I Just Watched Netflix’s “Young Royals” Three Times In a Row and I Need to Talk About It

Livia Camperi
11 min readJul 4, 2021

Spoilers for the entire show. It’s only 4-5 hours long altogether. Watch and come back.

Netflix released their original Swedish show Young Royals on July 1st, 2021. I have watched it three times through in as many days and I’m really in my feelings about it. Since nothing means anything anymore, this is going to be part regular review, part I’m-still-WFH-and-this-is-the-only-content-I’ve-consumed-in-three-days unhinged ramblings. Enjoy!

So, first, to get the basic premise out of the way, if you’re reading this without having seen it (for why): Wilhelm is the younger son of the royal family of Sweden, and after getting caught in a fight at a club (honestly mostly not his fault), his family sends him to Hillerska, a boarding school near the town of Bjärstad. He’s immediately (and unwillingly) taken under the wing of his second cousin, August, a typical fratty elitist hard-h white boy, who insists on inducting him into their even more elitist secret group called the Society (sure) and ~protecting~ him from scholarship kids. Wilhelm, however, immediately feels drawn to Simon, a non-residential local student, and their chemistry is immediately and flamingly evident. Plot ensues!

I’m going to split this up into non-sequential and unequal sections, so buckle up folks.

The Vibes

I understand why the marketing team did what it did, but I do kind of resent it. The teaser and trailer for this show were really trying to make it seem like a Gossip Girl/Élite type show, especially with the rapid-paced editing of the trailer set to some techno beats (I don’t know if Astrid S technically counts as techno, but it’s the vibes, y’all). The show is… not really that. It’s definitely got the elitism and the inherent wildness of a bunch of rich kids at a boarding school, but it’s a lot more wholesome, for lack of a better word. There’s only really two parties, and they both end with very sweet and emotional moments between Wilhelm and Simon. I know it’s because it’s very easy to market something as similar-to-x to get x fans to watch it, but it’s so much more grounded that those shows. It is still very much upper class problems, but they all feel a lot more realistic than the earth-shattering and often fatal plotlines of those other shows. It’s more chill, and therefore a lot easier to get into it, IMO.

The Cast

Pretty much every review of this show has mentioned this, but it still feels important to note that these actors are much closer to their characters’ ages than is the modus operandi, especially in American shows (I’m personally still not over that one episode of Roswell, New Mexico that had 30–35-year-olds play their teenage selves). The characters on YR are 16–18 years old, and the cast members (at least those whose ages are public knowledge) range from 18 to 22 years old. Not just that, but they look normal! I don’t feel great about pointing out these kids’ bad skin, but thank god, they have bad skin! When was the last time an American TV show about high-schoolers didn’t airbrush the shit out of their faces, if there ever even was anything left to cover up? These kids have pimples and acne and spots and the tacky makeup and stupid hairstyles teens do and I am here for it.

The Characters

I love them. Send tweet.

No but, for real, I love them. Even for those I hate (August, mostly, though Sara’s on thin fucking ice too), I love the writers for creating them that way. There is not a single member of the main cast that is one-dimensional, and even the side characters that are mostly in the background often hint at hidden depths. I’ll hit Wilhelm in a separate section, but let’s start with Simon, my beloved: for one thing, he’s an actual person. So many shows (especially queer ones, I’ve found) will not spare any time to give the love interests anything beyond the personality traits needed for the emotional journey of the main. Love, Victor, for example, just came out with their second season, and I still feel like I barely know anything about Benji as a person outside of his relationship. Simon in YR, however, gets his own plot line and backstory, almost at the same level as Wilhelm. He has a complicated home life that gets explored throughout the season, has his own personality that doesn’t always bend to fit the mold Wilhelm wants it to, has friendships outside of his relationship, etc. He’s a whole ass person! He also deserves the world but that’s besides the point.

August is also a whole ass person, which is its own subtle subversion of norms. He is explicitly the villain in the story, and the only tangible external threat to Wilhelm and Simon’s relationship. He deliberately and single handedly sets in motion so much of the drama, both for W+S, and for everyone else around him. And yet. And yet! He’s. A. Person. He’s a kid. He’s complex. He’s desperate to maintain his crumbling social status, desperate to be closer to power. He tries to fuck with Sara so he can buy Swedish Adderall off her, but he’s doing it because he’s stressed out of his mind about grades, and he needs the grades to maintain his (and by extension his family’s) status, since they’re broke. He undeniably does the worst thing that anyone on the show does, but his motivations are not just “I want to hurt Wilhelm because I’m mean.” He’s jealous, and Wilhelm and Simon have both directly threatened his way of life. You don’t often agree with his motivations, but at least we know what they are. I wouldn’t go so far as to call him sympathetic, but he’s pitiable at the very least. It’s one of those “I feel for you, kid, but you’re being a pretty grade-A piece of shit right now so I’m not gonna feel bad about it” situations. Complex!

