When this series first came available on Netflix I didn’t watch it. I saw it once or twice on my page but truly the little picture of them sitting in what I now know is the church didn’t make me want to click on it. It gave off Elite or Gossip girl vibes. With the former not being my thing and the latter being cool when it came out but not as much anymore. Especially because it had so many episodes that by the end you wonder why these people even talk to each other. Now, I do not pay much attention to my recommendations as last year I only watched Christmas films and serial killer documentaries and Netflix doesn’t know how to handle that on the recommendation front. Thus, my recommendations have notoriously sucked. After watching heartstopper because of a friend’s recommendation (that review will be online next month) I saw Young Royals at the top of my recommendation list. This time around I gave it a go. Without joking though, after watching the aforementioned shows my recommendations have changed almost dramatically, there are apparently whole genres I was not aware of. It actually makes me want to watch some Netflix, as I usually don’t. You cannot read a 100+ books (cheeky post on this will be coming next month) and watch a ton of TV (or at least I cannot). Back to Young Royals, I have made the executive decision to only talk about season 1 today, season 2’s review will be published later this year, and when season 3 comes out that review will follow shortly after.
The show in short
(Fake) Prince Wilhelm of Sweden is sent to a prestigious new boarding school. At Hillerska he has to learn to adapt to his new life. But here he meets someone that treats him like a person and not just the Prince. Turns out that following his heart proves more challenging than anticipated. Besides this Wilhelm has a hard enough time being the spare, but why have one if you never use it? The first season has 6 episodes with a runtime between 40 and 50 minutes.
I got some of the information here.
This series contains erotic material. It consists of multiple sexual scenes and even a sex tape. You obviously don’t see anything but it is very much sensual thus if you are uncomfortable with that you can either skip those parts (easily done I must say) or watch something that makes you more comfortable.
My thoughts With spoilers, as always.
As I explained before I rarely watch TV, and shows cannot hold my attention that well. I admit that I use the Netflix playback button too much. Yet, I was immensely surprised at 3 in the morning when I finished the season. Now I was lucky as I could press play on the first episode of season 2. Overall, I felt that the season was great. Every character felt developed. It felt as if all of them had their own life and backstory, they weren’t simply put in our line of sight to enhance the plot. This made friendships feel far stronger and more real than in other shows I have watched recently. I think that the relationship between Simon (Omar Rudberg) and Wilhelm (Edvin Ryding) is one we have a strong need for as an example, especially for the younger audience. As they communicate clearly with each other. They tell the other person how they feel and what they expect from each other. A lot of shows or films (and some books too) use ‘we do not communicate clearly’ as a plot device which was sort of fun the first 100 times it was done but at this point it is frustrating. We tell teenagers and young adults to communicate and to talk about our feelings. That keeping thing to oneself isn’t good, but practicing what is preached is apparently still difficult. Not for this show which makes it so much better. More on Simon and Wilhelm’s excellent communication later.
We start the series by meeting the Royal Family and we learn that Wilhelm/Wille simply wants to be normal. Which is hard when you are a Prince. He also doesn’t like it when his choices are taken away and he has anxiety around public speaking (or generalized anxiety about being a Prince). The funny thing is that he is actually really good at public speaking. When he gets going he can go off script and he can clearly convey his message. I like that throughout the series this anxiety surrounding it doesn’t change, because it is part of who he is. It’s not a flaw that he has to overcome. It shows that you can do great things and be anxious along the way. His anxiety is about doing the thing it has nothing to do with how well he does it. It makes the anxiety feel very real, as it never disappears. It’s interesting that he is as disappointed with his family as they are with him. It feels as though the conversation that he wants autonomy over his own life is one that has been discussed over and over again. It makes the story from the get-go interesting as you wonder if he is going to rebel or if he is going to follow the path laid out for him. The vibe you get from watching the family is similar to the relationships between the characters that I mentioned before. It feels as if we meet these people at this specific moment but it’s almost like they have a backstory we simply didn’t see. Instead of it feeling that all of it was made up for our sake.
