Five factions run the underground life of Haldwell School, a prestigious east coast boarding school. At the head of the most powerful faction – The Spades – sits Selah Summers, walking the fine line between being feared and loved.
Selah Summers (Lovie Simone) is the leader of the spades, one of five factions at Haldwell Boarding School. The spades are in charge of all the drug trade at the school. Selah has had trouble finding a successor until she meets Paloma (Celeste O’Connor), who she takes a liking to and begins showing the ropes.
Eventually, Selah becomes threatened and jealous of Paloma and drugs her at the prom. It is revealed she had also done this to a previous successor of hers which led to that girl’s expulsion. Paloma slaps Selah and runs off into the woods and falls over a railing, but Selah and Maxxie (Jharrel Jerome) are able to hoist her back up. Selah looks out over the railing, realizing what she could have done, and the three of them start to head back to prom together.
Selah is a senior at a Pennsylvania boarding school, where she leads a faction of students called the Spades who sell drugs to other students. The school has four other factions but unlike the others Selah has no one to replace her when she graduates.
Maxxie is her right-hand man, and together they have developed a secret, efficient operation. A new girl, Paloma, transfers into the school, and when she photographs Selah during Spirit Squad practice, Selah immediately sees her talent. Selah asks Paloma to take incriminating photos of her rival Bobby cheating on her boyfriend, thrusting Paloma into the school’s drama. Selah tells Maxxie that Paloma reminds her of herself, and decides to begin grooming her to take over. Paloma is a fast learner and quickly proves herself in the Spades.
Rumors circulate that there is a rat among the Spades, and after some investigating, Selah discovers that Maxxie had been careless with the ledger used to record their sales, which had caused incorrect orders and affected their reputation. Selah confronts him and ultimately fires him.
The Headmaster announces that due to misconduct of a few of the students, prom has been cancelled. At an emergency meeting of the factions, Selah and Bobby are at each others’ throats casting blame for the prom-cancellation, but Paloma instead suggests that they throw their own prom outside of the school grounds. Each faction agrees to help with a different aspect to make sure the dance is a success. In private, Bobby asks Paloma if she knows about Teela, the girl who was in her position before, and warns her that Selah had drugged her, causing a car crash and ultimately her expulsion. When Paloma asks Selah about Teela, Selah refuses to give a straight answer. After that conversation, Selah digs out a vial of drugs and stashes one of them in her pocket.
On their way to the dance, Selah slips pills into a tiny bottle of alcohol and gives it to Paloma. During the party, Paloma vomits and becomes unresponsive. Selah finds Maxxie and asks him if he remembers how potent the drug is, and he is immediately worried for Paloma’s safety. The two of them find Paloma, but she runs away from them, and in her disoriented state stumbles over a railing on the side of a cliff. She manages to get hold of the railing and Selah and Maxxie hoist her to safety.
Selah Summers (Lovie Simone) is in the spring of her senior year at the prestigious Haldwell Boarding and Day school, where she runs the spades, one of the school’s five factions: the spades handle all the drug dealing for the school. Her right hand is Maxxie (Jharrel Jerome). Selah is struggling to find someone to hand over control of her faction to as she prepares to graduate.
New Headmaster Banton (Jesse Williams) meets with new scholarship student Paloma Davis (Celeste O’Connor) to see how she’s adjusting, and she tells him she’s taking photos for the yearbook. Later, she takes photos of Selah and the other cheerleaders on the Spirit Squad. Selah and Maxie have a student beat up for shirking his debt, but since the number one rule at Haldwell is don’t snitch, he tells the administration he fell down the stairs, arousing Banton’s growing suspicions about the recent “falls down the stairs”.
When Selah spots Bobby (Ana Mulvoy Ten) – leader of the Bobbys, one of the other factions – who has clashed with Selah repeatedly, canoodling with Two Tom (Evan Roe) – leader of the prefects, a third of the five factions – she asks Paloma to take pictures of them under the guise of a school project. She refuses to let Selah pay her, and Selah takes a liking to her and invites her to come to her dorm after school to see something exciting. Paloma watches and takes photos as the senior class executes their senior prank, leaving hundreds of cups of water on the stairs to the headmaster’s office.