The secondary main cast, namely Felice and Sara, also get personalities and storylines outside of the A plot. Felice is dealing with society’s and her mom’s not-so-subtle racism (feeling like she always has to straighten her hair) and fat-shaming, and is very insecure about her horse-riding abilities. She could’ve easily been a stereotypical rich girl with a mean mom, but she’s actually incredibly sweet, and welcoming, and caring. Sara has Asperger’s, but that’s not her entire personality, as is so often the case with characters who are on the spectrum. (note: I’m not on the spectrum, so I’ll refrain from attempting to make a value judgement of the representation of AS within the character) In fact, the only part is really plays in the plot is when she is accidentally too honest and embarrasses Felice in front of her parents. She’s also one of the few characters who actually gets more complex and incomprehensible as time goes on. By the final episode, she’s become obsessed with gaining the status of a Hillerska boarder, to the point where she willfully ignores Simon’s devastation at the leaked video and sleeps with August for her own gains. I don’t understand her! I like that! More morally ambiguous characters, please!

Also, thank fucking Christ for female directors and writer’s rooms. The girls’ friendships on this show are phenomenal! I’ll be glad if I never have to see another show with catty mean girls who can’t be friends cause uh… girls can’t be friends.


Cinnamon roll. Also deserves the whole world.

This is another thing that the marketing kind of fudged with, maybe on purpose. Typically, when we see stories of rich white kids needing to be sent to a boarding school, it’s because they’re party animals or elitist assholes who need to be reigned in, so to speak. Usually, they also need to learn the value of friendship along the way. I can think of three movies off the top of my head that peddle that trope. I kind of expected some of that with Wilhelm, especially since he’s introduced with the scandale that he got into a fight at a club. Instead, he turns out to be a pimply, awkward, insecure teenager, who can’t hold a conversation with a cute boy to save his life. He appreciates Simon’s so-called socialist views (they keep calling him a socialist but he really only said fuck the rich, which I would argue is becoming more and more of a centrist view), but isn’t allowed to express political opinions. He loves his brother and doesn’t know who he is without him. He’s giggly when he’s happy. He’s a sweetheart!

He also like… legitimately needs to be saved. This poor kid is punished for defending himself from a rude guy at a club, accepts the punishment, goes and falls in love, and is punished again for someone else grossly violating his privacy. He has gone through it. The monarchy in Sweden is largely symbolic anyways, let him have his fucking boyfriend, my god!

I think I would also recommend the show on Wilhelm alone, even ignoring everything else. The actor, Edvin Ryding, is an honest-to-god powerhouse. The level of sheer emotion this kid elicits from a single facial expression is stunning. He’s expressive and intuitive and physical and inhabits his character so intrinsically that you can’t help but feel every single stripped down emotion Wilhelm is going through. I really really hope he keeps doing projects that are available internationally because his face broke me and I need more.

The Communication

This gets its own category because, frankly, it might have been my favorite thing about the show. My least favorite trope (which is unfortunate seeing as it’s one of the most commonly used ones in media) is miscommunication. You know, when someone assumes something about their partner/friend/family and acts on that assumption instead of talking about it. When they hear x and immediately act out, instead of being like “hey, babe, did you actually do x? if not, why was y talking shit?” This lazy writing habit betrays a lack of trust between characters who should, textually, trust each other, and a lack of ideas from the writers on how to manufacture tension in the story. When in doubt, make a misunderstanding happen.

