“Young Royals” Season 2 delivers an emotional, heart-wrenching, slow-burn continuation to the first season.
When Netflix announced the renewal of “Young Royals” after the success of the first season, I had my doubts. It was not going to be easy following the immaculate and well-executed first season of Wilhelm (Edvin Ryding) and Simon’s (Omar Ruderg) love story. The first season was near perfection, and I was fearful that Season 2 was not going to be able to deliver the same quality.
I’m so glad my fears were put to rest. Season 2 was everything I wanted it to be and more.
For those who are unfamiliar with the masterpiece that is “Young Royals,” the show is about Prince Wilhelm who is forced to transfer to a prestigious boarding school. He forms a romantic bond with Simon, a fellow student, but their developing relationship is challenged by politics, family relationships, and the overwhelming anxiety of being young, queer, and in love.
Season 1 left us off with so many questions. How will Wilhelm adjust to being Crown Prince? Will Simon forgive Wilhelm for betraying his trust? Will Simon and Wilhelm find their way back to each other?
Fortunately, Season 2 was able to answer these questions while staying on the emotional rollercoaster that made the first season so memorable. The portrayal of Wilhelm’s anxiety and the way he copes with the pressures of being Crown Prince was touched upon in Season 1, but in this season particularly, we get to witness his struggles manifest into anger and self-destruction. Wilhelm was determined to get revenge on his cousin August (Malte Gardinger) for leaking the intimate video of him and Simon. While it was obvious that he was spiraling slightly, it was so euphoric to see Wilhelm enter his villain era and fight for what he wanted.
Still, his battle with anxiety came with ups and downs; Ryding did a remarkable job conveying every emotion Wilhelm was experiencing. When Wilhelm felt broken, I felt broken; when he felt hopeful, so did I. The portrayal of emotion was infectious, and through this, Ryding was able to be the main conductor of the emotional rollercoaster that is this show.
The pacing of this season was definitely faster than the last, which allowed for more to unfold and for the climax to be more chaotic and eventful than the previous season. The number of twists and turns this season left me emotionally exhausted by the end of it. Episode 6 by itself was such a whirlwind of emotions, I found myself pausing all throughout the episode just to let myself have time to process the events as they happened. Let me tell you, Wilhelm, for lack of a better term, popped off during the last episode. His character development was spotlighted, and it was impossible not to cheer him on.
The introduction of the love triangle was taxing to see. I had invested so much energy into Simon and Wilhelm’s relationship and to see another love interest for Simon get introduced was infuriating, to say the least. Although Marcus (Tommy Wättring) was supposed to be presented as a perfect partner to Simon in contrast to Wilhelm’s pressure-induced indecisiveness, he felt manipulative. Simon has always and will forever be a favorite of mine, but I just wanted to slap some sense into him and tell him that Wilhelm is the love of his life.
I also felt like this season did an amazing job creating parallels from Season 1, especially during the scenes when Marcus asks Simon the names of his fish and when Wilhelm finally closes the curtains. This season managed to give the fans exactly what they were looking for in a second season without feeling like it was constantly doing fan service. The six-episode season makes us want more, but I think that’s part of the reason the show has been able to specially curate each episode in a very intentional way. It’s limited, it’s personal. It’s part of the show’s charm.
Ryding and Rudberg have an undeniable chemistry that translates into their characters with such ease. There was such a complex mix of emotions between Wilhelm and Simon in every scene. We could feel their deep-rooted love for one another without any words being spoken, but we also can see their hesitation to go all in and why they felt this way. These actors absolutely nailed the body language and nuanced behaviors of the characters. They were born for these roles.
My only grievance with the show is that Felice (Nikita Uggla) felt sidelined this season. Although her friendship with Wilhelm was amazing (we are not going to talk about the end of episode 3), that’s all she was this season — a best friend. The exploration of her character has the potential to go so much deeper, and I think it was a missed opportunity.
While I am sure that this was intentional, I had another major issue with this season: Simon’s sister, Sara (Frida Argento). It was actually impressive how infuriating and annoying Sara was this season. In the first season, she was a somewhat likable character, but her development this season definitely took a turn for the worse. Her actions were selfish, and her relationship with August, the person who has done nothing but torture her brother, ended up coming back to bite her — as it should have. Admittedly, Sara and August were a cute couple though. For a split second, I was hoping that they would be able to help each other become better people, but the end of the season left much to be desired from both of them.
While this show is obviously very unrealistic, the raw emotion on the screen was so captivating. I think “Young Royals” does more than typical queer representation in media. The show is obviously about a gay love story, but there is such depth to both the lead characters that being queer wasn’t the main conflict of the story; rather, it was just a facet of the bigger conflicts much like it is in real life. There has also been a theme regarding the politics and social standings of Sweden, where the show takes place. The struggle that Wilhelm endures as Crown Prince and the lifestyle that Felice and August live are juxtaposed with Simon and Sara’s lower social standing, commenting on the political and socioeconomic issues of Sweden. As Sara finds out, the class differences are stark and apparent. Wilhelm, being pressured by his mother to fit into a particular mold, comments on the priorities of the Crown. When he begs her to “just be my mom,” it’s heartbreaking. The critique of power and wealth takes on many forms throughout the show, and it can be seen through the school’s hierarchy, Royal pressure, and even during the gift exchanges on Sara’s birthday. The political commentary, while it may be easy to skip, definitely added a layer to the show in terms of its representation and purpose.
“Young Royals” will forever have a place in my heart, not only for its phenomenal queer storytelling but also for its ability for me to feel seen, even in this wild story about a Prince and his charming boyfriend.
Netflix has yet to announce Season 3 of the show, but if, god forbid, it gets canceled, I will cry, scream, and march to Netflix headquarters to riot (in that order).
Here is where I insert my obligatory statement about how incomprehensibly attractive Edvin and Omar are. Merry Christmas to both of them.
Cast: Edvin Ryding, Omar Rudberg, Malte Gardinger, Frida Argento, Nikita Uggla
Directed by: Rojda Sekersöz Erika Calmeyer
Image courtesy of Them