It’s only been a few weeks since Wilhelm (Edvin Ryding) and Simon (Omar Rudberg) parted ways with an unrequited “I love you” uttered between them, but Young Royals Season 2 doesn’t keep the two star-crossed lovers apart for long. The elite class of Sweden’s young high society return to Hillerska after the winter break with more partying, hazing, and pining on the agenda.
The drama surrounding the video leak of Wilhelm and Simon in bed together seems to have simmered down but the show doesn’t make them come back together easily. That’s the beauty of this Young Royals sophomore season — between Simon and Wilhelm, no one’s the villain, and the more the show focuses on the external pressures the two face, the more it succeeds in telling not just a love story but a thoughtful coming-of-age story about finding your voice, even when you have all the power in the world.
Ryding and Rudberg’s chemistry hasn’t wavered between seasons. Much like Season 1, Season 2 features a lot of staring and pining. However, where the first season was underlined by the exciting flirtations of first love, there’s a mournful quality to Wilhelm and Simon this season. It’s both heartbreaking and exhilarating to watch the two circle each other once again, but the hard-fought battle to be together is worth it by the season’s end.
A new love interest distracts Simon for a lot of the season but it’s in an effort to grant himself some space from the seemingly impossible odds being with Wilhelm brings, and the hurt Wilhelm caused Simon by denying he’s in the video. Something the show never lets you forget are the ages of these characters — these are teenagers, caught between impressive pressure and freedom. However, what’s lovely about watching Simon and Wilhelm together is seeing how they learn to communicate and come to understand the other’s position and perspective on their situation.
The show also expands its LGBTQ characters. Other Hillerska students begin talking about their sexual identity throughout the season, some more casually than others. It’s almost as if the video leak of the Crown Prince is Pandora’s box toward more progressive traditions, though that doesn’t excuse the harm August causes by outing both Wilhelm and Simon. Adding more sexual identities, be it bisexual, lesbian, or gay, to the show broadens the world a bit outside of Wilhelm and Simon. Another student casually mentions to Wilhelm he’s on Grindr, giving someone Wilhelm can confide in throughout the season.
Through Wilhelm, mental health takes priority this season by showcasing Wilhelm’s anxiety in multiple scenes. It’s an appreciated inclusion to the season though not much focus goes toward talking about how Wilhelm should manage his anxiety. Part of it involves public speaking, and it’s this throughline that leads directly to the season’s climatic moment, creating a perfect bookend of the show’s two seasons. If this was it for Young Royals, it’s a solid and powerful ending.
A lot happens in six episodes, and not everything tracks as well as the story surrounding Wilhelm and Simon. Though Wilhelm’s status as Crown Prince is at the center of their relationship issues, the Royal family sits at an unfortunate distance. By setting most of the season at Hillerska, the show feels small in scale despite the characters’ large political reach.
Where this becomes an issue is through August (Malte Gårdinger); after leaking the video of Wilhelm and Simon, August spends much of the season trying to save face with Wilhelm. Because the Royal family would protect August if knowledge of his involvement in the leaking of the video were to get out, Wilhelm decides to go after August by damaging his social power at Hillerska. But when the Queen tells August he’s next in line for the throne after Wilhelm, and that he’ll need to give the speech at the 120th Hillerska jubilee if Wilhelm can’t handle it, things lose momentum.
Maybe I’m just used to the drama of House of the Dragon’s bloody succession stories but it seems odd that the Queen can just tell someone they’re next in line for the throne and offer zero follow-ups in ways of increased security. While a small stumble in Season 2’s story, it’s a flaw in the show’s larger worldbuilding and the very real political stakes outside the walls of Hillerska. After two seasons the school is starting to feel claustrophobic — what happens when we take these teenage dramas and really put them to the test on the political stage?
In that regard, Young Royals Season 2 feels too short. But when it scales down and focuses only on how the real-world limitations of tradition affect two young teens just trying to be themselves, the show shines. On that small scale, the two seasons are a fantastic bookend to each other.
Featured image courtesy of Netflix
'Young Royals Season 2' - 8/10