Reviews, TV Shows

Season Review: Young Royals (Netflix, 2021)

Scrolling through Netflix has become the modern-day equivalent of walking into a Blockbuster and walking around aimlessly for hours before, oftentimes, leaving with something subpar. Occasionally though, you stumble on something phenomenal. That’s exactly what happened this past week when I stumbled upon the Netflix Original Swedish series Young Royals.

Now, I’ve never watched an international Netflix show before, so I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. But after learning the series was about young adult royals struggling to find their place in the world I was hooked. Language barrier and all.

And let me tell you, Young Royals did NOT disappoint.

Created by Lisa Ambjörn, Lars Beckung, and Camillia Holter, Young Royals centers on Prince Wilhelm (Edvin Ryding), the second born Prince of Sweden. After embarrassing his family, Wilhelm is sent to a prestigious boarding school where his family hopes he will connect with like-minded wealthy teenagers and stay out of trouble. While Wilhelm is originally against attending the boarding school, he comes to accept it when he befriends Simon (Omar Rudberg), a non-resident student at the school who also happens to be gay.

With a little help from Simon, Wilhelm begins to discover who he really is and who he really wants to be. Which, of course, ends up being in direct conflict with his duties as a Royal. Things only become more complicated when tragedy strikes his family, and he is forced to take on more royal responsibilities.

As always, spoilers are ahead. You’ve been warned.

Favorite Episode: Episode 5

Netflix

There really isn’t one episode that I love entirely because Young Royals packs a lot of drama and quiet, soft moments into every episode. However, if I had to choose, I would pick Episode 5 as my favorite because it’s the closest thing we get to seeing Wilhelm and Simon happy and blissfully in love with each other.

The episode picks up where episode 4 leaves off with Wilhelm and Simon in his dorm room after spending the night and sleeping together for the first time. There are a lot of amazing quiet moments in the first part of the episode where we see Wilhelm and Simon speaking to each other through glances and soft smiles that are to die for.

Plus, we get to see the boys playfully bantering with each other again. Honestly, the scene of them walking through the grounds joking around and trying to steal secret kisses with each other is one of the best scenes in the entire show. Despite everything he’s been through, Wilhelm is finally allowed to be himself and be happy. I could seriously watch these two happy and thriving for the rest of my life.

The episode isn’t all rainbows and butterflies though, as Wilhelm deals with the aftermath of his wild night with August and the rest of the resident boys. Faced with a choice, Wilhelm must figure out what to do when the boys want to blame the drugs on Simon and get him expelled from the school. Instead of lying or keeping the truth from Simon, like most teen shows would do, Wilhelm decides to be honest with him and tell him what’s going on. It’s a tense and beautiful moment that emphasizes the power of communication and honestly, we need more of this in young adult series.

Wilhelm and Simon aren’t the only great thing about this episode, though. Sara and Felice also steal the show as they cement their friendship status. Again, these girls have an open and honest conversation with each other, where Sara tells Felice that August kissed her the other day. Instead of lashing out at Sara, Felice decides to break up with August right then and there in a powerful moment. However, the true best moment for them in this episode is when Felice decides to let Sara be the Lucia in the school’s tradition. Truly friendship goals.

Least Favorite Episode: Episode 6

Netflix

While the final episode of Young Royals has many great moments, especially when it comes to Wilhelm and Simon supporting and leaning on each other, it’s ultimately one of the most devastating episodes.

Unlike other young adult shows, Young Royals does not end with a fairy tale ending. Instead, Wilhelm is forced to tell the world that he is not the boy in the leaked video of him and Simon despite telling Simon he wanted to tell the truth. Wilhelm does it because he feels like it’s the best thing for his family but he quickly realizes the error in his ways when he goes to apologize to Simon. In an amazing moment of courage, Simon stands up for himself and tells Wilhelm that, while he understands why Wilhelm did what he did, he doesn’t want to be someone’s secret.

The scene may be heart-wrenching but it’s an important one because it encourages viewers not to lose sight of who they are and what they want when faced with a romantic partner. And yet, it’s heartbreaking and completely destroyed me. My only hope is that the show gets renewed for a second season so Prince Wilhelm and Simon can have the happily ever after they so strongly deserve.

Prince Wilhelm and Simon’s breakup isn’t the only thing that made me dislike this episode, though. In fact, a larger reason why I hate this episode is because of Sara and August. Despite everything that August has put her brother through, Sara still ends up in his dorm room, where she ultimately blackmails him into helping her become a resident before the two start making out. I have no problem with the blackmail portion but it’s the intense make out session that occurs that immediately put me off. Not only does Sara know that August ruined her brother’s life, but she also knows how much of an asshole he was to Felice. I literally have no idea what she sees in him and hate that I even had to witness this pairing.

Favorite Character: Simon

Netflix

Choosing a favorite character was challenging because most of the characters are truly amazing. However, I felt drawn to Simon for most of the show, which makes him my favorite character.

