on Lila’s treaded road but be forging her own path.

However, as we see, Elena can’t escape Lila. She is the boogeyman in her dreams, and while Elena is sadly someone who seeks validation from nearly every interaction, Lila is put on a pedestal. Almost to the point that, as much as Nino is portrayed as the love of Elena’s life, you could imagine that Lila might be the one if things were different, specifically Elena’s sexuality. Lila could be the one who Elena was deeply in love with and hated for knowing she could never have her as she’d like.

Lila & The Other Ladies Of The Show

In many ways, the neighborhood, once abandoned by Elena, becomes an afterthought. Yes, Lila represents what is going on, especially after she and Enzo return, but often it is just quick news about what the Solaras are doing or Elena’s now estranged family. But, when it comes to life beyond the gossip? The women of the neighborhood present the type of contrast that makes Elena tumble further into being the boring character who is forced upon you despite all else going on.

I mean, getting Lila out of the way, watching her command control over her life, and having physical autonomy remains such a highlight of this series. While others, like Gigliola, have to take what they can get, make the best of it, and suffer – though rarely in silence, Lila isn’t like that. Her long-term plans may require short-term sacrifices, but she continually comes out on top. And it makes you always question what is going on with Lila and understanding why Elena has a low current hatred for her brilliant friend.

Gigliola having a conversation with Elena

But Lila isn’t alone. The aforementioned Gigliola gets a handful of scenes when she communicates directly with Elena that are memorable. For like Lila, being vulnerable isn’t something she has the opportunity to be too often. So having her be honest, open herself up, and expose the parts of her that have given up, just thinking about it, makes me emotional and really pushes the idea the writers know there is a world outside of Elena. The problem is, this show is all from Elena’s point of view, so to stay on anyone too much means to break the premise.

Yet, it’s not just the adults who I feel deserve praise for the complexity of their performances. Even Elena’s daughter, Dede, deserves applause, especially in the last episode. This child is subject to a woman, Elena, trying to not be like her mother. So Dede is generally loved and well protected. However, their world comes crashing down due to their mother putting her own happiness before that of her children. As shown, it pushes Dede to wonder if she can be part of her mother’s joy or with her father being abandoned, does that mean she will as well? After all, she is a potential liability, and her mother left her each time she went to have fun and be happy. So with the proclamation, she is leaving. So what does this mean for her?

Now, I won’t say Dede’s actress will put you through the wringer, but she is entrusted enough to deliver what is needed to dismantle anything you could use to justify Elena’s actions. Never mind, push you to remember the sub-heading of the season regarding “Those who leave, those who stay.”

Elena & The Side Effects Of Prolonged Cruel Treatment

For nearly all of Elena’s life, she has lived in Lila’s shadow. It’s well established, but what isn’t probably noted as much is how that lack of light, since Lila was blocking the shine like a canopy in the forest, really took something from Elena. I mean, there is a moment in episode 7 that has really stuck with me. There has always been a but when it comes to any compliment or accomplishment in Elena’s life.

Elena published a book, graduated college, all these major things. Her mother makes it seem if she was given the same privilege, she’d do just as well. When Elena presents Lila with her book, she is happy for her but feels it isn’t her or her voice when she tells Elena the truth. Pietro marries Elena, but rather than provide her the tools to flourish like the rest of the women in his family, he damns her to housework and raising children she didn’t want to have so early in their marriage.

So when it came to Nino just giving a compliment and not making it sugar on top of s***, it helps you understand why Elena is how she is. Why she makes herself small and doesn’t speak up when it matters. Why she is so in her head and doesn’t truly live out loud. Heck, I’d even say her whole affair with Nino? That is her first time truly rebelling and seeking out what makes her happy rather than following the example set by others (even though Lila had him first).

But, overall, what we’re trying to say is, Elena is finally taking a real risk. Elena is finally not just seeking to be content or seek a means to escape from the neighborhood. So it should be interesting to see if she now has a consistent reason to smile.

