Young Royals (2021-Present) might appear to be a regular high school drama from its synopsis, but the series has a lot more to offer than just that. While some might call it a cross between Casey McQuiston’s novel, Red, White and Royal Blue (2019) and Alice Oseman’s Heartstopper series (2019-2021) that inspired the Netflix webseries of the same name, it can still be argued that despite the similarities in their themes, Young Royals remains distinct in its essence.
In the first season of the series, the protagonist, Wilhelm (Edwin Ryding) happens to be the crown prince of Sweden. He falls in love with his classmate, Simon (Omar Rudberg). However, something that starts as a romantic love affair between the two ends with a sex tape of theirs getting leaked soon after. What makes matters worse is the fact that the crown prince isn’t visible in the video, thus he must decide to either publicly own up to his presence in it or deny the same for the sake of his royal family. Since Wilhelm is pressured to choose the latter, he is abandoned by Simon, and the two part ways right before their Christmas break. The second season picks up from there with the two returning to their boarding school, Hillerska, after the break.
The characters in the second season are written to be less extreme compared to the first season. Wilhelm, for instance, despite being a prince, is shown to experience feelings that every other queer teenager would have experienced in their teenage years. He constantly hopes to get back with his ex-partner, becomes jealous when Simon appears to be moving on after their breakup and regularly expresses his frustrations with the royal court that comes in his way whenever he wishes to be more open about his sexuality.
What stands out the most about the characters in this season is them questioning the very elitist customs and traditions of their school that push them to hide their flaws. While a few of them like Sara (Frida Argento) begin to embrace their hidden sexual desires, many others make conscious efforts to subdue them in order to survive at Hillerska. Amidst all the chaos, a friendship seems to blossom between Wilhelm and Felice (Nikita Uggla). The latter might have had romantic feelings towards the former in the previous season, but in this one, the two turn into a healthy support system for each other.
Another important theme highlighted in the second season is that of mental health. Wilhelm slowly comes to terms with the trauma he seemed to be repressing in the first season after losing his elder brother. Alongside confiding in his friend, Felice, he also opens up to his school therapist about both the loss he experienced in the previous season and his sexuality. In one scene, while talking to his therapist about his relationship with Simon, Wilhelm says, “It was kind of better not knowing how it can feel.” Somehow, a line as simple as this brings out how difficult it is for Wilhelm to come to terms with his identity, while having to move on from Simon.
While Netflix has given us many disappointing second seasons this year, Young Royals season 2, thankfully, remains as engaging, relatable and magical as its first season, if not more. It has a tight storyline, unpredictable climax and amazing chemistry when it comes to Wilhelm and Simon. Furthermore, it remains free from the many American and British clichés that exist in most popular high school dramas involving queer characters. Young Royals does not propagate unnecessary stereotypes about a homosexual character being reduced to the protagonist’s sidekick or about a ‘mean girl’ always becoming the prom queen. Perhaps, that’s why there are so many of us who find comfort in the show.