Young Royals, though, said fuck that shit. Every single time Wilhelm goes through something, or discovers something, or has a decision to make, he immediately talks to Simon. Consistently, Wilhelm (and Simon, to a lesser extent) shows that he wants to deal with things together with Simon. They make it explicit, too, like when they’re talking about the Alexander situation and Wilhelm tells Simon “I’m not just telling you I made this decision, I’m in a situation right now and I want to talk to you about it,” or in the finale when they repeatedly reassert that they are a team, going through this together. Until they’re not, but they also talk about that! A lesser piece of media would have Simon immediately cut ties after Wilhelm’s statement, or demand that he come out and give him an ultimatum. Instead, Simon agrees to hear Wilhelm out (who’s desperate to talk it through with Simon, apologize, and attempt to salvage their relationship), and tells Wilhelm he’s not asking him to come out, but that he needs to take the time to figure it out on his own, and Simon will respect that. It’s a heartbreaking scene but nothing about it feels wrong, or unfair to either of the characters, or the audience, for that matter. They’ve told each other everything, so we’re not left feeling bereft of communication.

There’s also the fact that I don’t think there’s a single scene where Simon and Wilhelm are alone that doesn’t have at least one of them asking the other some variation on “how are you doing” or “are you okay?” A lot of shows or films deem the runtime insufficient to have these small check-ins between characters or show moments of caring outside of the main plot, but it serves to make these characters feel more real, and, importantly, show that they care about each other! It also does a very good job in contrasting characters who do actually care about each other (Simon and Wilhelm, for example) versus characters who very much do not care for others (the Queen towards Wilhelm). Also side note: I spent six episodes trying to figure out where I remembered the Queen from and I’ll save you the Google, she’s Shmi Skywalker. Queen shit. Literally.

The Implications

Okay I’m not a Swede, unfortunately, so I can’t speak to the exact cultural role of the royal family within the country, or the general attitudes of the populace beyond what can be gleaned from the outside (I pay attention to global news but I’m not, like, living in these streets). I also know the family on the show is a fictional royal family, so I can’t just search up the current monarchs and get the vibes. The show also doesn’t make it clear what the exact nature of the issue with Wilhelm’s relationship is vis-a-vis the Queen. He does tell Simon that there would be a shitstorm if he came out, so it’s pretty clear that there’s our good old friend homophobia at play here. I do wonder, though, how much of the issue is that Simon is non-white and working class (there is an explicit “class traitor” comment in the aftermath of the video leak). The Queen likens it to her own “unfortunate romance” before meeting her husband, which I assumed to be a class issue, so I have a lot of questions.

Also, on a side note, I one hundred percent believe Erik knew that Wilhelm was not straight (it’s unclear how he identifies, but straight he sure ain’t). Whenever anyone around Wilhelm assumes he made off into the night for some hanky panky, they explicitly ask if he went off with a girl, if he was with Felice, if there’s a girl he likes, etc. When Erik talks to Wilhelm about him having met someone, he explicitly uses the gender neutral words “someone,” “person,” and “crush,” unless the internet has lied to me and those are gendered. Erik knew. Change my mind.

In any case, I was talking about the implications. The last episode is truly devastating. Since Erik’s death, Wilhelm is constantly finding himself torn between the duty to maintain his image, and his love for Simon. By the end, he has lost his entire support system: Erik is dead, Simon broke up with him, August did the bad thing, and the Queen doesn’t seem to ever have been supportive. He feels like he has to deny the video because it’s the only thing he can do, and he’s still wracked with guilt about Erik’s death. But then, at what is quite possibly Wilhelm’s lowest point of his young life, he hugs Simon in front of everyone, tells him he loves him, and then stares the camera dead in the face as “Revolution” plays in the background. I am desperately hoping for a Red, White, and Royal Blue-type ending here, and the last few minutes of the episode honestly make me believe it could happen if we got a season 2. It really doesn’t feel like they’re trying to make the Queen a sympathetic figure, so I can only imagine that they’re planning on Wilhelm bucking the traditionality and rigid guidelines of his status and living his best gay life. God, I hope we get a season 2.


Listen, if you’ve read all of this and haven’t seen the show yet, I really just spoiled pretty much all of it, but you should still go watch it. Even beyond all the stuff I mentioned here, it’s just a really good, well-made, solid show. The camera work is gorgeous and enthralling, the acting is stellar across the board, the story is captivating and moving. It’s a good show. My gripes with it are few and minor; for instance, I’m really going to need that choral director to stop giving Simon all of the fucking solos. I had a director do that once and no one was happy about it. Also, Omar Rudberg has a beautiful voice and all, but it’s not a choral voice. Hearing him singing “Star of Bethlehem” as if it were an Adele cover hurt me a little bit.

Anyways, I’m gonna go watch it a fourth time.



Livia Camperi

One and a half degrees in Cinema Studies from NYU and this is the most productive thing that’s come of it.