At Wille’s new school our power couple finally meets. From the get-go, it’s glances and smiles all around. It gives off the exact vibe you get when you meet that one person’s eye from across the room. Through the episodes, they have all these moments that make you understand that they really fancy each other. When they finally have the moment when they kiss you understand so fully what let them to that point it’s wonderful. As I said the thing with the relationship between Wille and Simon is that they discuss things, and they talk. Very openly they tell each other what they need, what they want, and when they hurt each other. Very rarely do we see such a healthy dynamic. I think this is so good especially for the younger audience to learn that communication actually is a very effective tool to have a good relationship with others (friends, families, and significant others). Also, Wille’s love language is obviously physical touch. It’s wonderful to see someone (especially a man) express that they want to be held and that this isn’t strange, in fact, everyone willingly complies with this request. Again it’s important to show not only tell that it is a good thing to express your needs. In a series or film, we obviously do not see every moment of the relationship. We cannot as there is not enough time. I do think I could use more of just happy couples doing happy things but alas. After their first kiss, we do not see very much of their relationship because Prince Erik dies. Which obviously is devastating. The episode where Wilhelm finds out feels like a punch to the gut every time. For a moment imagine never wanting to be a Prince, to begin with. Crushing on someone that is in all the ways exactly not the person your Mum (the Queen) would approve of (or at least that is what you think) and then you become the very next in line. Ouch… We come to understand that there has been more between Simon and Wilhelm than we have seen, more moments and more texts and it’s devastating that Wille believes he cannot be with Simon because of his duty towards his family. This makes the relationship feel much deeper and further along which makes us understand the absolute hurt at this moment. There has to be more because Simon doesn’t care about the fact that Wilhelm is a prince thus it can’t be that he approves of behaviour displayed by Wille in these scenes without there being more between them. Because they kiss, then Wille says to forget about it. Then he wants to spend the night together, but he then never replies to texts. When Simon finally sees him again, he says to delete the whole text threat between them. I like to believe that Simon has too much respect for himself for that to be the story (and he does as we find out in the rest of the season).
The trouble Wille and Simon have isn’t necessarily between the two of them but between them and the outside force which is called the crown (or Wille’s mum, take your pick). I actually really like Wilhelm’s mum (Pernilla August) I think she is not unreasonable just very misguided in explaining her reasoning behind what she says. I think that Erik (Ivan Forsling) was a very different boy at Wille’s age and she has trouble guiding Wilhelm the way he needs. She has the best intentions and wants to protect her son from the media which are honestly on their best day not nice. This is not a bad thing to want, but she never treats it in a way where it could be his choice. Which in the end causes a rift between them, it’s similar to the first episode. Wille desperately needs to be in control of his life, she doesn’t get that. Here is the thing she wants to protect her son as a video of Wille and Simon has leaked. Yet, she doesn’t discuss her thought process fully. If she had just sat Wilhelm down and told them every single reason why she thought it was the smartest thing to actually not say it was him he might have understood. Still a horrible thing to do especially to Simon who couldn’t deny anything. Although I think Queen mum didn’t again understand her son’s feelings towards Simon at that time. The trouble of the video though, we have to lay most of the blame at August’s feet. So let’s…
I hated August (Malte Gårdinger) from the get-go the actor looks very similar to a guy that used to be in these Dutch films that I watched as a young teen. That guy always played the bad guy, and he did a good job too. Honestly, at first, all the vibes I got could be explained by association. I really tried at first but I also thought there is a reason Wilhelm doesn’t like him. I felt that Erik liked August because he felt sorry for him and because he finds being put in the spotlight very nice. Wille is a very different person and thus all these things didn’t click with him. I tried to like August but over the season I felt less and less guilty about not liking him from the get-go. Here is the thing, when he first sees that Wilhelm is making out with someone you can tell it’s exactly like the ‘stand on the table’ stuff they do. There is no thought into consequences or the fact that you should never film someone without their knowledge. Even if we grant August the idea that he didn’t mean for it to be anything more than a funny thing about the things that the Crown Prince gets up to. Then still.. he shouldn’t have filmed it, and he should have at the very least deleted it. He asks Wille about it the night prior, and Wille then tells him (I paraphrase) ‘I have no idea what happened. I totally blacked out. This morning I woke up in my own bed having no recollection of anything. We know he knows that this isn’t true but August doesn’t know this. In that scenario when the video drops, Wille would have exactly