Selah tells Maxxie she wants to make Paloma her successor, and though he thinks she’s too new, Selah has made up her mind. They show Paloma where they keep the drugs and the ledger they keep and begin teaching her the business of the spades. Tarit (Henry Hunter Hall), another leader, tells her there’s a snitch in her midst, which she doesn’t believe, but he tells her Maxxie is getting sloppy.
Later, they take Paloma to a huge rave party which campus security shuts down. Banton finds a flash with a spade on it. Selah gets a call from her extremely tough and critical mother Maybelle (Gina Torres), who demands she come home, where she confronts Selah about not responding to college acceptance from the school she wants her to attend. She tells Selah the parable of the scorpion and the frog, implying Selah has a dark nature and needs to be protected from herself.
Bobby confronts Selah about one of her faction’s orders being wrong, and notes Maxxie is responsible for the orders. Tarit comes to Selah and tells her the rat is suspected to be a young prefect, but will keep digging, wanting to avoid a war like they had sophomore year. Maxxie tells Selah he doesn’t have the ledger but will look into it, which seems strange.
When Paloma asks innocuous questions about prom, Selah snaps at her and tells her she can’t deal with her. Paloma later asks Maxxie, who admits that he mixed up the order. Paloma chastises him for adding to Selah’s stress, but he tells her she’s not even Selah’s friend, just her lackey, and he’s carried Selah’s weight for years. Selah eventually apologizes to Paloma. Maxxie doesn’t show up for their next meeting, so Selah interrogates the rat Tarit found and discovers he stole the ledger from Maxxie while he was with a girl. Selah doesn’t believe Maxxie could have done this, and is devastated.
Selah tells Paloma she knows what she needs to do – get violent with the rat. Paloma balks, but Selah explains that this is what they have to do to keep power. Paloma doesn’t want to and starts to leave, but Selah berates her. Later, Selah helps Paloma with her bruised and bloodied hands after Paloma gave in and beat up the rat.
Selah sends Maxxie to make a drug pickup alone despite her rule to never go to those alone, needing a break from Maxxie. She then cuts up a college sweater her mom has gotten for her. Maxxie returns from the pickup, beaten to hell. He and Selah have a confrontation, Selah furious about the ledger, and he insists she’s just jealous of anyone who gets more attention than her. He brings up Teela, a name Selah has been avoiding over and over. Selah fires Maxxie, returns to her room, and cries.
Banton has grown wise to the work of the factions – drugs, parties, cheating – and in retaliation, cancels prom. The factions meet, furious, and Bobby charges Telah with the blame. As the factions descend into fighting, Paloma stands up and tells everyone that they need to take the power back and throw their own prom. The factions come together and plan a huge prom in the woods.
Bobby asks Paloma if she knows about Teela, who used to be a Boby until she was poached by the spades. She was high on acid and crashed into a goalpost and was expelled, despite never having used drugs before. Bobby tells Paloma she believes Selah set her up to take the fall to get the administration off them, since Selah always believes everything is for the greater good. Bobby tells Paloma the factions like her and not to let Selah let her think otherwise.
Selah sees the photos and is annoyed that Paloma was with Bobby. Paloma asks Selah about Teela, who Selah says flew too close to the sun, and that Paloma will need to learn to handle those kinds of things. Paloma says she may handle things differently. Later, Selah goes and retrieves drugs from her stash. Prom arrives, and Selah slips some of the drugs into a drink and gives it to Paloma, who quickly begins to feel strange.
Selah goes to Maxxie and asks him how many of the pills would be too many, lying and saying Paloma took them herself. Realizing that Selah was once again threatened by a successor and has drugged them, Maxxie yells at her that she can’t keep doing this. They find Paloma, and Maxxie makes Selah tell Paloma the truth. Paloma hits Selah and runs off into the night, and falls over a railing, but Maxxie and Selah are able to pull her back up to safety. Selah looks out over the railing, realizing how bad it could have been, and the three of them begin walking back to prom together.