Low Points

Elena Perpetually In Lila’s Shadow

A major issue in season 2, and still an issue in season 3, is this show can often feel like a drag when we’re supposed to focus solely on Elena and not watch her share a scene or screentime with Lila. The reason for this is obvious, since, as noted at least a few times thus far, Elena exists in constant comparison to Lila. So with that, it pushes Lila to feel like the lead, the one you should be interested in, and to be left with Elena, who is still figuring herself out? If not repeating Lila’s mistakes with different people? It grows tiresome.

Elena's silhouette with a setting sun in the background

Add in how much space Lila takes in Elena’s head to the point she can not see her or talk to her for days and weeks, yet she still is a constant presence? It makes you hate when Elena has something good going and is really proving herself to the be the brilliant friend, not Lila, and then Lila makes a last-minute appearance like:

surprise bitch


Our Rating: Positive (Watch This)

While Elena can sometimes be frustrating to watch as she allows people to put her down or she obsesses over what Lila would do, something about her feels made for those who don’t see themselves as the main character of their lives. Elena is the epitome of being on autopilot and doing all you’re expected to do in order to have a happy life, and then realizing the goal post will forever move no matter what you do.

Go to school, find a career, get married, have kids, make a home, host dinner parties, stay in contact with old friends, etc. There is this idea that you’ll be happy or at least have access to joy by doing all of this. Yet, as Elena showed us, a lot of these things only make you miserable and even question who you are outside of these accomplishments people say you have made. And for that, we say season 3 of My Brilliant Friend is something to watch. It can be aggravating in the moment, but makes you think more and more in the long run and presents one of the most compelling coming-of-age stories, not just focused on women but done in a serial format.

My Brilliant Friend Directory

Network(s) HBO
Created or Developed By Saverio Costanzo
First Aired 11/18/2018

Character Guide


Season Reviews

Season 1

Affiliate Link(s)