no clue what that was about. As if the violation on its own wasn’t already bad enough. The thought process is just so incredible in the worst way. You have this video and you think this Prince isn’t going to be an amazing King but you yourself want nothing more than to be in the good graces of the Royal family. So you share a sex tape of your future King who might I add is also your cousin. I mean good God filming someone through their window is one thing. Then not deleting it but uploading it to the internet. I just cannot. Simply the fact alone that he looks down upon Simon so much that he just uses him as collateral damage, destroying everything he has worked for. Things like this follow you throughout your life. It truly is sickening.I did like that it was explicitly stated between Wilhelm and Simon that they did nothing wrong. It was just a massive breach of privacy. The thing is too, they are in the middle of the woods, with no one surrounding them. Wilhelm has a room that looks out upon trees. He gets told over and over again ‘you are here among your peers, we will do whatever it takes to protect the Royal Family’. The fact that he never thought about closing his blinds is not that odd. It’s simply heartbreaking that something so wonderful as their relationship is broken because of the actions of someone else. I think August should spend a whole lot of nights in jail as it’s not only revenge porn but also child porn as you know they are underage in the story. I do find it somewhat funny that no one seemed to know they were sort of seeing each other. I get that they were sneaking around a bit but if anyone at that school put two brain cells together they would have figured it out. The thing that just makes me so angry is that August isn’t in jail because of the (misplaced) protection of the Royal family. He is also still in school because of Wilhelm and Simon, the people he tried to destroy. The Queen pays for his schooling after Wilhelm asks the Royal staff to look into his finances. Which he only does because Simon tells him August is broke. He owes them so much. Speaking of, I do not understand why August didn’t just ask all the boys to chip in for the booze they all have so much money. They probably wouldn’t even have questioned it. He could have easily paid Simon back, it’s just such a horrible thing to do. Then Simon is in debt which yes is stupid but he has to do something so he does the whole subscription drug thing. But August again just wants to blame Simon for every misfortune. At this point, August knows that Wille and Simon are at least kissing. He forces Wilhelm to use his status as Prince to blame the drugs on someone that is not Simon. I mean yes it is sad for Alexander but Wille is right. He will be fine. The thing though is August is humiliated and thus releases the video. Yet.. it’s by his own doing because he could have come up with the Alexander blame all by himself. He could have just not said anything too. Or even further back they could have left those drugs in that abandoned building.
When the season ends we have Simon putting up an honest and healthy boundary. It is not unreasonable to not want to be a secret. I find it very healthy that he does not expect nor force Wille to come out. He just doesn’t want to go on that journey with him. As we say here it’s either choose or divide (kiezen of delen) you can’t have it all. It’s wonderful that boundaries are stated and upheld. Wilhelm is very upset about it, but he doesn’t force himself on Simon. Due to all of this, and their great communication it is not out of the realm of possibility for them to come back to each other. When Wille and Simon hug at the very end you feel it in your bones. This boy (Wilhelm) will set the world on fire to be with his love. It makes you root for them, it makes you eager to see how they will figure it out. There is nothing more annoying than asking yourself ‘why do these people like each other?’ Or ‘why do these people put up with this behavior’ or even ‘why would they ever get back to each other’. I didn’t have these questions for the main pairing in this series.
What makes this series so interesting to me is the cultural way that the spectrum of sexuality is handled. I think that in Europe we are on a different timeline than America is. Which is a conversation on its own. I am not saying we are more accepting necessarily or that we do it better. I have no way of comparing anything of the sort. The thing is, countries all over Europe are clearly talking about the fact that our monarchs should be allowed to live by the law of the land. Same-sex relationships are something we haven’t officially seen in our Kings and Queens but we ought to, they are allowed to like who they like just as we are. I think I just connected with it a bit better because these conversations are happening at this time. The same with the school itself, they talk about it for a bit just as they gossip about other things. But it doesn’t feel like a judgment or hatred for the relationship, just the scandalization of the video itself. If it would have been the crown prince with a girl those scenes wouldn’t have played out much differently. Or at least that is my take on it. I also think if I speak for the country where I grew up we have had same-sex marriage for years (The Netherlands was the first in the world in 2001 and for context, Sweden legalized same-sex marriage in 2009) which makes it interesting to view this topic from a different angle as it would be world news if a monarch was in a same-sex relationship as it’s officially unprecedented. We have obviously seen ‘very close companion’ couples before or people that never married.