Simon is one of the most perfectly crafted characters because he isn’t perfect. He definitely has a heart of gold and cares about people and bettering the world, but he’s also incredibly stubborn and headstrong. He’s not afraid to speak his mind, even when in the presence of royalty which is truly an amazing feat. And he even sacrifices his own happiness to attend the boarding school so he can watch out for Sara.

However, Simon also makes mistakes. He gets suckered into August’s bullshit which looms like a black cloud over him for the rest of the season. He steals his father’s medications to sell to August for extra cash. And he ultimately lies to his sister and mother about him seeing said father, thus betraying his sister’s trust. But he also learns from his mistakes and faces consequences for them which doesn’t always happen in young adult shows.

Simon also manages to be quite the scene-stealer. I absolutely love our introduction to him in the classroom, where he goes head to head with one of the wealthy students talking about how the government has no problem giving hands out to the rich, only the poor. The scene is iconic for so many reasons but mostly because he says this while in the presence of literal royalty. Honestly, I think that’s the moment Wilhelm fell in love with Simon.

Another one of my favorite scenes is when he goes to his dad’s house for the first time and his dad tries to talk to him about girls. Instead of giving in, Simon stares at his father and blatantly reminds his father that he’s gay. It’s hilarious but it’s also proof that Simon knows who he is and doesn’t give a damn what other people say about him.

Least Favorite Character: August

Netflix

Choosing a least favorite character is easy because August is the clear and obvious choice.

While I appreciated the writer’s trying to make us empathize with him upon learning that he is going broke and that his father took his own life, I just couldn’t root for him. And all bets were certainly off when he leaked the video he took of Wilhelm and Simon. There’s no coming back from purposely outing someone, especially when that person is the Crown Prince and your own cousin!

And the crazy thing that’s just the tip of the iceberg of all the shit August caused this season. He actively tries to keep Wilhelm away from Simon because he doesn’t feel Simon is the right company. He gets Wilhelm high after knowing partying got him sent to the school in the first place. He has an unhealthy obsession with Felice that he then ruins by kissing Sara for some weird power play.

At the end of the day, August is all the things wrong with wealthy, entitled teenagers. He’s the direct opposite of Wilhelm but thinks he is the ideal royal. He’s selfish and reckless and downright despicable.

Complaints:

Netflix

I don’t really have any solid complaints about the show because even the scenes I disliked were done to benefit the entire story. Would I have liked Wilhelm and Simon to have ended on a happier note? Yes, but this ending also leaves a space for a possible season 2.

Would I have loved for Prince Erik not to die? Yes, but then there would be no stakes for Wilhelm at the school. The same can be said about August leaking the video and Sara blackmailing August. Every poor decision made by these characters was made because they truly thought they were doing the right thing.

I would have loved to watch six episodes of everyone happy and going through typical teenage growing pains, but the reality is that wouldn’t make for an entertaining show.

Praise:

Netflix

What makes Young Royals so brilliant is that it feels authentic. I don’t know if it’s because it’s a Swedish show, but it felt so much more real than all the other American young adult series I’ve watched — and I’ve seen a lot.

The drama never felt farfetched. There were no dramatic school shootings or murder plots. Even Wilhelm and Simon’s sex scandal was tame and believable. Basing the drama on character relationships instead of flashy plot points really puts Young Royals in a league of its own.

I also loved that the actors were relatively the same age as their characters. Casting older has become a huge problem in American young adult series, and I hope that begins to change now that it’s clear that teenagers really can play teenagers. I also loved that these characters weren’t picture-perfect, model-esque. Wilhelm had acne, Felice had body issues, Sara was open and honest about her mental health, and even August didn’t have an inhuman body. Those little details only help add to the authenticity of the show.

Most likely a given but I thought the writers did an excellent job with Wilhelm and Simon’s relationship. Even when Wilhelm was apprehensive and questioning his sexuality, it never felt like he was against being gay. Instead, it felt like he didn’t realize that was a choice he could make because of his family. The quiet and awkward moments between these to are truly what made them such a powerful and iconic couple.

Speaking of awkwardness, I also really loved that the few sex scenes that were included were not overly produced and perfect. Teenagers are awkward and messy and that only becomes clearer when they become intimate with someone for the first time. Again, it added to the authenticity of the show.

* * *

I can honestly say Young Royals is one of the most authentic and captivating young adult series I’ve watched in a very long time. It’s truly in a league of its own and I sincerely hope that this beautiful and brilliant show gets a second season.

I truly encourage everyone to watch the show. Please don’t let the language barrier detour you. Subtitles/Captions are your friend! Plus, you might actually pick up a word or two in Swedish!

You can stream the first season of Young Royals on Netflix.

Have you seen Young Royals? Are you a fan of Netflix’s international shows? Do you think Wilhelm and Simon are endgame? Let me know in the comments or by tweeting me @3RsBlog.

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