Belen Yudess ’25
Social Media Manager
Contains spoilers for Young Royals Season 1 and 2
Sound the alarms; alert the media and monarchy (including rugby king Nick Nelson) that Prince Wilhem (Edvin Ryding) got a haircut! This is just one of the outright hilarious and surprisingly important updates of Young Royals season two.
Season two of the hit Swedish Netflix original premiered on Nov. 1 with a total of six episodes. Young Royals follows Wilhem, the 16 year old crown prince of Sweden, and his budding romance with Hillerska (boarding school) star choir student, Simon (Omar Rudberg). Season one follows Wilhem’s struggle to grasp his new title as crown prince following the sudden death of his older brother and his newfound queer identity. He is constantly being watched and forcibly guided by his senior cousin August (Malte Gårdinger). After several wistful stares, short-lived hookups, and the intimate naming of Simon’s fish, Wilhem and Simon have sex, which is recorded by August in an attempt to playfully embarrass his cousin (just quirky cousin things, lol). August, who becomes fed up with Wilhem’s ingratitude over his royal status, releases the tape. To salvage the reputation of the royal family, Wilhem delivers a live statement denying his participation in the video (if at first you don’t succeed, deny and deny again), much to Simon’s chagrin. Season two picks up with this unresolved tension, brewing drama, and Simon’s obsession with Wilhem’s sweater that would make Conan Gray proud.
My friend and fellow YA enthusiast, Molly Booth ‘25, roped me into watching Young Royals. After our weekly Shadowhunters watch party, which features gay legend and bicon Alec and Magnus, she insisted I give Young Royals a chance. Although I was initially reluctant, thinking it was simply a PG-13 Heartstopper (minus a dashing Kit Connor saying hi for 20 minutes), I was soon hooked by Wilhem and Simon’s precious yet passionate chemistry. So on Halloweekend, as we finished up the shocking final episode while eating M&M’s and left (NOT RIGHT) Twix Bars, I was giddy to learn that the second season would debut in only 72 hours. After coordinating schedules and a quick Hub snack haul, Booth, Phillipa Michaels ’25, and I began our season two marathon, which ended in many freak outs, philosophical discussions, and a pining for a third season of August making comically bad life decisions.
Following Wilhem’s denial of the video, the future monarch is anxious about facing Simon and returning to Hillerska. Simon, who was subject to large-scale criticism and unwanted media attention, considers pursuing a relationship with 18 year old Marcus, who Booth lovingly calls “disgusting.” Refusing to be Wilhem’s secret, Simon begins dating Marcus, which leads Wilhem to lash out against the royal family and become closer friends with Felice. This conflict leads to one of the most entertaining scenes in the show, where an angsty Wilhem calls his mother, the Queen of Sweden, to inform her that she has ruined his life because Simon is dating another guy (oof). Wilhem tries to rebuke his title, causing unwanted yet understandable drama, which leads to his Mother’s insistence that he begins therapy.
Right off the bat, Wilhem, whose royal status may alienate him from viewers, is depicted as easily relatable and sympathetic. He is a grieving 16 year old receiving parental pressure to be a perfect son. Although Wilhem’s mom affirms her love for him regardless of his sexuality (#ally), she ultimately expects him to maintain the bloodline through a heterosexual marriage and children. The court threatens to make the heterosexual August prince if Wilhem cannot comply. Wilhem wants to make his family and deceased brother proud, but is tired of all the lies and barriers constructed around him. There are several moments where we see a tearful Wilhem sitting alone or breaking down in front of Felice. Wilhem is ready to express his feelings and queer identity openly, yet is constantly being shut down. The young prince beautifully presents the pain, fear, and confusion associated with young love and accepting one’s identity. Additionally, Wilhem’s therapy appointments explore the pressure he feels at possibly being unable to handle all the expectations his parents have set for him. There is no immediate breakthrough throughout therapy, and the therapist does not attempt to fix all of Wilhem’s problems in a life changing two-minute speech. Therapy is presented as a safe space and as a process that takes time and patience. There is a maturity and vulnerability in Wilhem that was not as apparent in the first season. Heartbreak and mistakes allow people to grow, and Wilhem’s character development is a testament to the power of learning from these difficult experiences.
Also, Wilhem’s flirting techniques are golden. Every time Wilhem smiled in Simon’s direction, the three of us completely lost it. The classic reaching for the same pencil so the hands meet: check! The struggle to open the pencil box so Simon can be his knight in shining armor: PLEASE! And honestly, whose heart would not melt hearing a confident yet terrified Wilhem whisper, “I could be free with you.”
Although Wilhem left Simon to deal with the fallout of the video alone, he is constantly trying to earn back Simon’s trust throughout season two. Wilhem apologizes profusely about his past actions and sacrifices his responsibilities as prince for Simon’s sake. Wilhem made a mistake, but he actively tries to let Simon know his genuine love for him. On the other hand, Simon is initially very unreceptive and a little unfair about Wilhem’s rationale behind his decisions. Even though Wilhem attempts to explain his precarious situation as prince to Simon and consistently reaffirms his loyalty to him, Simon refuses to consider things from Wilhem’s perspective and always accuses him of dishonesty and insincerity. Meanwhile, Simon is in a strange relationship with Marcus (yuck), with the latter being slightly manipulative about Simon’s surface-level feelings for him. When Simon tries to break up with Marcus, Marcus convinces him to stay in the relationship and continues to do this every time Simon expresses doubt. It is one thing to fight for a relationship, but another to refuse to let go with full knowledge that the other person is not ready for the commitment. Also, Marcus is a literal adult, while Simon is only 16. Although it may be consensual, it’s still a little icky. Relationships, as Shadowhunters has so kindly taught me, take effort. Simon rewrites the Hillerska anthem in honor of Wilhem. “But what we were, no one can rewrite (…) But I’ll remember you for all my days” (for sure about school pride, no subliminal message). Simon is clearly still in love with Wilhem, and though Wilhem tries to meet him halfway, Simon does not want to row the remainder of the distance.
On the day of the speech, Wilhem becomes extremely nervous about talking in front of so many people. Although it seems he is going to back out, leading to August giving the speech in his place, like the showstopper (and Heartstopper) he is, Wilhem struts up to the podium and proceeds. Initially, Wilhem sticks to the script, expressing his appreciation for his family and Hillerska. But after looking at Simon, he divulges the dishonesty rooted within being a member of the monarchy. Finally, in the mic drop moment of the century, he owns up to his involvement in the sex tape and gives Simon and the camera one last mischievous smile. Wilhem overcame everyone’s expectations of him and made an autonomous decision about his life. This confession was a culmination of Wilhem’s growing bravery and embracement of his identity that allowed him to stand up for what he believes in and stir the pot of tradition and begrudging silence within the court.
Season two of Young Royals explores the angst, sadness, and happiness of romantic and platonic teenage relationships. It is uncertain whether a third season is in the works, but as Booth, Michaels, and I agreed, if this is the end, then we will remember Silhem for all of our days.
Image Source: Digital Spy