Lastly for this portion, I want to talk a little bit about Sara. At first, I find her communication skills quite good. It’s important for us to acknowledge that Simon protects her at all costs and every step of the way. He contacts his dad (Leonard Terfelt) because he needs something from him and he keeps this from his sister to protect her. She finds out and gets very angry which is understandable. The thing is though, it’s not up to her if he can have a relationship with his dad. I understand her anger and her hurt but it is also a bit misplaced. Simon has done nothing but protects her up to this point. If he wants to see his dad he should. When the Dad shows up, Sara turns to Simon to get the dad away. This shows us so much about their relationship. He is always her protector that is not merely him being a brother or him wanting to save the world. That is in fact Simon being the sibling of someone (Sara) with Autism and I have yet to see it played so subtly yet so on point. My heart truly broke for Simon when that video was leaked. His mum wanted to protect him and obviously, she feels that they are not safe at that school. I understand that Sara does not want to go to her old school where she was bullied. I understand that she wants to be at her new school with all her friends but she doesn’t get that saying that at that moment is really cruel. Simon conveys his feeling so clearly about it though and I couldn’t be more proud of him for telling her that he needs her. She is actually victim blaming not that this is an excuse but I do not think she understands the gravity of the situation. Or the effect it has on her brother. I feel that Simon is one of those people that feels very deeply and for someone that struggles with complex emotions in general I think that Sara finds him hard to read especially if you consider that he always protects her. So he might not show her the full emotional spectrum of what is going on. The thing is, she doesn’t see what he has done for her. For goodness sake, he has been going to this school for a month before Wille arrives and he has no friends he has tried but it hasn’t worked which we hear about in the first episode. He would have friends at the other school, as he knows the kids there. Yet she does not understand the depth of this sacrifice. Which makes her decision to not tell Simon about the fact that it was August almost understandable but not fully. I love the fact that Simon has great friends that are there for him all the way through every situation he finds himself in. The thing about Sara and wanting to live at school is actually just malicious. She uses Simon’s struggle to her advantage. Having autism doesn’t excuse behaviour it can explain some but not excuse it. Again as I said I like to believe that she doesn’t fully understand the hurt of the situation. I think you can feel the relationship between Simon and Sara and it’s so sad that she is on a path that will break Simon’s heart.
Some thoughts on the cast
The actors and actresses in this series are wonderful. I really love that they look somewhat the age they are supposed to be (there are no 30 years old playing 13-year-olds). They look like an average group of teens obviously wealthy, privileged, and beautiful. But it feels real because they look real. They are so beautiful in their own right but they don’t all look the same. I so appreciate their skin not being ‘perfect’ and them not all being a size 0 or all blonde or something. They look like normal people and I think it’s a such privilege for younger people to look at a show and see themselves and their friends reflected and see such diversity in beauty. It’s not only the main cast but also all the other characters. Every shot feels like it’s a real school with real people. It’s important like all the other things I said for a series to show that it’s okay to be yourself. It’s okay to be in love. It’s okay to accept yourself. Alright, I have to admit something embarrassing. I was watching the show and I thought Omar (who plays Simon) looks so great. As in I thought he was really hot but I had to google his age for me to know if I found it appropriate to think he is handsome and all that. Turns out it’s totally fine, he is only a year younger than me. They are all still so young though like Evin (who plays Wilhelm) is 19. Almost all of them are under 25 with a lot of them being 20/21. Honestly, I cannot wait to see what more these people are going to do. There are so many amazing projects I think we can see from them in the future. Also, a fun fact usually when I like a show I click on the names of the cast members listed and add things that way to my list on Netflix. As everything Netflix has with them shows up in that search. It’s actually a great trick especially if actors pick jobs they really enjoy. As I like what they did, I usually like what else they did.
A bit about language
When I first started watching the series I watched it in the dubbed version. I have no good reason why I made that choice, usually, I like to listen to a series in its original language. Yet, there was a dubbed version and it was brilliantly done. It was simply easier. In the dubbed version though, I am convinced that the names aren’t dubbed. The way the names especially Wilhelm and Simon are pronounced in Dutch is very similar to the Swedish pronunciation. Which made my brain go ‘this isn’t in English it’s closer to the other language you know’ which was frustrating. This is an issue probably no one else would really face. Also at Simon’s house, they speak both Swedish and Spanish. When I was listening to the English version I simply got confused. As I might not have been paying attention and then I thought now this.. This is nothing like I know. So, I decided to change the audio to its original and it made all the more sense because Swedish and Spanish sound different. Nevertheless, both are pretty to listen to. It always makes me wonder what Dutch sounds like but alas I shall never know. All I know in Swedish are the names of items at Ikea yet I do think the language structure is not that different from Dutch. Because a few times I looked at the subtitles and thought ‘I do not think that is exactly right’. I think the series would be even better if you understand the nuances that the language allows. Yet nonetheless, it was brilliant. I really liked that part of the dialogue was just humming such as ‘hmmm’. This makes it very authentic, we rarely use very complex sentences to just confirm what someone just said. It made the dialogue more authentic. I have learned that the actors themselves dubbed the series which is brilliant. I have a question though. Did they not dub the names at all? Or did they only do it in sentences and not when it was not in the context of the sentence? If they have dubbed the name did they say them in Swedish while they were talking in English or did they say the name in Swedish within the English sentence? Because if that is true that would be so impressive, I don’t know how you could pull that one off without it being a massive headache. I really admire them for doing the dubbing themselves though, I think it’s a great way to do the series justice. But I do urge everyone that is able to at least try just using subtitles as I said Swedish is a treat to listen to.
To conclude, all babbling done. I thought it was a great series. From me to you this is a total recommendation. An absolute must-watch.