The 2021 Swedish drama “Young Royals” turned out to be more engrossing than I imagined it to be, so I ended up watching all six episodes of season 1 in one go. Long review short – if you are looking to watch some teen drama filled with romance and ‘privileged people problems’, this Netflix show is absolutely binge-worthy.
Edvin Ryding plays the young Prince Wilhelm, who is packed off to a boarding school for elites called Hillerska after he is caught on tape brawling at a bar. A second-cousin called August (Malte Gardinger) who is a senior in the same school, takes it upon himself to play guardian to the prince. Very soon, the richest girl on campus – Felicia (Nikita Uggla) expresses interest in Wilhelm, but he is attracted to a non-resident student Simon (Omar Rudberg), who is on a scholarship, and thus not from an affluent family like everyone else. Simon also has a sister Sara (Frida Argento), who has Asperger’s syndrome, and has an interesting sub-plot to herself.
On the surface, ‘Young Royals’ sounds like a lot of other ‘forbidden’ love stories, with the usual class divide between the lead couple, with the hero having to choose between ‘love and family honor’, except that this one comes with a gay twist. And since it’s set in an institution for the rich, there’s also the usual sex, drugs, parties and betrayal. But what is refreshing about this show is the fact that the writers do not over-dramatize things. Simon is a confident guy, who is already out to his family. Wilhelm on the other hand isn’t very sure of what he wants, is often biting his nails and is a bit of a nervous bundle, very unlike a ‘prince’. We get a sweet, believable romance between the two, which starts from cute glances, slowly growing into something more.
The makers do a great job with blending some very cliched characters with a few very likable ones. On one hand you have an aggressive August, who is obsessed with his family’s stature and is constantly trying to keep up appearances; on the other side of the spectrum is Wilhelm, who only wants a regular life and has absolutely no airs about being royalty. Both Edvin Ryding and Omar Rudberg deliver earnest performances as Wilhelm and Simon and most viewers will invariably find themselves rooting for the two of them. I love how they just talk their problems out and stand by each other, instead of letting miscommunication ruin things. So the super annoying ‘misunderstanding’ trope, that has become basic to most dramas, does not exist in this show. And while a lot of the kids have grey shades to them, nobody is outright evil (so there’s no toxic bullying). The teachers barely get any screen-time and that was absolutely fine by me. Even the parents are practical and understanding, especially Simon’s mother.
Since most of the show unfolds on the swanky campus of Hillerska, visually too, it’s good to look at. There were some weird campus traditions that take place along the story that were interesting to watch. The background music is catchy, and sometimes more intense than what’s happening on the screen, but it adds a certain sense of seriousness to the tone of the show that makes it feel more poignant that in really is.
The twist towards the end that triggers the biggest conflict in the show was very predictable, but treated in a measured modern manner that doesn’t make you sigh “oh really?”. The climax was open-ended, leaving ample scope for a season two and maybe even three. Prince Wilhelm is supposed to spend three years in the boarding school, and the first season ends with some time still left for the first year to end. Like I said earlier, it was a totally binge-worthy show, and I want a season two soon!
It’s an 8/10 from me.
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Listen to episode 29 for some fun movie recommendations.