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My Brilliant Friend: Season 3 - Summary/ Review (with Spoilers)From raising children, creating new families, and rediscovering themselves, Elena and Lila may struggle in their friendship but find ways to flourish in their individual lives.
My Brilliant Friend: Season 3/ Episode 8 “Chapter 24: Those Who Leave, Those Who Stay” [Finale] – Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)As Elena closes a major chapter in her life, we're introduced to the next actress who will play her in Elena's next chapter.
My Brilliant Friend: Season 3/ Episode 7 “Chapter 23: Try Again” – Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)In an almost complete Lila-less episode, Nino returns to Elena's life, and between old feelings and him supporting her writing, it complicates Elena's marriage to Pietro.
My Brilliant Friend: Season 3/ Episode 6 “Chapter 22: Becoming” – Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)As Elena returns to Naples and is coerced to fully be involved in what’s going on, Pietro gives the kind of observations that disturb her perceptions of everyone – including Lila.
My Brilliant Friend: Season 3/ Episode 5 “Chapter 21: Terror” – Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)As political violence starts to engulf Naples and surrounding areas, Elena is asked to keep her godson for the summer, with very little context as to why.
My Brilliant Friend: Season 3/ Episode 4 “Chapter 20: Cold War” – Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)We jump through at least 2 or so years as Elena gets married and has her first two children while struggling immensely in her personal and professional life.
My Brilliant Friend: Season 3/ Episode 3 “Chapter 19: The Treatment” – Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)With feeling like she'd be better as a big fish in a small pond, Lila makes it her goal to return to the neighborhood, and Elena lays the groundwork for that to happen.
My Brilliant Friend: Season 3/ Episode 2 "Chapter 18: The Fever" – Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)In "The Fever," we catch up with Lila, whose life continues a downward spiral as one of her demons catches up to her.
My Brilliant Friend: Season 3/ Episode 1 “Chapter 17: Indecencies” [Premiere] – Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)In its long-awaited return, My Brilliant Friend focuses on Elena, Lila's name haunts every conversation and accomplishment.
My Brilliant Friend: Season 2 Episode 8 “Chapter 16: The Blue Fairy” [Season Finale] – Recap/ Review with SpoilersIt's 1967, and what Elena has long wanted has come to her. However, thoughts of Lila always lurk, and Elena once more is drawn to them and her.
My Brilliant Friend: Season 2 Episode 7 “Chapter 15: Ghosts” – Recap/ Review with SpoilersWith a time jump of three years, we learn whether Elena’s time away from the neighborhood changed her or confirmed what she already knew.
My Brilliant Friend: Season 2 Episode 6 “Chapter 14: Rage” – Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)As both Lila and Elena seek freedom from the neighborhood, one potentially finds bliss as the other is practically forced back.
My Brilliant Friend: Season 2 Episode 5 “Chapter 13: The Betrayal” – Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)As the vacation comes to an end, both Elena and Lila are faced with a change in their life. One neither were prepped for but realized must happen if they desire happiness.
My Brilliant Friend: Season 2 Episode 4 “Chapter 12: The Kiss” – Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)As Pinuccia comes to terms with marrying Rino, Lila finds a new means of getting under Elena’s skin – just as it seems they could reconcile.
My Brilliant Friend: Season 2 Episode 3 “Chapter 11: Erasure” – Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)After Elena spending so much time in Lila’s world, things are flipped, and with that, we see some old demons pop out.
My Brilliant Friend: Season 2 Episode 2 “Chapter 10: The Body” – Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)As Elena observes what it means to be a wife, mother, and what can be lost in the process, her understanding of Lila reaches a new level.
My Brilliant Friend: Season 2 Episode 1 “Chapter 9: The New Name” [Season Premiere] – Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)In “My Brilliant Friend’s” return, we learn whether or not Lila made a huge mistake and if Elena may have finally found herself not seeking other people's validation.
My Brilliant Friend: Season 1 - Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)My Brilliant Friend is a true statement to the power of girls and young women despite a world which tries to undermine and oppress them.
My Brilliant Friend: Season 1/ Episode 8 "La Promessa (The Promise)" [Season Finale] - Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)Despite the brilliance of both young ladies, the lessons aced and the idea they were ahead of the curve – life shows they have so much left to learn.
My Brilliant Friend: Season 1/ Episode 7 "Fidanzati (The Fiances)" - Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)Lila makes drastic moves in order to free herself from Marcello and Elena takes notes on her friend’s social intelligence.
My Brilliant Friend: Season 1/ Episode 6 "L'isola (The Island)" - Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)It’s a (mostly) Elena focused episode and we get to see her reach a personal high, and low. Meanwhile, Lila deals with Marcello’s advances.
My Brilliant Friend: Season 1/ Episode 5 "Le Scarpe (The Shoes)" - Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)Lila and Elena continue to take diverging paths and Elena may have finally reached a point of breaking away and getting ahead.
My Brilliant Friend: Season 1/ Episode 4 "Le Smarginatura (Dissolving Margins)" - Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)As Elena tries to find ways to keep up, maybe surpass Lila, she comes to a point of realizing that girl is in a league of her own.
My Brilliant Friend: Season 1/ Episode 3 "Le Metamorfosi (The Metamorphoses)" - Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)We jump to the teen years and as the girls get a taste of being seen as women, neither one seems fond of what that brings.
My Brilliant Friend: Season 1/ Episode 2 "Soldi (The Money)" - Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)Lila continues to face adversity and yet despite being born poor, a girl, and being a girl who is headstrong, she continues her arduous journey.
My Brilliant Friend: Season 1/ Episode 1 "Le Bambole (The Dolls)" [Series Premiere] - Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)While My Brilliant Friend overloads you with character introductions, the leads keep a tight enough grip for you to not end up lost.
Title Card - My Brilliant Friend Season 3
My Brilliant Friend: Season 3 – Summary/ Review (with Spoilers)
Who Is This For?
Those who love a quality coming of age story which has drama, but not the kind where everything is about a relationship or people being mean at work. Rather, it is about dealing with things you have internalized and working out who you are when you aren't desperately in need of the validation of others.
Elena & The Side Effects Of Prolonged Cruel Treatment
Lila & The Other Ladies Of The Show
Understanding The Toxic Relationship Between Elena And Lila
Elena Perpetually In Lila's Shadow

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Avatar of Amari

I started Wherever I Look back in 2011 and have aimed to be that friend who loves watching various forms of media and talking about it. So, from bias, strong opinions, and a perspective you may not have thought about, you'll find that in our reviews.

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